Calpis: Karupisu


For the longest time, I’ve wanted to make this Japanese milk drink. J. remembers first having Calpis with his Japanese tutor, about twenty years ago. They would sit out on her sun-porch to study; one day she served him a glass of the pleasant milky white soft drink. But I recall that thirty years (+) ago, J. brought me a beautiful blue-paper wrapped bottle from Manna, the foreign and very exotic grocery store in Ann Arbor. It looked like a bottle of fine liqueur—a drink for celebration with its cheerful patter of white dots. Then he told me it is called “cowpiss!”
One of us remembers he visited me when were in junior high school. I should ask him if he thought I was “cute” back then!
A note, we celebrated closing the deal on our new house, though not with Calipco; the paper signing session was like a party and we had champagne and lunch with our buyer’s agent afterward.
A note, too: I first found it online four or five years ago, but I have not actually tried this recipe. It’s easier to find it ready-made than to find citric acid! If you try it, let me know how you like it?

From Wikipedia:
Calpis (カルピス Karupisu) is a Japanese uncarbonated soft drink, manufactured by Calpis Co., Ltd. headquartered in Shibuya, Tokyo. The beverage has a light, somewhat milky, and slightly acidic flavor, similar to plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt. Its ingredients include water, nonfat dry milk and lactic acid, and is produced by lactic acid fermentation.
It was first marketed on July 7, 1919. It quickly became popular in pre-war Japan as its concentrated form meant it kept well without refrigeration. The polka dot packaging used to be white dots against a blue background until the colours were inverted in 1953. It was originally themed on the Milky Way, which is in reference to the Japanese festival of Tanabata on July 7, a traditional observation seen as the start of the summer. 

From the Calpico site:
In 1991, CAPY U.S.A. Inc. (presently CALPIS U.S.A., Inc.) was founded in Los Angeles and started distribuitng CALPICO Concentrate which is the export version of CALPIS.

Check out the site for more info about how Calpico is made!

(It’s obvious that the North American name was changed because of the unfortunate pronunciation in English.)

A very popular Japanese drink
with a refreshing yogurt flavor.

  • 1 pint (about 2 cups) plain yogurt (450 g)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar (500 g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid powder (or 9 tablespoons of lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using a double boiler, combine and stir the yogurt and sugar into the inner saucepan until smooth:
Heat it at about 160°F to 175°F (71°C to 79°C) for 15 minutes, while stirring constantly. Never let it boil.
When the syrup is at room temperature, add the citric acid or the lemon juice.
For serving, dilute the syrup with 3 or 4 times the amount of water or soda to your taste. Serve with ice and a slice of lemon. Note: This syrup preserves well in the refrigerator.
This recipe works much better with citric acid powder. If using lemons, you will need a lot of lemon juice to get strong acidity.


10 thoughts on “Calpis: Karupisu

  1. Hey Tess, I remember the festively wrapped bottles in the blue and white dotted paper! “Yup, “cowpis”. They also used to make different flavors as well. Some time ago, they changed the recipe, and it doesn’t taste the same. I would love to try the recipe! Because I don’t drink soda, it was always a life saver in Japan during the summer!

    • You know, I thought this tasted different: it’s sweeter and less lemony, maybe more vanilla? I can find different fruit flavors in the soda versions (carbonated), especially in summer. I was surprised to see the concentrate available in November.

    • You know, J. was raking leaves in the front yard and there were still some gingko nuts under them. They look ok. We’ll see after I peel them…

  2. Tess, it’s hot and humid in Melbourne and I have near sneezed my head off. Spring does that to me. But thanks to your last post I have just enjoyed my first Calpis. I tried an umflavoured one and I have to say it is absolutely delicious. Perfect for this weather and a sneezy head like me. I can see it becoming a favourite all through the coming summer.

    As usual your post dovetails neatly with my current interest (obsession some would say) – fermenting things – buttermilk, yogurt, sourdough. My lovely friend Rosie has given me lots of starters to play with including and Finnish drinking yogurt! Now I can try my hand at Calpis! *sneeze* *smile* *sneeze* XxC

    • Carolyn, Happy Thanksgiving! Our holiday tribute to over-indulgence or a sort of harvest festival, U.S. style.

