The Ultimate Guide to Milk in Korea

by Janice Montecillo
milk in korea

As far as we’re concerned, milk, simply, has always had an enjoyably sweet taste, particularly in the United States. But if you’ve ever stepped foot in Korea, the milk tastes quite different for multiple reasons. Many people around the globe are very fond of the variations of milk offered in Korea; their snacks, in general, are creative, interesting, and adorable. The history of Korean milk describes it as being exclusively consumed by those in the upper echelons and royalty. Today, you can head to your local 7/11 to get a swig of any milk of your choice. 

Is Seoul milk pasteurized?

The Seoul Dairy Cooperative, established as the Gyeongseong Milk Trade Association in 1937, aims to produce the highest quality of milk by constantly finding new and better ways of delivering fresh milk. Their products include variations of milk flavors and contents, ice cream, popsicles, yogurt, and cheese.

Yes, Seoul milk is pasteurized, meaning the milk experiences partial sterilization to make it safe for consumers to drink. This often involves the use of heat to remove pathogens that may spoil the food. However, the method of pasteurization Korea uses differs from the one used by the United States. Korea uses the UHT, or Ultra High Temperature, method, whereas North America uses the HTST, or Hot Temperature Short Time, method. 

The UHT method is excellent for extending the shelf life of milk because it involves heating liquids at above 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about two to three seconds. The HTST method heats liquids at only 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 20 seconds. Though capable of removing spoilage microorganisms, the HTST method used in the west is not as effective in killing off spores in milk the same way the UHT method does, which is why Korean milk can last between six and nine months before being opened. Milk in the west would probably only last you about one to two weeks!

Seoul Milk Ingredients

Seoul Dairy Cooperative’s process for bringing milk from the cows to their containers is to firstly, milk the cows raised on the ranch. The crude oil for sterilization faces inspection by an experienced inspector, which involves judging the temperature, flavor, appearance, bacterial count, acidity, and oil-free solids. Next, the somatic cell count of the milk is examined; a smaller somatic cell count means that the cow is in good condition.

A serving of sterilized Seoul Milk is about 130 calories and 200 mg of calcium. As described by Seoul Milk’s homepage, their milk is made up of three essential vitamins: Vitamin A, D3, and E. You’ll find that Seoul Milk has a healthy amount of cholesterol and sodium, but is slightly above average in terms of sugar. Of course, Seoul Dairy Cooperative is constantly working to bring the best milk for its customers, equipped with eight research teams for optimal results.

Seoul Milk is known for its freshness; as of recently, this cooperative has begun to voluntarily label the production date of their milk to build transparency with the consumers. This encourages a shorter time between the day of production and the day it lands in the fridges of customers.

Why does milk taste different in Korea?

The difference in taste is entirely related to the pasteurization method. As mentioned, Korea utilizes Ultra High Temperature processing for their milk, leaving an almost burnt taste in the mouth and eliminating the extra milky taste. However, the flavor of Korean milk is often more appreciated than western milk.

The diet of Korea’s pasture may affect the taste of the milk as well. The cows themselves have unique conditions to live in; Sangha Ranch cows are often fed healthy, natural grass and graze on wide, hilly areas. Additionally, Korea’s cows are of the Holstein breed, originating from Holland and Germany; this breed is quite large in size and breasts.

Milk in Korea tends to come in different flavors as well, including strawberry milk, melon milk, and banana milk. Korea’s milk options are much more daring than those in the states; for instance, you can find milk soda at your local Korean convenience store.

What is milk in Korean?

  • The word for milk in Korean is 우유, pronounced “u-yu.” Pronouncing milk in Korean may be slightly easier if you remember that it sounds a lot like the word “moo,” the sound cows make. Knowing this information may be vital when differentiating certain beverages from others at the market or a restaurant. Other terms that may be helpful include:

  • 아몬드 우유 - Almond Milk

  • 저온 살균 우유 - Pasteurized Milk

  • 바나나 우유 - Banana Milk

  • 초고온순간처리법 - Ultra High Temperature

  • 고온단시간살균법 - High Temperature Short Time

  • 지방 - fat

  • 저지방 - low fat

Keep an eye out for these terms on certain bottles to better accommodate to your dairy needs!

What is slow milk in Korea?

Slow Milk, or formerly known as Upper and Lower Ranch Slow Milk, is a brand of milk manufactured and produced by Maeil Dairy’s Sangha Plant, an eco-friendly brand. This brand aspires to deliver products that are made “slowly correct,” hence the product name. The main difference between slow milk and your average Korean milk is that slow milk is sterilized slowly at 63 degrees for 30 minutes, proudly displayed on their packaging, along with the colors green and brown to reflect the eco-friendly values of the brand. This process is often referred to as “Batch Pasteurization.” But the temperature itself is not enough to kill off the microorganisms so producers must microfilter the milk in 100% grade 1 crude oil. Sangha Plant does this as opposed to conventional methods of sterilization in order to sustain the nutrition and taste of the raw materials. It has a shelf life of 9 days, which is considered longer than most normal milk. A pack of 12 bottles will cost you about 36000 won, or roughly 30 USD.

Sangha Plant has very environmentally conscious values when it comes to manufacturing and producing its milk. The three primary goals are to provide pure nature for their cattle, to refine and heighten the efforts of their ranchers, and to employ reliable technology. Together, you get excellent products like slow milk.

