Milk in Japan

I am not too picky when it comes to milk. Because of all the traveling and moving I have done in my life, I have gotten to try milk in all sorts of forms. I liked the whole pasteurized stuff we drank when I was young, the UHT milk that came in a cardboard carton in Cambodia, the unpasteurized milk I ladled from a tank into a pail when I stayed in North Dakota, the powdered and canned milk I drank the summer I was building trails in the woods, goat's milk when I have had it, and even fermented mare's milk. Yes, I love milk, so I was curious what I would find when I came to Japan.

The day after we arrived, I wandered into the dairy section of the grocery store and bought 2 cartons of what looked like milk. It had a cute smiling sun and a happy cow on it so I grabbed 2 and brought them home. It wasn't until later that evening when we had made a brimming jug of iced coffee with this "milk" that I started second guessing my purchase. The iced coffee was awful and when it tasted the liquid in the carton by itself, I realized it was drinkable yogurt. Oh well, we like that too, just not in iced coffee.

When I did finally find where they kept the actual milk, I surprised to find that the different varieties don't really stick to an even milk fat percentage. There is 0.4%, 0.7%, 1.7%, 2.5%, whole, and probably a lot more variation in between. In Canada, you are faced with four options: 0, 1, 2, and 3.25% milk. I now feel like I have to try every single milk brand and find the exact percentage that suits my taste. Maybe 1.2% will be slightly better than 1.3%, who knows? They also only sell milk in 1 litre containers, which is nice since our fridge is minuscule, but means that we buy milk four times a week. It does taste very different from the milk available in the U.S. and Canada. There is this hint of UHT milk in every sip. It tastes as if you mixed about 1/5 of a cup of UHT milk into "normal" milk, and must have something to do with the temperature at which they pasteurize milk in Japan. Dustin actually prefers it to our milk back home and Theo hasn't said anything about the flavour. I wonder how long it will take before this milk tastes completely normal to me?

Just in case you are wondering, the price of milk here is only slightly above what we pay back in Canada. If I were to buy four 1 litre containers, it would come out to about $5.10 Canadian. You also don't pay tax on milk here. I was also happy to discover that Japan, like Canada, Australia, and the EU, has banned the use of growth hormones (rBGH) in their milk, so we can all keep on drinking with much less worry.


Kate Minor said...

We totally fell for the drinkable yogurt thing too! Eww! I like milk a lot too, but I can only drink the little carton I have for lunch everyday at school. It's just too thick for me.

Laura said...

At least our son really liked the drink yogurt. I am finding myself drinking a lot less milk here too, partially from the taste, and partially because it comes in a smaller container. I guess psychologically I feel less prone to drink half of a carton in one go; it just feels like you are being more of a glutton :)

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