Umeshu is a Japanese plum wine made from plum, sugar and alcohol. This traditional drink is widely available in Japan but you can also make it yourself! Renowned umeshu maker Choya opened its first flagship store, the Choya Ume Specialty Shop, in Kyoto in April 2018. This store offers a hands-on umeshu-making workshop. Coupled with its central location and stylish atmosphere, this store has become extremely popular. Here's a complete guide to this exciting establishment, so have a read and plan your visit.
What is the Choya Ume Specialty Shop?
Choya has heralded this store as a world-first umeshu making laboratory. Umeshu has been enjoyed in Japan for more than 2,000 years and was originally brought from China for medicinal purposes. It is said that umeshu became known as a tasteful drink among affluent people in the Edo Period. Choya strives to retain the traditions of this liquor but with a modern touch, and opened its store with this ethos. While tasting various types of plum, sugar and alcohol, visitors can pick their favorite out of Choya's 100 combinations.
Ume drinks for takeout are available at the shop
Let's try a 40-minute plum syrup and plum wine making workshop!
White interior with stylish atmosphere
Stepping into the store, you'll be welcomed into an organic and open environment that’s enhanced by the plain white walls. The beautiful display of ume (plum) syrup cases is sure to catch your attention.
Umeshu making equipment on the table
Once you're seated, you'll find a menu and a variety of umeshu-making equipment. The workshop is usually conducted in Japanese, but written English instructions are available for non-Japanese speakers.
The expert will guide you through on the making of umeshu.
For starters, you pick your preferred choices of plum, sugar and alcohol. Nondrinkers can omit the alcohol and simply select a plum syrup. Secondly, you pick the size of your bottle and remove the stem of the plum. Lastly, you put the three (two for non-drinkers) ingredients into the bottle.
How to make Umeshu and Umeshu syrup
Even the beginners can easily make Umeshu
Choose your plum and sugar
Nankou-ume, Gojiro-ume, and Purple Queen, in order from right to left
There are five different types of plums and sugars available and you get to taste them before you choose. For the plums, you can pick between Kanjuku (ripe) Nanko, Kojiro, Yuki (organic) Nanko, Oshuku, and Purple Queen. They all come in different shapes, colors, flavors and tastes. If you don't know which one to choose, the staff will give you recommendations depending on your preference. For the sugars, you can select between rock sugar, honey, sugar beet, organic agave syrup, and Konpeito sugar candy, which is the visitors' number one choice.
Unique side story behind each ume are being told here
This confetti-star-shaped sugar was brought by Portuguese traders in the early 16th century and is believed to have been a popular confectionery among affluent Kyoto citizens back in the day.
Sour yet it has a taste of the ume
Konpeito (Japanese sugar candy),beet sugar, organic agabe syrup and honey in order from the closest to the furthest.
Remove the stalk from the plum
My favorite combination
Once you decide on your favorite combination, it’s time to select the bottle size. Small is for one serving, medium is for three servings, and large is for six servings. Before you put your ingredients into the bottle, you have to remove the stalk from the plum using a specialized tool. This process (which is also done by hand at Choya's umeshu factory) is to prevent the stalks from getting old in the bottle, which could negatively impact the taste of your syrup/liquor.
Removing the stalk from the plum needs some skills
Add multiple layers of sugar and plum... and you’re done!
Even for beginners its an easy process
Once you are finished removing the stalks, you then need to layer the plums and sugar alternatively in the bottle. If you are to make umeshu, you can add your choice of liquor at this point. When everything is added, seal your bottle and you’re all set!
The cute finished look of your very own ume drink
Take your bottle home and shake it every day for up to a month
The sugar will melt in and disappear
Although the workshop is done, this doesn't mean that your bottled concoction is ready to be consumed just yet. When you take the bottle home, you need to shake it once a day. It takes a week for the syrup and more than a month for the liquor to be mixed well.
The color of your concoction will change over time, with the wall displays in the store illustrating the changes.
A great souvenier to remind of your amazing time in Kyoto♪
Price for the workshop
Menue of the Choya Ume Kit
The total price varies depending on your choice of bottle size, plum, sugar and liquor.
For example, a medium-sized bottle (2,000 yen) + Organic Nanko Plum (90 yen) + Kompeito Sugar (150 yen) = 2,240 yen. If you are to add liquor, it costs an extra 600 yen (100 yen for a takeout package). Dry ice is available for 200 yen.
Medium-sized bottle (2,000 yen) + Organic Nanko Plum (90 yen) + Kompeito Sugar (150 yen) = 2,240 yen
How to reserve your spot
Relatively during weekdays lunch time, the reservation is easier to book.
Participation in this workshop requires an online reservation. Reservations can only be done on Choya's official website. Reservations are accepted from two weeks to a day before your workshop. However, due to its immense popularity, it’s recommended that you visit the website just after midnight two weeks before your desired date.
How to access the Choya Ume Specialty Shop
A seven-minute walk from Karasuma Oike Station (Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line).
An eight-minute walk from Karasuma Station (Hankyu Kyoto Line).
An eight-minute walk from Yonjo Station (Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line).
The store is within walking distance of the Nishiki Market, which is home to a variety of food stores. So you can enjoy a stroll in this area before or after your workshop.
Lets create your very own ume drink and syrup♪