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Nestle have evidently cottoned onto the fact that there is somebody out there trying to eat and review every kind of Kit-Kat they make and have decided to try and kill me because just recently they have swamped the aisles with a huge variety of different flavours. To that end in today’s post I’m going to attempt to eat and review no less than 9 different Kit-Kats!!

Umeshu Soda

First up is actually a variety I forgot to review during the last Kit-Kat update; umeshu and soda. It has been sitting in my cupboard since late summer and apparently goes off this month so it may not be a fair trial.

Umeshu is a kind of very sweet and sticky liqueur made from Japanese apricots. The apricots themselves are very bitter but when mixed with alcohol and sugar they make a very strong and very sweet drink. When mixed again with soda you get a delightfully refreshing summer cocktail.

The packaging is pretty good. You get a nice and inviting looking umeshu soda glass, some dots which tie in with the floating ume design and suggest fizziness and a colour scheme which both matches the colours of the drink and looks suitably fresh and refreshing.

The packaging on the individual Kat is less impressive but is fine. Again the colours match the desired flavour well and the bubble design suggests fizziness.

However the problems begin when we get to the Kat itself. Bright green chocolate and a smell that is more strongly reminiscent of a McDonald’s milkshake than any other previous Kit-Kat. Both of these factors bode poorly for this Kat’s taste.

Disappointingly the first taste doesn’t. It is completely and totally bland. I may as well be eating thin air. The texture is grim and soapy with none of the fizz promised by the packaging and the first notes that hit aren’t of anything.

The only real presence of flavour is some generic tanginess that hits your mouth after you’ve chewed it for awhile. These aren’t especially reminiscent of ume but they are at least lively and a bit different from Kit-Kat’s standard fair.

The aftertaste though is really soapy. In fact it tastes more like soap than it does anything it is advertised to taste like.

All in all it’s like eating a bar of crunchy, tangy soap. A total failure.

Ginger Ale

Another drink flavoured Kit-Kat marketed with a picture of a fizzy and refreshingly inviting looking drink. The packaging on this one is superb. The colour choice is excellent for a ginger ale and evokes the label of a Canada dry bottle. The dark green looks classy and refined whilst the white looks fresh and inviting. Finally the actual packet has a photo print of ginger ale as the dominant colour. This is a new technique for Kit-Kat but it works very well. It looks much more stylish, classy and sophisticated than their packaging usually does. The only downside is that with the white on top and the photo print ginger ale it does look a little bit like a glass of beer.

The wrapping on the Kat isn’t a let down either. Cream and dark green are nice contrasting colours and again connote class and sophistication. They’re the colours of golf bars, of airport lounges, of cruise decks.

Sadly we’ve got colours chocolate again which always bodes poorly but we’ve also got a massive hit of ginger smell rather than the usual milkshakey odour. There’s also a faint sour or lemony element to the bouquet.

The chocolate is impressively gingery right from the first bite and what’s more has really strong tangy notes to it. I’m not really a fan of ginger ale and can’t comment on how well it emulates it but it does make for a nice biscuit. There are two strongly contrasting flavours happening in your mouth at once. Partly it feels like eating a ginger biscuit and is rich and mellow like a proper ginger nut is, but at the same time there are really strong tangy flavours like sucking a lemon. They contrast well and this is probably one of the more sophisticated and complex tasting Kit-Kat’s I’ve tried. A definite biscuit for grown ups; from the packaging, to the taste, to the smell and on.

The aftertaste is a little too tart but that just means it goes well with a cup of tea which cuts the aftertaste whilst the sweet and mellow Kit-Kat cuts the bitterness of the tea.

A hit from nestle here.

Milk Coffee

Another drink and a flavour that I’ve tried variations of before. This time the milk content is advertised quite prominently so I’m expecting it to be distinctly lactose-y.

Again, and annoyingly, I can’t really fault the packaging. The coffee looks fine (although not that milky) and the choice of colours is sound. Cream and pink contrast well together and are attractive to look at. The field of flowers is a nice touch and adds some interest to the design. The handwritten note giving the flavour is perhaps a touch to twee but it has a purpose which is revealed on the back of the packet.

