12 Unique Asian Drinks to Cross Off Your Foodie Bucket List

12 Unique Drinks in Asia to Cross Off Your Foodie Bucket List

From Japanese alcohol to Sri Lankan tea, there’s a beverage for everyone.

While known for a wide variety of tantalising food cooked with flavourful spices, Asian drinks are often underrated. Anyone who has paid a visit to the continent will tell you that it’s home to some of the yummiest beverages in the world.

No meal is complete without a drink, after all! If you’re looking for some of the best drinks that cater to different cravings and preferences, then you’ve come to the right place. From alcohol to coffee and tea, here are 14 unique drinks in Asia to cross off your foodie bucket list.

Also read: 14 Food Destinations Around the World for a Gastronomic Tour

Must-try Asian alcoholic beverages

1. Sake

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Kicking off our list, we have one of the most popular drinks in Asia: sake. Dating back to the third century, this alcohol from Japan is made by brewing yeast, koji mould, water, and polished rice. Since then, the art of brewing sake has been passed down from generation to generation, even holding religious and sentimental value in Japanese culture.

popular japanese rice wine

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The drink is often served chilled or at room temperature. It is also versatile as a food wine, pairing perfectly with traditional Japanese food. For the health-conscious, sake is even known to be one of the healthiest drinks in the world, providing anti-cancer benefits.

Also read: This Is How I Survived Being Lost (and Drunk) in Tokyo

2. Lao-lao

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If you’re looking to challenge your taste buds, boy do we have a drink for you! Produced in Laos, lao-lao is a rice whiskey usually mixed with various ingredients like insects and snakes before being bottled! Give it a shot, you might be surprised by how delicious it is.

Besides being known for its potency, lao-lao reigns supreme as the cheapest rice whiskey in the world! You can easily find bottles of lao-lao sold in small shops across the country for ₭N6,000 (~S$0.75) per seven-litre bottle. Who doesn’t love a wallet-friendly alcoholic drink?

3. Feni

From the city of Goa, India, feni is a thrice-distilled traditional liquor consisting of fermented cashew apple juice or fermented toddy (palm wine). Like champagne or tequila, it is a legally-protected product, thus it can’t be produced outside of Goa.

However, unlike most alcohols, feni is distilled to 42.8% abv, meaning no water is added to reduce its potency. Make sure you’re not driving home!

4. Baijiu

potent whiskey from china

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Only for the bravest and the boldest, baijiu is the strongest alcoholic drink in China. Often mistranslated as “white wine,” baijiu is a spirit that can reach up to an impressive 60% abv! That said, this infamous drink is both feared and loved by locals and travellers alike.

Although you might expect a drink with high levels of alcohol to taste bad, baijiu has a distinct flavour profile. It offers a complex mix of fruit, citrus, floral and umami. Don’t miss out on this must-try potent concoction!

Must-try Asian drinks for coffee lovers

5. Ca phe trung

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If coffee and eggs sound like the perfect start to a day, we’ve got good news for you. Vietnam’s ca phe trung  (more famously known as egg coffee) features both — in the same cup! It is traditionally prepared by whisking egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk, and robusta coffee. More of a dessert than a coffee, it’s one of the best Asian drinks to satisfy your sugar cravings!

vietnamese egg coffee

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Fun fact: Ca phe trung was first created in Hanoi in 1946 due to the pressures of a milk shortage caused by the First Indochina War. Hence, eggs were whisked in as a substitute, spawning another unique drink in Asia! 

Also read: Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh: Which City in Vietnam Is Perfect for You?

6. Kopi luwak

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Originating from Indonesia, kopi luwak undoubtedly deserves its reputation as one of the most popular drinks in Asia! It is a coffee that consists of partially digested coffee cherries that Asian palm civets have consumed and then defecated. Unlike its production, the result is one of the world’s finest and priciest coffees!

asian palm civet

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However, travellers should be diligent when sourcing this delicious drink as there have been reports of animal abuse at some coffee plantations. We recommend that you scrutinise the company’s ethical processes and ensure they have certificates of authenticity. With this certificate, the beans are sourced ethically without contact with the palm civet.

