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Monthly Archives: September 2010

I’m back guys and by back I mean back in the U.K.

The plan for this blog going ahead will be to do some retrospective posts about things I did in Japan and places I went to that I never got around to covering. Mostly because I was too busy doing stuff to have time to write about the stuff I was doing.

But the first order of business is to deal with what this blog has become famous for.

That’s right. Kit-Kats.

This is the last batch of Kit-Kat’s I will be reviewing for the foreseeable future as being in the U.K. I don’t have access to all that many Kit-Kat flavours.

So without further ado.

Fruit Juice

Released all the way back in May in honour of Children’s Day. Children’s Day is a festival in Japan that celebrates children, in particular young boys. Kids dress up as samurai, parents fly koi carp shaped streamers and some special food is eaten.
Nestle has decided to cash in on memories of being a child with a vaguely nostalgic looking packet. The girl drawn in an older style of advertising art and in historical clothes is the main sop to this idea along with the almost sepia yellow tone used for the background. Then we have some childlike drawings of fruit and that’s it. Frankly I think more could have been done to match the theme but at least the packet isn’t crowded and over designed. It’s very colourful too with lots of differently coloured fruit and a lot of colours used for the banner reading fruit juice. Again these colours evoke childishness and fond memories as well as tying into the idea of mixed fruits.

The individual kat wrapper is more subdued but considering the size available I don’t think using lots of colours would have worked. Instead we have yellows and browns, the colours of old photos and stylised fruit drawings. Simple but effective.
One thing to note about the packaging is the presence of bananas. As has been established on this site I loathe bananas. I loathe them with every fibre of my being. Not only are they disgusting but they have an annoying habit of inserting themselves into things completely unbidden. Many is the time I have gone to drink a smoothie or fruit juice and immediately gagged on the horrible and unmistakeable taste of banana. Banana that hasn’t been advertised on the packet! Grrr, horrible, evil, stealthy things. So whilst I appreciate the fact that nestle has been up front about the presence of banana I am not looking forward to this kit-kat.

The chocolate is coloured, never a good sign but it does smell nice. It’s hard to pick a distinctive not in the aroma but it is fruity. Which is to be expected I guess.

It doesn’t taste very nice though. The main problem is that it tastes really waxy. Upon biting in you aren’t hit by a strong flavour but rather by an absence of it. A sort of waxy coating surrounds your tongue and blocks out all flavour. Then you crunch down and some of the flavour comes through. What does come through isn’t banana-ey (thankfully) but it isn’t particularly fruity either. It’s not too sweet but it is just kind of generically sweet. If it tastes of anything it tastes of peach but even then it’s a really faint peach.

The aftertaste is bitter and tart and sits in your mouth like a bad smell going off. Ugh, not a fan. So waxy, flavourless and tart at the end. A poor effort.

Blueberry and Strawberry

Bought as part of a mixed packet containing regular kit-kat’s, strawberry and blueberry. The main packet has become lost in the move from Japan to the U.K. but from memory I know that it was an uninspired and messy design.

The individual designs aren’t messy but they’re certainly uninspired. In fact I think they may be the laziest effort I have reviewed so far. The strawberry one’s are okay, if a bit dull. Pink in colour (even though strawberries are red, but then so are regular kit-kat’s) with a picture of a strawberry. No thought has gone into their design but it works. However the blueberry wrapper is so boring it makes me a bit sad inside to eat it. The sole effort to distinguish it is to turn it blue and write blueberry at the side in a dull font. It isn’t even written in Japanese! Rather than entice me in or sell a theme it just makes me depressed and put off. This is chocolate for the desperate, chocolate for those with no friends, no taste and no hope.

The strawberry kat is regular chocolate and smells divinely and strongly of strawberries. Even sitting down the table from it I can get a strong whiff of strawberry filling my nostrils. In fact it’s making my mouth water a little bit.
Eating it has the exact same texture and mouthfeel of a regular kit-kat (complete with a little grittiness) but with a slight tang and a hint of strawberry. It’s nice, subtle, not too sweet and with a nice complexity that hits all the parts of your mouth with a burst of flavour. Then the aftertaste comes through like a punch to the tongue. After the chocolate taste dissipates it begins to really, really taste like strawberries. Your whole mouth gets taken over by a spreading wave of strawberry flavour complete with the tart notes and sourness of an actual strawberry.