Yes, this Kit-Kat isn’t intended to be bought and eaten, it is intended to be bought and given as a present. As such nestle have included a little space on the back to write a message.

Why would you give a Kit-Kat as a present? Well it is coming up to exam/graduation season in Japan now and people often give kit-Kats to students that are taking their exams. This is because Kit-Kat sounds like kitto katsu a Japanese expression meaning “you will surely win.”

In fact you can buy a special variety of Kit-Kat at the post office which can be addressed, stamped and mailed directly without an envelope to whomever you wish to give luck to.

The presence of pink and the use of sakura flowers are also symbols of good luck in Japan and the handwritten note is obviously tying in to the handwritten message on the back.

The individual Kat is more of the same but wisely tones down the flower pattern a little.

Sadly we have more coloured chocolate and our old friend the milkshake smell returns the minute you open up the wrapper. Also the chocolate is practically white with only the faintest whiff of brown to it. If someone served you a coffee this colour you would be forgiven for thinking it was simply some old cream in a bad light.

There is something of a smell that could be described, charitably, as coffee but it is more reminiscent of a room in which coffee was once stored many years ago or a chestnut. I’m not sure.

It’s also got really hard and firm chocolate for some reason.

Well in its defence it does taste of coffee right from the off. Coffee made with seven sugars though and a pint of milk. It doesn’t taste soapy and it doesn’t taste of anything but coffee but it is really, horribly, massively sweet. Any bitterness or complexity the coffee may have imparted is totally drowned out by the sweet. In fact it doesn’t taste of sugar at all but artificial sweetener. It leaves the same horrible chemical aftertaste in your mouth and has the same problem of overwhelming every taste bud you own at once.

This is a really sweet biscuit.

In fact too sweet because I couldn’t even finish it. In stead its staring at me, unloved, unwanted and uneaten.

Meanwhile my mouth tastes like I mainlined splenda.

Blegh!

I need a drink.

Sparkling Strawberry

I’ve passed up strawberry Kit-Kat’s on this site before because a) you can get them in the U.K. and b) they aren’t a limited edition flavour here. Briefly they’re like sweeter crappy ordinary Kit-Kat’s.

Sparkling Strawberry though is a limited edition and like the milk coffee ties into the good luck aspect of Kit-Kat. The chocolate is pink, strawberries are pink and associated with this time of year and pink is lucky. So this must be a super lucky Kit-Kat.

The packaging is very obvious but mostly fine. There are strawberries, they sparkle, the packaging is pink and sparkly; everything fits the overall theme and the name. It looks like an eyesore and the strawberries look plastic but they wanted to make a pink Kit-Kat and by god did they succeed. Also the sparkles look fizzy and if this is a fizzy Kit-Kat it might be nice because I really enjoyed the last fizzy Kit-Kat they released.

However the packaging is also being brutally honest with us. It shows us a picture of the Kit-Kat and lets us know up front that we’re dealing with coloured chocolate so it will be soapy, milkshakey and crap. I applaud their honesty but it doesn’t make me want to eat it.

The packaging on the inner Kit-Kat is a big step up. The pink is a much nicer colour, the gold is a striking combo with it and there are no sparkles or plastic strawberries. Instead we get the nice subdued bubble design from the umeshu. This looks grown up and swanky and cool. Much better then the glitter mess on the packet.

Smell wise it is in every way shape and form a strawberry milkshake. Although you can kind of smell the sherbet too which takes the edge off. And again the chocolate is unusually hard.

Surprisingly I liked this. The strawberry flavour is nice and strong. It isn’t soapy and it tastes of strawberries both on the first bite and in the aftertaste. It’s appropriately tangy for a strawberry flavour and whilst it is sweet it isn’t too sweet.

The sherbet is very subdued and not very noticeable, especially compared to the ramune flavour but it is present and is quite nice. It is mostly noticeable in the aftertaste and largely serves to spoil it and make it taste a bit more of chemicals.

So the strawberry side is better than I expected but the sparkling aspect is poorly implemented and a bit disappointing.

Raspberry and Passion Fruit

This is another package with a space on the back for a message. Only this time instead of exams this Kit-Kat is for Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure if most people I know would appreciate a Kit-Kat for Valentine’s Day but it might go over well with me.

