The History of Koji: Unlocking Nutrition and Flavor Through Fermentation
Graindrops is a triple cultured and gluten-free probiotic grainmilk created with the ancient fermentation tradition widely known as Koji. But, what is Koji?
What is Koji?
Koji is a fermentation tradition that dates back thousands of years in Southeast and East Asia. In China and Japan koji is used to make sake, soy sauce, mirin, miso and rice vinegar. Before civilization understood microorganisms, the ancients had already established a fermentation process to bring out the best flavor and nutrients of foods.
Fun Fact: The word koji refers to both the fungus and to a food ingredient that is commonly made using rice, barley, or soybeans. Seed koji refers the spores of the fungus Aspergillus oryzae.
Once upon a time…
The earliest records of koji fermenation, referred to as qu in Chinese, traces back to 300 BC in China and to the 3rd century AD in Japan. Throughout history, fermentation has played a vital role, along with other well-known techniques such as smoking, drying, and freezing, to preserve human food. In early societies, the transformation of basic foods into fermented foods was mysterious and often attributed to divine involvement. The Egyptians praised Osiris for the brewing of beer, the Greeks established Bacchus as the god of wine, and likewise, the early Japanese set up shrines in the places where miso and shoyu are brewed.
Fun Fact: Koji is written using the exact same character in Chinese and Japanese.
By the 10th century, koji was deliberately harvested to mass produce fermented foods. Seed koji is added to cooked rice to produce a crop of numerous mold spores. The rice and spores are separated using silk screens and the fine spore filaments are collected for preservation. At a later time, the seed koji spores are added to cooked soy and grains, covered with straw and set in a warm and humid place to make koji. In turn, this koji is used for soy sauce, mirin, sake and amazyake.
Happily ever after.
Today, koji and the products created from koji are well known and well loved beyond East Asia. Thanks to recent studies, we know so much more about the Aspergillus oryzae culture and how koji is made. We also know more about the nutrients and health benefits gained from foods made with koji. Graindrops has taken the ancient knowledge and created a koji process to yield optimum health benefits.
To find out more about the science of koji, check out our blog here.