This may not be the most exciting kit-kat ever but it sets out modest aims and more than fulfils them.

The blueberry also has regular chocolate and also has a nice strong aroma but nowhere near as strong as the strawberries. That’s fair though because blueberries aren’t the strongest smelling fruit to begin with.

Much like the strawberry the mouthfeel is like a classic kit-kat however it does have a certain waxy quality that spoils it. Unlike the strawberry though there is nothing at all subtle about this flavour. The blueberry comes out as the first note, overpowering the chocolate and everything else straight away. Blueberry fills your entire mouth and tries to escape out your eyes. These pack quite a kick for a chocolate bar, in fact they’re really quite sour. Nice though, the wrapper only promises you blueberry and blueberry is indeed what you get.

Bitter Almond

First up, that wrapper is absolutely horrible. There are way too many colours on it and they clash horribly with the kit-kat logo. The repeated diamond pattern clashes horribly with the picture of the bar and with the kit-kat logo and it just looks like a busy mess. There are at least 7 fonts used on the front and none of them compliment each other. My cat walking across a keyboard could produce a more attractive image. Actually my cat shitting on a keyboard could produce a more attractive image.

And yet the wrapper on the individual kat whilst haing many of the same problems works much better. The shiny foil makes the diamond pattern pop more and the colours are more subdued and complimentary. The logo is reduced in size and gives the patterns room to breathe and make an impression. Although still spoiled a bit by the logo it gives an impression of style and classiness. There’s an art deco feel which suggests a bygone era of style, sophistication and carefree pleasure. Considering bitter almond is an altogether more grown up flavour it’s a strong choice. This wrapper says not for kids and that can do a lot to draw my interest.

The smell is almost like coffee but it mostly chocolatey. No almond notes come through at all however it smells like a much richer and darker chocolate than a regular kit-kat. It looks darker too with little flecks of a lighter brown that is probably nut.

The texture is absolutely god awful. On the bottom it tastes and feels positively chalky, a horrible bitty, gritty waxiness. Almost like a piece of paper. Based on mouth feel alone this would be an absolute stinker.

However it tastes absolutely wonderful. Once you get past the first bite the texture settles down into a more standard kit-kat mode and one can start to think about the flavour. And what flavour! It’s definitely nutty, with some sour notes, some sweet notes and some really strong bitter notes. In fact I think there are actual nuts in it. It’s strangely not all that almond like. It tastes more like coffee if anything. But it is a deliciously complex flavour that stimulates your whole mouth. If the texture wasn’t so crap this would be a real winner of a kit-kat.

The aftertaste is a bit unpleasant as it leaves behind all the bitter notes without the sweetness to cut it. However I think this would compliment a coffee or tea very well and that would deal with the problem of after taste.

Coca Cola and Lemonade

Wow, that’s a busy packet! Not only have we got a picture of a big glass of cola, and another of lemonade but we also have hands, the logo, a blurb, another blurb, a diagram on the bottom of the packet and a joke on the top! But it’s done so well that it works! None of the elements crowd any other elements and each stands on its own as well as complimenting the others. The use of angles, spiky writing and geometric shapes imparts it some energy and an almost graffiti like feel to it. This is a kit-kat for kids and it has all the fun and energy it needs to do so. I also like the zippatone dots in the background suggesting fizziness as well as fitting into the youth/graffiti theme. Even the gradient from red to yellow is well done. This kit-kat is, dare I say it, funky!

The individual wrappers are less well done but are still okay. We get nice strong colours to denote which flavour is which and we get more of the same elements that made the main packet work so well, dots, angular shapes, etc but with addition of shiny and eye catching foil.