Accordingly we get loads of hearts plastered everywhere in addition to the obvious implications of “passion fruit.”

Although the hearts are a bit gaudy I quite like the packaging here. The colour schemes are classy, brown and pink/purple are good contrasting colours and, dare I say it, a little sexy. It’s certainly more sophisticated than the usual colours. The abstract passion fruits are a nice touch too and give it a sort of funky cosmopolitan feel.

The interior packaging is even stronger with predominant brown and a few hearts that make the hearts “pop” much better visually.

And there are even small hearts on the inside of the packet itself.

Hallelujah and praise the god of Kit-Kat’s this one has normal coloured chocolate. In fact it’s much darker than regular Kit-Kat chocolate. The smell is amazing too; although not too strongly reminiscent of either fruit it does smell pleasant, like a high quality chocolate selection.

Again the chocolate seems much harder than usual. I think maybe they changed formulation recently.

Oh, now that is nice.

Well for starters the chocolate is brilliant. A massive step up from Kit-Kat’s usual offering. It has a much more complex taste, is bitterer, chocolatier and just better in every way. It tastes and even feels like a proper chocolate bar. It is just the right amount of sweetness (i.e. slightly bitter) and even has the slight grittiness you get with proper dark chocolate. This is seriously good chocolate.

But the filling just puts it one step above. It doesn’t hit you at first but once you start to chew the raspberry and passion fruit notes are really strong and clear. They’re fruity, sweet, slightly tangy and delicious. They contrast with the bitter chocolate remarkably well. You whole mouth is stimulated. The combo is neither too sweet nor too bitter but just perfect.

And it leaves a wonderfully fruity aftertaste, almost like a liqueur.

Eating this isn’t like eating a Kit-Kat at all. It’s like eating a proper chocolate from a tray or selection of chocolates only with a slight crunchy texture to it too. This is seriously good stuff. In fact it is probably my new favourite Kit-Kat flavour and is easily ranked amongst the best they have ever produced.

Alright I take it back; this would be a good Valentine’s present.

Maple


A tie in to the Vancouver Winter Olympics gives us new maple flavour. I love maple flavoured things and usually the toffee/caramel/sweet potato group of kit-Kat’s are among the better ones so my hopes are high for this one.

The packaging is a bit of a disaster all told. I realise that it is mainly white to create a link to snow and that the medal and coloured edges are also tie-ins to the Olympics but the effect they create is to make it look like a supermarket’s own brand product. White isn’t the colour of maple, oranges, browns and reds are and whilst we get some orange it is drowned in white that just looks cheap. The maple jug is squeezed off to one side too much and looks small and ineffectual. Plus we get some brutal truth that yes; this is a coloured chocolate occasion. I’m not impressed.

The packet on the individual Kat is better but still bad. We’ve toned down the multicoloured edges but it’s still too white, too dull and too cheap looking.

It does smell of maple, and quite nice too, so maybe it’ll be okay.

Once again the chocolate is really hard for some reason.

This is actually pretty good. The initial taste is mostly sweet and a bit bland but once you start to chew the maple taste comes through very strongly. It is a nice clear maple with all the complex toffee, flower and bitter notes that would suggest but not too sweet. The aftertaste is, if anything, even better than the actual biscuit and is identical to eating any kind of maple cookie.

Unusually for Kit-Kat in Japan I can see this working really well with a cup of tea. Not amazing but a definite hit.

Roasted Soybean Kit Kat Bar

Yes, Kit-Kat chunky does exist in Japan but they call it Kit-Kat Bar. This is the first time I have seen a flavoured version of the Kit-Kat bar so it’s the first time it has shown up on this site.

Setsubun, however, has shown up before on this site. It is a Japanese festival where children throw roasted soybeans at their father, dressed as an Oni (ogre) and chase him out of the house to chase out bad luck. Then, everyone eats 1 roasted soybean per year they’ve been alive plus another for good luck. I’ve done this tradition a few times and can inform you that roasted soybeans are horrible. They are small, flavourless things with a hard horrible texture. Why anyone would willingly eat them escapes me.

So Nestle produced a Kit-Kat with a filling made of them. Hurray!

