Sake is a Japanese word meaning alcoholic beverage. There are two theories about the origin of sake. According to one theory, it originated in China in the area of the river Yangtze in 4800 B. C. and later invaded Japan. The second theory suggests that Sake belongs to Japan. Now Sake is the national alcoholic beverage of Japan and it is the only country to have produced sake on a mass level. In the olden days, sake was made from potato and sugar beet. But nowadays it is distilled from rice alone. There are 80 types of rice varieties available in Japan which produces various types of high-quality sake.
The first sake brewed by the Japanese was called “Kuchikami no sake” meaning “sake for tasting”. However, it is not pleasant to know how it was made. People chewed rice, chestnut, millet, and acorn together and spat them into a bowl. They added fresh rice into it and left it for natural fermentation. The enzymes in the saliva acted as a catalyst to turn the substance into an alcoholic beverage. This type of sake contained only a little alcohol and was used as a cooking ingredient.
After a few centuries, there were few developments in Sake making. A type of moldy mushrooms kojikin were added which converted the rice to sugar. Japanese added this to the rice malt to distill sugar and added yeast to increase the level of alcohol in the beverage.
Though there are various types of rice used in the sake of making a special type of rice shuzo kotekimai is majorly used in the brewing. The manufacturers remove the bran and polish the outer layer of the rice as the oil prevents the development of fruity aroma. The highest quality sake Daiginjo-Shu is made with 30% of rice polishing rate which means 70% of the rice is polished away.
They steam the rice after polishing and spread it on the table called “Toko”. While the rice is at room temperature they add kojic spores and mix it with rice and cover the rice with a white cloth. After that, the sake making process is continued by adding water, yeast, and a fermentation starter called “shubo”. Today there are many advances in sake production which are deemed to China as most of the developments in sake making process are found by Chinese.
While Japan has over 2000 sake breweries, it is gaining popularity around the world that many countries are starting their own breweries including North America, South America, China, and Australia. October 1st is the Sake day which is celebrated by brewers and enthusiasts all around the world.