The lemonade kat has pale yellow chocolate, not a good sign, and even smells soapy. It also smells exactly like lemon vinegar, which was quite a nice flavour, and so this is a good sign. You really have to get a good whiff of it to get the smell though as it’s quite subdued. Interestingly you can even smell how fizzy it will be.
The initial taste is a bit bland, somewhat waxy, quite a bit soapy and even a little creamy. It doesn’t taste a huge amount of anything really, let alone lemon or lemonade. But then the fizz comes in the form of tiny dots of really, really, really sour lemon flavour. But the dots are so few that even though they are incredibly sour they struggle to overcome the blandess. I can guess what nestle was aiming for. The fizzy stuff makes an incredibly powerful lemon flavour and to make it palatable they added creamy chocolate. The idea being that the two should even out and the end result would be a pleasing lemonade taste. Instead you get almost painful punches of sourness and then a whole lot of bland soapy chocolate. So bland in fact that it kind of obliterates the aftertaste. A dismal failure.

Cola has cola coloured chocolate which doesn’t fill me with confidence but fairs much better on smell. Before the packet is even open you get hit a burst of unmistakeable cola smell. Not real cola though, this is the smell of rola cola, of the shit cheap knock off cola bought in pubs to entertain bored children and used to flavour all manner of sweets over the years. Again, like the lemonade, you can kind of smell the fizziness. It makes your eyes water a little bit.

The chocolate is horribly soapy and waxy. It has probably the worst texture of any kit-kat I have ever eaten. It doesn’t even feel like chocolate. It’s so insubstantial and waxy that it feels like eating a communion wafer washed with fairy liquid. And it’s bland, so very, very bland. Like the lemonade tiny fizzy dots of cola struggle to flavour the blandness. However it doesn’t work nearly as well as the lemonade. The cola flavour is pathetic, a tiny fart of flavour in a veritable Jupiter of bland crapness. Bland crapness that leaves an aftertaste like toilet cleaner fumes. Utterly appalling!

Strawberry Cheesecake

This is another kit-kat variety that is limited to one place in Japan, specifically Yokohama. Yokohama is one of the most international cities in Japan as it was one of the first cities to establish permanent trading ports with the outside world. Consequently a lot of food associated with Yokohama is a fusion of Japanese and western or just straight up western in nature. Yokohama is associated in people’s minds with history, the black ships (the American fleet that forced Japan to open its ports to foreigners), foreigners, foreign food and foreign culture. As such a strawberry cheesecake flavour is an entirely appropriate kit-kat to symbolise Yokohama.

The box art does a lot to tie into these historical notions. The background is in a cream and red bricks pattern evoking the unusual and exotic brick buildings that foreign merchants built in Yokohama. Prior to this all buildings in Japan were made of wood and stone. It’s also very distinctive and really stands out on a shelf, as well as being pleasing to the eye. And hey, cream and red are the colours of a strawberry cheesecake and of a Victorian building. That’s just too perfect. There’s a nice eye catching and attractive photo of a cheesecake and a friendly warning that this will have coloured chocolate and thus probably won’t taste very nice. The little gold ship ties into the historical theme but looks a little cluttered and busy. The old fashioned maid in western dress also ties into the theme and isn’t cluttered at all but seems a bit pointless. I guess she’s there to counter balance the necessary busyness on the other side of the box, with the words describing the flavour and the picture of the kit-kat.

The individual wrappers are boring beyond all belief, completely dull, flat and uninspired. They consist of nothing more than a cream colour with the logo and red etching with the flavour described. Why would you need to waste space describing the flavour? It’s on the front of the big box. And couldn’t we have had that nice brick pattern back? That was attractive and clever. Oh well.

The smell is strong and really distinct. This is obviously a strawberry cheesecake and nothing else. This is pretty much perfect actually, not too strong and not too weak. However mine are a bit old now and there is a weird element of sweaty cheese to the odour.

The taste is sweet but not too sweet, a touch gritty but not waxy and with a nice mild creaminess to it. Cheesecake definitely comes to mind but it tastes not one iota of strawberry. The strawberry flavour is completely absent. Weirdly there are some weird sharp cheesy notes, like cheddar or something. Not a feature I associate with cheesecake or with kit-kats.