The packet is naff. It looks like an ordinary bar only with a cheap rubbish white patch and a picture of an Oni. The Oni is fine and I guess they need the white patch to make his face stand out against the background but it is still a boring uninspired design.

The chocolate is the standard Kit-Kat stuff (i.e. crap) but the smell is unique and frankly awful. I know it’s soybeans but there is a second, more horrible note underpinning the beans. Something akin to wet fart. It really is disgusting.

The bar itself tastes disgusting. It’s utterly revolting. The chocolate is innocuous but the bean filling tastes like soggy grass. It’s just horrible. It’s actually probably closest to eating raw dried pasta mixed in with some muesli. I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe it because it doesn’t taste like food so much as it does animal feed.

I’d describe the aftertaste but I had to wash my mouth out immediately in order to focus on writing that paragraph so I have no idea what the aftertaste is. And I refuse to eat any more of it.

Cantaloupe Melon

The last two Kit-Kat’s I’m going to feature are special flavours only available in Hokkaido. Fran and I just came back from a trip there and I’ll be telling you all about it in the next blog post.

Hokkaido is famous for farming and the wide variety of delicious fresh foods available there. In particular because it has a more temperate climate it produces a lot of food not grown elsewhere in Japan.

One of these famous foods is cantaloupe, but when melons aren’t in season Nestle has you covered for souvenirs with melon flavoured Kit-Kat.

The packaging is quite well done with 2 slices of really delicious looking melon and a picture of the fields of Hokkaido. Oh and this is one of those Kit-Kat packages that can be posted. In effect it is a postcard and souvenir in one.

The package on the Kat is completely naff. It’s green, has a picture of a melon and a picture of Hokkaido. There’s nothing explicitly wrong with it but it is dull and uninspired. Could do better.

Hooray, proper chocolate colours and the smell is promising too. It is distinctly identifiable as melon, an even as cantaloupe.

Oh and the chocolate is the usual texture.

This is a great Kit-Kat. The melon flavour is distinct and immediate and complements the chocolate very well. The chocolate is rich and the melon is sweet and a little bit tart. The sweetness is just right. It’s surprisingly fruity and surprisingly accurate for a fruit flavoured Kit-Kat which usually tend to be a bit sweet and soapy. This is probably the freshest tasting Kit-Kat I’ve enjoyed, for want of a better word.

The aftertaste isn’t really. It kind of fades from your taste buds almost immediately which makes it surprisingly moreish.

A well balanced and very good Kit-Kat.

Corn

Yes, corn.

Hokkaido, amongst many foods, is also famous for corn.

So, obviously Nestle decided to make a corn Kit-Kat. I eagerly await the potato, crab, lamb, beer and butter flavoured Kit-Kats.

Actually I would quite like the beer one.

So corn. Well, I guess it is sweet. And I did eat a carrot Kit-Kat once. But carrots are used in cakes and corn, in so far as I know, is not.

The package is in the same format as the cantaloupe, picture of Hokkaido farms, picture of corn and space to post it on the back. However they swapped the delicious looking photo print of a melon for a kind of children’s book illustration style drawing of some ears of corn. I suspect that some real corn would look off putting whereas the picture seems more abstract and possibly sweeter? Frankly it doesn’t really make me want to eat it except out of immense curiosity.

Accursed curiosity, if only I could shake it and my crippling OCD I could stop wasting hours of my life describing Kit-Kat’s.

Oh well, write what you know. And I know all about OCD and incurable curiosity.

The packet of the individual Kat has all the same problems as the cantaloupe, it’s dull and unimaginative. I’ll grant them that it’s a nice colour though.

The colour of the kit-Kat is yellow. Bright, bright yellow. Corn yellow in fact. I haven’t seen a Kit-Kat emulate the colour of its flavour so effectively since, well, chocolate really.

And the smell is strongly, clearly, unmistakeably corn. It is the corniest smelling thing since corn. Cornflakes don’t smell this strongly of corn. Cheap sweet corn doesn’t smell this strongly of corn.

I wasn’t sure before I opened it but after 8 Kit-Kats that corn smell is actually starting to make me feel a bit sick. For the first time doing this I held it up to my mouth and snatched it away. I really don’t want to eat this.