Also read: 15 Countries With a Coffee Culture Worth Travelling For

7. Dalgona coffee

internet viral coffee

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If you frequent Instagram or TikTok, chances are you’ll have encountered dalgona coffee. During the pandemic, this delectable beverage from South Korea took the internet by storm with its visual aesthetics and delicious taste. 

Named after the South Korean honeycomb snack, the drink is made by whipping coffee powder, sugar, and hot water until it becomes creamy; this frothy cream is then layered above a cup of milk. This tasty ambrosial will leave you craving for more!

Also read: 15 Unique Cafes in Seoul for Coffee, Brunch, & More!

8. Oliang

oliang coffee

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Thailand’s oliang is a truly unique Asian drink that definitely deserves a spot on our foodie bucket list. This Thai iced coffee uses robusta coffee beans and various seeds and grains like sesame seeds and cardamom. Sugar or syrup is then added to the beverage to balance out the bitter taste of the coffee, creating a perfect blend of flavours.

Order a cup of oliang from street vendors in Thailand and watch them prepare it so fast, you’d think they could do it with their eyes closed! 

Also read: Thai Street Food Guide: 12 Best Things to Eat & What to Expect

Unique tea drinks from Asia to quench your thirst

9. Teh tarik

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If you’ve been to Malaysia, chances are you’d have tried one of the most popular Asian drinks: teh tarik. Translated as “pulled tea,” it is known for being sweet, creamy, and frothy on top. This texture is created by street vendors skillfully pouring hot milk tea between two mugs repeatedly. It’s quite a sight watching these vendors testing the limit of how high they can “pull” the tea.

Teh tarik can be served either hot or cold, making it the perfect drink to complement a good meal!

Also read: A Foodie’s Guide to Malaysia: Where and What to Eat in Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, and Melaka

10. Yuenyeung

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Although we’ve placed this under the “tea” category, this beverage is a mix of black tea and brewed coffee. Yuenyeung originated from Hong Kong and rapidly spread to the Chinese diaspora in the region. Among Malaysians and Singaporeans, it’s also known as cham, which means “mixed.”

Marrying the flavours of tea and coffee creates a harmonious mix with a rich aroma and taste. Make sure to try out this drink on your next visit to Hong Kong!

11. Ceylon tea

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Ceylon tea refers to tea produced in Sri Lanka. The name “Ceylon” comes from the country’s former name and has continued to be used in the tea trade. This one is a type of black tea that comes from higher altitude tea gardens located in the centre of the island, giving it a rich and complex flavour. Meanwhile, tea leaves grown at lower altitudes are often used in blends as they have a firmer body and strength.

high-altitude tea

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Tea aficionados consider Ceylon tea a “self-drinker,” meaning it needs additional condiments to enhance its taste. With its unique flavours and numerous health benefits, Ceylon tea is one of the most coveted teas in the world!

Also read: ​​How I Spent My First Solo Trip in Sri Lanka

12. Hōjicha

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While mostly known for their matcha, Japan’s hōjicha should not be overlooked! Made with green tea roasted over high heat, hōjicha has a distinctive reddish-brown colour that separates it from other teas. 

Hōjicha has a tasting profile that is earthy and slightly sweet. Compared to matcha and most other teas, it contains far less caffeine, making it perfect for a cup of tea before bed!

Also read: Everything That Went Wrong During My First Trip to Japan and South Korea

And that wraps up our list of unique Asian drinks you must try! Whether you’re in need of a glass of alcohol to drown your worries, or a dose of caffeine to kickstart your day, there’s a little something on this list for everyone.

About Author

Chow Cheng Yang
Chow Cheng Yang

Cheng Yang can often be found in his natural habitat — in his bed with a cup of coffee and a science-fiction novel. With his undying love for jazz music and old movies, he likes to think of himself as a bit of a hippie. When he's not busy with work or school, he spends his free time playing the guitar or practising calligraphy.