The after taste is ungodly sweet and really harsh. It’s dehydrating and sits at the back of the throat like a cough. That’s not strictly speaking a bad thing though because these are meant to be eaten with a hot drink.

All in all a bland and inoffensive kit-kat that would go well with a hot drink.

Wasabi

Wasabi for the uninitiated is a kind of horseradish grown only in Japan. It is bright green and much, much hotter than regular horseradish. In fact it’s ironic that Japanese cooking, which is usually subtle and a touch bland, would also use one of the hottest ingredients going, quite liberally, in their cooking.

Wasabi is nice though, especially with sushi. Raw fish has a creamy quality to it that cuts the sharpness of the wasabi and the heat and creaminess contrast and compliment each other very well.

But a kit-kat?! This may very well be the strangest kit-kat I have ever eaten, right up there with corn, miso, soy sauce and watermelon and salt.

In fact whilst wasabi may be nice wasabi flavoured things are usually not. I have eaten wasabi flavoured sweets, they were horrible, and wasabi flavoured ice-cream. The ice-cream at first tasted creamy and mild and very bland. Then I realised that actually no, it wasn’t bland at all but in fact my mouth was on fire. After a small panic at my oral conflagration set about looking for some kind of cold creamy substance to soothe my mouth. Luckily I had some ice-cream, unfortunately it was wasabi ice-cream and me and this dessert got into an unpleasant cycle of burning and cooling that didn’t end well for either of us.

So my expectations are not high, let’s see what I’ve let myself in for.

Once again this kit-kat is exclusive to one area, in this case Tokyo. It specifically advertises one wasabi specialist shop in Tokyo but my Japanese is nowhere near good enough to decode the advertising. It does feature a picture of the shop and a website http://www.tamaruya.co.jp/ so go there if you’re interested.

Weirdly the box art features drawing of wasabi in a distinctly Okinawan style. Art comprised of big blocky jagged colourful lines with white fills is often associated with Okinawa, the semi-tropical island at the base of Japan. Wasabi isn’t associated with Okinawa at all though, in fact I’m not even sure if Okinawan cooking uses wasabi. They have a slightly different culture there to mainland Japan and their food is much more like Chinese. It’s very attractive looking and very distinctive but it doesn’t really make any sort of thematic sense. Other than that there isn’t much to say about the box art, it’s green, wasabi is green, the wasabi kit-kat is green. I think they assumed that the curiosity factor alone would sell it. They were right.

The individual wrappers have the same mystifying Okinawan theme along with a big label telling you stuff you already knew because you read it on the box!

So, how is it?

It’s a kind of pale green, like pea soup, or hospital paint, or baby pooh
.
It smells faintly of wasabi and kind of horrible actually. Although you can smell sugar too the wasabi smell is stronger and it’s not a pleasant smell.

And it tastes…

It’s pretty hard to describe actually.

The first thing to mention about it is that it triggered my gag reflex almost before I put it in my mouth. The smell, idea and colour all combined in a symphony of unappealing that made me hesitant to eat it. That gagging motion doesn’t contribute to a nice tasting biscuit. Once I got over the shock and swallowed a few bites that reflex subsided.

The next thing to mention is that it isn’t hot, not at all. There is a slight, infinitesimal heat to the after taste but it evaporates quickly and isn’t that strong to begin with.

It is sweet, and creamy but not too much of either.

Finally it tastes of wasabi, or at least how wasabi must taste without the heat. Which is not very nice actually. It’s kind of herby, a touch lemony, a touch bitter and a touch of something completely indefinable but somehow unpleasant. It’s a tough one to review because the process of eating a wasabi kit-kat is;

“ugh that looks horrible, hey actually it just tastes sweet and creamy, and of something, something else, hmm, oh wait gone, sweet and creamy again.”

It’s disappointing to be honest. If it tasted really strongly of wasabi it would probably be horrible but at least it would be an experience. As it is it’s bland, not as good as a regular kit-kat and not especially reminiscent of wasabi. What a let down.

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