But you bastards want me to don’t you.

Fine.

It’s kind of horrible.

I mean, its sweet and actually not too sweet, I much prefer it to the milk coffee for example. And it has some nice complex caramel notes which are usually really good in a Kit-Kat. Having eaten corn you’d expect both of those things. At least half my mouth was really happy.

But then, the rest of it just tastes really strongly of corn. And even butter a little bit. It’s not bad at all but it seems to clash horribly with every other flavour going on. A disconnect happens in your brain between the parts that taste nice and the parts that really, really don’t.

And it gets worse the more you eat of it. At first it’s sweet and delicious but as you chew it gets cornier and cornier and cornier. And the aftertaste is disgusting, like soap and chemicals and corn.

I mean, I like corn just fine but for some reason I really can’t get into this. It’s foul!

No, nice try nestle and I like your vision but corn and chocolate are two things that should never go together.

Now get to work on that Sapporo beer flavour.

Japanese schools seem to spend an inordinate amount of time doing things which gave nothing to do with lessons or education at all. I could go on to describe how this is a feature of the Japanese education system and helps to instil a strong sense of community, culture and group think in Japanese students but frankly I’ve already discussed that on this blog.

Anyway the upshot is that working in a Japanese school means that sometimes all the classes get cancelled so we can all do something cool.

As was the case last Friday when school was cancelled and instead we all played games and ate soup. Yay!

Around this time of year there are a few traditional cultural activities. I have done one or some of these at both my previous schools but at Iwaoka they decided to roll them all together into one big day of Japanese winter fun.

The first of these is that at pretty much every school in Japan the kids will play karuta. Usually only the first graders will play but at Iwaoka the entire school shuffled into the freezing cold gym to sit on the floor and play some cards.

Karuta is just the Japanese word for cards but there is a specific card game by that name too. Basically it is snap but rather than trying to match a card your opponent has just revealed you instead listen to what a speaker is saying and try and find the card that matches. I use this all the time in my lessons (Mr. Adam says elephant and all the kids try and grab the elephant card at once for example) but Japanese people do it for fun too.

This particular karuta game though is very special. A speaker reads out the first part of a poem and students have to find the end of the poem on about 100 cards in front of them.

The game requires not only for students to have memorised 100 poems but to be able to listen, come up with the next part, scan for it and move at lightning quick pace.

Consequently even though the cards were printed in Japanese which I could read, the double disadvantage of not knowing any of the poems and having to read in a second language meant that I couldn’t capture a single card in my brief attempt at playing. So instead I mooched about for a bit, had a chat and tried to stay close to the enormous space heaters for fear of developing hypothermia.

The kids got really into it though. Its incredible how much they can memorise and how quick they are.

Seeing that I was not exactly thrilled to spend hours watching my kids play a card game I didn’t understand at all one of my teachers seized me and took me outside.

Where a Mochizuki was occurring.

Mochizuki, or making rice cakes, is a past time for communities in winter in Japan. It is usually done either just before or just after the New Year. Mochi is a kind of very sticky rice cake. Imagine PVA glue. Remember when you were a kid and you’d leave PVA glue all over the outside of the bottle and it would set into a hard rubbery substance? Well just before it set when it was still kind of stretchy, that is the consistency of mochi. That or play-do which is going stale but isn’t quite there yet. It is actually much nicer than I make it sound but I don’t quite know what is appealing about it. The taste is just white rice and the texture is not very pleasant and a bugger to eat. I think it might be that it provides a comforting feeling. It is, to use an expression of my mother’s, food that sticks to your sides. Like dumplings, or a sticky toffee pudding or a doughy pie. Your stomach just feels really full but in a pleasant way.

I don’t know why this time of year is associated with mochi but I suspect that in olden days it was a good way to turn rice from the harvest into something that would store better. Less surface area means it is less susceptible to mold and any rat trying to eat mochi would soon choke to death or drown. It could also be improvised as fly paper or to fill up the cracks in draughty farm houses. In fact, it would probably make a very good insulation, potentially even better than it would a food.

To make mochi first you boil lots of rice without washing it so there is a ton of starch.

