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Sake is a traditional Japanese drink which first appeared in the Japanese mythology, and later developing its modern brewing processing method by the 17th century. It is presented as a clear liquid with either no colour or a pale yellow colour. It generally has an alcohol content of about 15%.

Five crucial elements are involved in brewing sake -- water, rice, technical skill, yeast, and land/weather. More than anything else, sake is a result of a brewing process that uses rice and lots of water. In fact, water comprises as much as 80% of the final product, so fine water and fine rice are natural prerequisites if one hopes to brew great sake. But beyond that, the technical skill needed to pull this all off lies with the toji (head brewers), the type of yeast they use, and the limitations entailed by local land and weather conditions. Maturation is carried out in cypress-wood casks which are often to be seen as offerings outside Shinto shrines. The brewer’s logo is always prominently displayed.

Sake breweries usually hang a ball of cedar leaves (saklabayashi) and sometimes a sacred rope (shimenawa) over their entrance.

Connoisseurs judge sake on the five qualities of sweetness, sourness, pungency, bitterness and astringency. Although it can be drunk warm, the finer types should be lightly chilled to retain the subtle flavours. The finest greade of sake, dai-ginjo, is made from the hardest core of the rice wherte about 50% of each grain is shaved away.

Unlike wine from grapes, sake does not improve with age - if stored in a cool, dry place it can keep for several months.

Classically sake is served in a ceramic bottle (tokkuri) and matching cups (sakazuki) (above)


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