Korean Banana Milk

If you’ve ever been inside of a Korean market, you know there is always a colorful assortment of snacks and goodies. Korean Banana Milk, in stores since 1974, has been named Korea’s most iconic drink, with its signature packaging and taste concocted by dairy manufacturer Binggrae; you’ll find plenty of banana milk options, but we recommend the classic Binggrae take on banana milk, even featured in Korean dramas. The light yellow liquid is packaged in a distinct diamond-shaped container, fitting snugly in your palm. The taste itself is unique, best described as a lightly banana, 80% of its content being milk and the rest banana. 

The birth of banana milk occurred in hopes of encouraging people to drink more milk; however, many underestimated the power and appeal of banana milk as it rose to be proclaimed as Korea’s “national drink.” Its presence is also nostalgic for many Koreans who grew up drinking it, yet part of what makes banana milk so special is its appeal to people of all ages. At its emergence, Binggrae’s implementation of banana was attractive to many Koreans since there were import restrictions for bananas at the time.

And don’t fret! If you’re not a fan of banana milk, Binggrae offers other flavors, including strawberry, coffee, and vanilla!

However, the creativity doesn’t stop at innovative flavors. Flavored milk is often aestheticized in Korea, turned into cutesy animations smacked onto t-shirts and hoodies. So not only can you consume banana milk, you can actually wear it too! Binggrae itself has even gone so far as to make moisturizing body wash and lotion!

Is Korean banana milk halal?

What makes something halal is its relation to meat as prescribed by Muslim law and translates directly to “permissible” in the English language. Food that is considered halal includes meat that is not of a forbidden animal or cut, meaning pork or the hindquarters, respectively. Fruits, vegetables, and grains immediately fall into halal foods.

In 2015, Binggrae sent a batch of their iconic banana milk to the Malaysian halal authorities. The president of Binggrae himself, Park Guen-hye, also put in the effort of visiting four Middle Eastern countries. Binggrae’s banana milk was eventually granted halal certification in March of 2015, and seeing the direction that many Korean brands are exploring, we’re excited for the future of halal Korean snacks!

So yes, Korean banana milk is, in fact, halal! The Malaysian Ministry of Health has a reputation of being difficult in terms of earning halal certification, so this is a big deal. In fact, only two dairy producers and manufacturers have earned approval from Malaysian halal authorities as of recently: Seoul Dairy Cooperative and Binggrae.

What is Korean milk soda?

Korean milk soda may sound rather far-fetched, but it is widely enjoyed in the east and the west since 1989. In fact, many will argue that milk soda is quite delicious! The most popular brand of milk soda is Milkis, produced by Lotte Chilsung, a popular beverage company. It’s not much different from traditional carbonated drinks in its creation, but the idea of milk, a sweet and creamy drink, having this unique fizzy texture is what draws people in; it’s made with yogurt power, milk powder, and citric acid. Along with the original flavor, Milkis also comes in eleven fruit flavors, including strawberry, melon, grapefruit, orange, pineapple, banana, and lemon. Though having about 30 grams of sugar, Milkis milk soda is also rich in vitamin A, C, and D. It comes in a thin, sleek can with a unique trademark design for your drinking pleasure. The carbonation isn’t as intense as your average soft drink, which makes it easy to implement milk without losing its consistency, so this appeals to those who love soft drinks and those who might not.

Many people love pairing this unique tasting beverage with an even more exciting one: alcohol! Soju, an alcoholic Korean drink made of either rice or sweet potatoes, is a popular beverage to mix with Milkis, for good reason; soju itself has a rather neat and sweet flavor, so mixed with the light carbonation of Milkis, you’ll have yourself a good time!

The Milkis motto is “new feeling of soda beverage” and they couldn’t be more right!

Almond Milk in Korea

For all my vegans and almond-milk lovers out there, this one’s for you. Almond milk in Korea has been hard to come by in the past decade, but nonetheless, there are still options out there. In recent years, the availability and accessibility of vegan products has increased, especially in your local convenience store, thankfully. Back in 2015, Maeil Dairy partnered with Blue Almond to release Almond Breeze Korea, revealing a clear demand for more vegan products. Yet even if you’re not vegan, the health benefits of Almond Breeze are abundant compared to the calories in the original milk; it’s a low-calorie plant-based drink with plenty of vitamin E and also helps many transition well into a plant-based diet. Almond milk is a silky blend of almonds and water; in general, the taste of almond milk is nutty, as expected, and has a muted sweetness to it.

Running into them at most of the stores in Korea may be tricky. Some places where you may have luck include chain markets like Costco, HomePlus, EMart, Lottemart and local marts, like the High Street Market in Itaewon or Saruga in Seoul. Another reason you won’t run into almond milk as often as regular milk is that you are, simply, looking in the wrong place! Some Korean markets stock their selection of almond milk under the yogurt section. It takes a good eye to find almond milk in Korea!

If you’re really struggling to find almond milk in Korea or you’d rather not invest in Almond Breeze, you can make your own, like many natives do. Basic almond milk recipes only require raw almonds and filtered water, allowing you to decide how thin or thick you want the results to be. From there, you can add salt, cocoa powder, or any other additions to supplement the taste!

1 comment

starjack io October 11, 2019 - 12:24 am

An enjoyably sweet taste!


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