Then you heat up a stone bowl using hot water until it is red hot so the rice will stay warm in it.

Then you grind the rice using a big mallet until the shape of all the individual grains is blurred and it looks like a big lump.

Then the important part, one person folds the mochi into the middle of the bowl whilst another hits it with a whopping great big mallet.

Observe this video of just that.

You need skill, speed, timing and trust to avoid getting your hand smashed in whereas the other bloke just needs tireless muscles and a penchant for the repetitive.

This is the second time I have made mochi but the first time I have made it whilst elderly Japanese men criticised my technique. Eventually they so tired of me doing it “wrong” that they stepped in and freed my cold and aching arms from anymore pounding.

I should probably feel ashamed that a tiny old man took over for my strapping young self but I am not because I know the secret of elderly Japanese people. They are not made of flesh and bone but stone and wood. Their skin is aged teak and their bones are granite. Old Japanese people are indestructible. When the apocalypse comes it will be them and the cockroaches.

Once the karuta game was finished the students came outside to watch a massive bonfire.

This bonfire had been assembled the day before of bamboo and various decorations left over from the New Year. New Year decorations have to be burned before the next New Year or else they will become evil spirits, or yokai.

There are plenty of yokai stories of possessed items. Most famously an umbrella with a single eyeball and a man’s leg instead of handle. When you abandon an umbrella in Japan it will turn into a monster and seek revenge. The same goes for unwanted decorations so instead they get burnt.

We all watched as the school principle went inside the fire holding a flaming torch (health and safety existeth notteth in Japan) and then came out again and lit it more safely from the back.

It went up like a shot. Within barely 30 seconds of lighting it there was a hole in the top and a stream of fire issuing forth. It looked like a volcano.

And the noise was incredibly. Presumably because bamboo is a grass and full of water deposits every time one of these pockets superheated and turned to steam it went off with a massive bang. It was like standing in the middle of a gunfight, or a firework show. I have never heard such a violent fire.

Before too long a small twister had formed above the hole and bamboo ash was being strewn wildly across the playing field, in our hair, on our clothes and basically everywhere. It was some sort of ash…like snow.

Hmmm, catchy name that. Would make a good song title.

All in all it took about 15 minutes for the enormous bonfire ( a good 20ft high) to be completely burned to a crisp.

Before the fire was over my students did various demonstrations to their classmates, the teachers, the local people and some school kids from the nearby primary school which had come to visit and watch the show.

Japanese primary school kids are absolutely adorable. Not only are they much cuter than western kids but this natural cuteness is amplified by the matching hats they are all made to wear when they go on trips. Me and most of my female students were in paroxysms of kawaii watching them.

Sadly I can’t show you the videos I took of the presentations for legal reasons. But they included live kanji painting and taiko drumming. Impressive taiko drumming too. I didn’t even know we had a club! They kept that one quiet.

Eventually everyone was released to go do the most important part of the day. Eat ozouni!

Ozouni is a kind of soup whose main ingredients are miso (a salty paste derived from soy and which turns into a soup when mixed with water) and mochi along with anything else you fancy putting in it. Ozouni is associated with New Year’s where everyone eats some for luck. I had eaten some at Fran’s relative’s house this year and the year before Fran made some for just the two of us. It is true comfort food. Warm, filling, sticky and made with all your favourite things.

Together we gobbled multiple bowls of the stuff graciously prepared by local volunteers. I stopped at two but some of my kids ate as many as five bowls! Japanese people can really eat when they put their minds to it.

There was also kinako ( a kind of sweet flour derived from, guess what, soy) flavoured mochi and mochi floating in a soup of red bean paste. I’ve had both of these before and find them too sweet for words. Except possibly words like coma, diabetes, help and blegh! They’re not horrible but they’re so ridiculously sweet so may as well just mainline sugar.

Finally two primary school kids were hauled up to give a speech thanking us all. It was, without hyperbole, the single cutest thing I have ever seen in my life. Any attempt to describe it properly will just end up with me degenerating into baby talk and saying things like “wook ad da widdle hats isn’t it cutes, isn’t it cutes??!” which frankly, nobody wants to see.

And that, bar an assembly, was that.

You’ve got to love Japanese schools sometimes.

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