Around this time last year – you know, in the “before-times” – I was just getting back from a trip to Japan. I instantly missed so many things, including vending machines and their endless selection of mysterious drinks. On a hot day my go-to was Pocari Sweat. If I wanted something extra sweet, I would get a CC Lemon. If I wanted something that wasn’t like anything I could get in the States, it was Calpico (I’m pretty sure it is called Calpis in Japan).
When I was contacted about trying a selection of Calpico and posting a review, my immediate response was, “HELL YEAH.” I was sent Strawberry, Mango, White Peach, and Lychee. On my trip I tried White Peach, which I loved, and also Original flavor.
Calpico is definitely a sweet drink, as it has about the same amount of sugar as a Coke, but it doesn’t feel as overwhelmingly sweet to me. It is non-carbonated, and contains nonfat dry milk, but it doesn’t feel heavy like a milk shake. I think “smooth” is a good adjective for it. There is also a really pleasing tang to it that comes through best in the Original flavor.
Japan does a great job with White Peach in general, and Calpico is no exception. In America, things that are fruit flavored tend to barely resemble the fruit they are trying to replicate. Anyone who has tasted anything grape-flavored can back me up. I couldn’t really tell you what a white peach tastes like, but I can tell you that White Peach Calpico is delicious, and appeals to a more adult palette with its floral notes.
I hadn’t previously had the Lychee flavor, but I can tell you that it leans into those floral notes even more. I really liked it a lot, and next time I am at our local Asian grocery, that is the flavor I will hunt down. Strawberry is probably what I would offer to my youngest kid, but it is still an elevated flavor over what we typically get in America in a strawberry milk.
I don’t like mango. I don’t think I’ve ever had a mango thing that I’ve liked. I know I am pretty much alone, and recognize that it is a bad take on my part, but there is some some flavor note that almost tastes like chemicals to me. Mango was the last Calpico flavor that I tried, and I was actually shocked because the chemical thing that I don’t like was missing. Maybe I’ve only had bad mangos? I liked the drink version so much that I may actually try the real fruit again!
Calpico is great, and writing this article has only solidified my positive feelings further. If you want to try it yourself and you are lucky enough to have an Asian grocery store nearby, I’d urge you to make that your first stop. If not, the good news is that Calpico will now be carried in stores including Kroger chain (Kroger, Ralph’s, Fred Meyer, Smith’s, King Soopers), Hy-Vee, Harmon’s, Safeway, Vons, Save Mart, and Foodland. If none of those options work for you, then you can check out the new Calpico store on Amazon.