      There is one dairy here that makes THE BEST buttermilk. I think I could use that as a starter to make my own. The buttermilk is rather expensive but I love it; I’ve saved cartons with a bit left just for the purpose but haven’t attempted it yet.

      I’m familiar with viili (or as we pronounced it, ‘felia’), but I think you are talking about something different. Villi is thick and rubbery/stretchy, not something to drink. I’m curious about your Finnish drinking yogurt. I’m imagining something like kefir?

  3. Happy Thanksgiving to you and happy birthday to this blog. I’m enjoying its baby Tess Expressed too!

    Yes you are right Tess what I have is much more like kefir and in fact when I looked at the starter again it is Swedish not Finnish at all! It’s called Fil myolk – do you know of it? It should make a custard style yoghurt from which I might try creme fraiche and a soft yoghurt cheese. The drinking yoghurt which makes good lassis is Russian. These two and the buttermilk are all room temperature starters – this is all new territory for me. How do you use your buttermilk?

  4. I just drink the buttermilk! I’m always surprised that people are surprised that anyone would just drink the stuff!

    The Swedes and the Russians both have claimed parts of Finland in the past. I don’t know ‘fil myolk’ but if it is anything like vili it will get more and more sour as you re-fresh the original starter so you might want to keep some of the original in the freezer.

    Tess Expressed was up for a year or so, but I moved its content to a private blog. I was going through a period of depression and was enthralled with the Dickinson poem, Forever is composed of nows.

    I had a project going using a grid of images of the poem which were changing to a self-portrait as I posted. As the portrait developed, one could hover over the underlying grid and see a picture linking to the posts. But then I discovered that the “thickbox” pop-ups were only visible to logged in WordPress users so I gave up working on it. WordPress doesn’t officially support that code and I was using a work around technique; it was complicated and when I realized it didn’t function for everyone, well… (I think it worked when I first started, but is always changing and somehow changed so the code no longer works right)

    Happy holidays to you! We spent one Christmas in Florida and it was very strange to sit on a beach rather than in a snow storm.

  5. oh Tess thanks for the tip about keeping aside some of the starter. I’ve read that some people freeze 1 tablespoon amounts in an ice cube tray. I might do that. The yoghurt set beautifully! Through my facebook page a friend told me that his Polish mother made fil mjolk and swore it set best in a coming thunderstorm. That was exactly what we had! Perhaps the celestial ferment helps out the milky ferment? Who knows but it’s great to prove the folklore correct. Politics seems to have taken a Shakespearean turn too. First we had a hung parliament at the Federal level for weeks and the State election seems to be in the same stew. But as you say the future is indeed composed of nows. How beautifully Dickinson puts that.

    Your computer skills always astonish me! Times I have thought about having a blog but the technicalities I think would kill me. Also the commitment. I don’t know how you fit it all in! ((-:

  6. Working with fermented foods: I have only ever made yogurt (a couple of decades ago) and villi. In the U.S. it is almost impossible to find buttermilk with a live culture. So I’m no expert.

    But the dairy with the great buttermilk sometimes has none to sell because the culture did not properly do its thing (or sometimes it tastes ‘immature’) so I’m missing an opportunity to learn about making it at home if I don’t get down to actually trying…

    I can’t remember what my grandmother did with the fillia culture: she liked it when it was very sour and rubbery but after a wile it was too much even for her. I doubt she used a freezer to keep a ‘fresh’ starter. Maybe she dried it? I don’t even know if it works in a similar way to yogurt. I did find some references online about how to saturate a cloth with the starter, dry it, then reconstitute if to use again. Note: I have never tried this.

    I haven’t been following Australian politics, so I’m not sure what you mean on that topic?

    Apologies for the bit of a rant on blogging technicalities. I enjoy the puzzles of figuring out how to make things look like I want them to. It’s very different from print graphics which I studied in college. Most people who use don’t do the odd stuff, formatting each post with individual colors and so on. I only do it for my own enjoyment. is actually (technically) easy to use.

    As for ‘commitment,’ the depression project kept me engaged in things other than myself. Just getting out of the house to take some pictures to post… I wish it would have displayed as I wanted it to, but I did ‘meet’ some people by way of my blogging. Same with this blog.

    I look forward to your comments and emails; you always have something to say that inspires me!

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