The folks over at Great Big Story just released a video titled, “Japan’s Secret to Long Life.” The video suggests that “brown sugar shochu,” like Nankai, is the secret sauce for the high average lifespan of people living in Tokunoshima, Japan. Tokunoshima and the rest of the Amami archipelago are the only authorized region in Japan to produce such shochus. But, what is a brown sugar shochu?
Technically, the distilleries in Amami, like our own, don’t make brown sugar shochu, but rather “black sugar,” or kokuto shochu. Brown sugar is white sugar mixed with molasses syrup whereas black sugar is far more pure and unrefined. Producers boil down premium sugarcane juice for hours into a dark syrup, which they then dry to form candy-like blocks, otherwise known as black sugar. Because it is relatively unrefined like typical white or brown sugar, it contains iron, potassium, and other minerals. Hence, people in Asia, particularly women, consider black sugar to be a health food.
Black sugar’s salty caramel flavor is wonderful on its own, in desserts or teas, or as an umami enhancer in sauces. It’s what makes Nankai Shochu and other shochus like it so delicious and perfect for enjoying with meals. And if by chance, black sugar shochu happens to be the secret to long life, that’s okay with us, too.