Everything you need to know about Japanese sake
Updated 18:45, 26-May-2019
By She Jingwei
["china"]
01:16
No trip to Japan could be complete without tasting a glass of Japanese sake. Sake, commonly served during formal ceremonies or national holidays, is Japan's national alcohol.
Hidden in the bustling Sanlitun Area in Beijing, "This is C5sake bar" is the place where authentic Japanese sake awaits its true lovers. So, would you like to explore the quintessence of Japanese sake? Yes! Then join us on a sake tour where you could soak up the Japanese culture and true spirits of Japanese craftsmanship.
The entrance of "This is C5sake bar" in Beijing. /CGTN Photo

The entrance of "This is C5sake bar" in Beijing. /CGTN Photo

Learning the basics of sake

Sake at its most basic is simply alcohol made from fermented rice, water and aspergillus oryzae. Known in English as koji, aspergillus oryzae is a kind of fungus that kick starts the process of fermentation. 
According to the Japanese tax law, sake's alcohol volume should not exceed 22 percent and it's usually between 12 and 18 percent. Sake choices range from clear to cloudy, hot to cold, low-priced to very expensive, and people can easily get confused. 
Making sake at a brewery in Akita Prefecture, Japan. /CGTN Photo

Making sake at a brewery in Akita Prefecture, Japan. /CGTN Photo

The first important step of making sake is polishing the rice. Before starting the actual sake-making process, the rice kernel has to be "polished" or milled to remove the outer layer of each grain, exposing its starchy core.
Wang Jitao, co-founder of "This is C5sake bar," said that good sake is usually polished to about 50 to 70 percent. For example, if you see the sign on a bottle of sake showing it has been polished to 70 percent, it means 30 percent of the original rice kernel has been polished off. The more the rice is polished, the higher the grade of sake. 
Stirring rice to brew sake. /CGTN Photo

Stirring rice to brew sake. /CGTN Photo

As sake is more perishable than other alcohols, it's required to be stored below five degrees Celsius. Sake tends to be served at varying temperatures depending on the season, with warm or room temperature sake popular in the winter and cooler sake more common in summer. But brew masters always know the suitable temperature to offer the best sake.
Different varieties of sake on display in the bar. /CGTN Photo

Different varieties of sake on display in the bar. /CGTN Photo

The characteristics of Jizake

Jizake, "di jiu" in Chinese, means "Japan's local sake." The greatest charm of Jizake is that it's brewed with local characteristics and it goes extremely well with each region's local cuisine. For example, all kinds of sake available at the "This is C5sake bar" are made in Japan's Akita Prefecture.
"Using local rice and water to brew sake is the biggest difference when comparing to the commonly-sold Japanese sake in the market," Wang told CGTN, adding that there are a lot of interesting stories behind some regional lesser-known breweries, and they want to bring those stories as well as Japan's regional culture to China and the world. 
One of the breweries in Japan's Akita Prefecture. /CGTN Photo

One of the breweries in Japan's Akita Prefecture. /CGTN Photo

There are over 30 different varieties of Japanese sake on their bar menu to suit every taste. When savoring sake in the bar, you could also receive a detailed explanation on the characteristics of its aroma and flavors from specialized staff. Every month, the bar organizes at least one sake-tasting class to help people learn more about the unique culture of Japanese sake.

Future trend: Global promotion of Japanese culture

Today, the growing popularity of sushi and other Japanese delicacies have also helped the popularization of sake culture in the rest of the world. The mild flavor of Japanese sake also goes well with French, Italian and Chinese cuisines, and it is gaining the reputation of a new alcoholic beverage that is different from wine and beer. 
A brew master pours sake at "This is C5sake bar" in Beijing. /CGTN Photo

A brew master pours sake at "This is C5sake bar" in Beijing. /CGTN Photo

"We hope that sake, as a kind of daily drink, just like wine, could be drunk almost everywhere. It's not that we only drink it when having Japanese food but we could also drink it when we eat Western food or Chinese food," said Wang.  
However, adjustments in various aspects of Japanese sake matter the most if it wants to maintain its popularity in the future market. As Wang suggested, "Good sake is one that you want to drink in your daily life and it's also a principle that we insist on." At present, they are trying to open a second branch in Beijing to familiarize the public with Japanese sake.  
 "This is C5sake bar" in Beijing. /CGTN Photo

 "This is C5sake bar" in Beijing. /CGTN Photo

Travel information

For first-timers: We recommend you to order "a set of sake" from the menu to try different flavors and choose the one you like the most. 
Tips: Visitors are recommended to make a reservation in advance as there are only eight seats in the bar. 
Address: Building F, No.5 Xiwu Street, Sanlitun Area, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Transportation: Visitors can take subway line 10 to Agricultural Exhibition Center Station, head out from Exit D2 and walk to the bar. 
Opening hours: 6:30 p.m.-0:30 a.m. 
Video Editor: Zhao Yuxiang
Videographer: Yu Jie
Photographer: She Jingwei
Video text by: She Jingwei
Video cover designed by Yin Yating