Kyoto is the biggest tourist attraction in Japan. If you’re thinking of visiting you only need to see two cities to get a sense of the dual sides of Japanese culture. Tokyo represents everything modern, sleek, technological, otaku and inventive about Japan. It’s Japan as it is now. Kyoto is Japan as it was for nearly a thousand years, a city of temples, shrines, museums, historical sites, geisha, parades and festivals. It’s a time machine in city form where every corner you turn unveils yet another shrine, yet another icon of Japanese culture or of its refined past.
So of course it warrants not one but three whole flavours dedicated to it, flavours we’re going to discuss today.
Well now, here we have a flavour I’m actually excited about for a change. These are based on Yatsuhashi, a kind of biscuit from Kyoto. I know them more as bridge cookies than cinnamon cookies but they are flavoured with cinnamon so that moniker is accurate at least. Why bridge cookies? Well they’re supposed to resemble one particular bridge in Kyoto due to their slightly humped shape. Although there is an image of these cookies on the packet it’s a bit small so here’s a picture.
As you can see there is a slight bridge shape to these. Oh and here’s a bonus, they are AMAZING!
Cinnamon is one of my favourite things in the entire world and I am a sucker for any cinnamon flavoured treats. I particularly love Yatsuhashi, and one company in particularly that makes a set of them frosted with either chocolate, strawberry, or, best of all, green tea chocolate.
If you ever find yourself in Kyoto and see that smiling face above BUY THEM! You will not regret it. Those biscuits are straight up divine! I mean if you can’t trust my opinion when it comes to biscuits whose can you?
I bought a packet every single time I went to Kyoto. In fact I’m not alone there. Pretty much every school kid in Japan has to visit Kyoto at least once because it has, oh, 70% of all the countries important historical artifacts and sites in one city. Similar to Washington D.C. for American kids except the Government these days is in Tokyo. And when those kids visit Kyoto they almost always buy some Yatsuhashi as their Omiyage.
Clearly nestle is enraged at losing this Omiyage battle and so, Yatsuhashi Kit-Kats.
The packet is okay. There is one clever design element here which is that the red portions of the packet are not straight blocks. Instead they are slightly curved reflecting the curved nature of the biscuit, and the bridge. Beyond that it’s a simple, handsome black and red design with a picture of a Yatsuhashi. It’s still too cluttered but it’s better than some other efforts.
How do they taste?
Well firstly they smell of cinnamon and whilst we have white chocolate it’s speckled with what is either genuine Yatsuhashi fragments or cinnamon fragments. Either way my anticipation is building.
Oh that, that is damn good.
Give me a moment people.
Awwww, awww yeah.
Well, these are delicious.
I’m a little biased on this one. I love cinnamon, I love Yatsuhashi and this tastes exactly like Yatsuhashi. I was always going to like them if they taste like Yatsuhashi. Actually, even better, it tastes like the chocolate covered Yatsuhashi I used to buy. The fragments of actual Yatsuhashi baked into the Kit-Kat chocolate carry all the taste and some of the texture. The rest of the texture is in the chocolate, the wafer is totally lost and really resembles a biscuit more than a Kit-Kat. It isn’t too sweet, it isn’t too sour, it isn’t waxy, and it isn’t soapy. It isn’t really like a Kit-Kat at all really but it is oh so very good. The main taste you get is a sweetened cinnamon with all the complexity that spice can provide really so you get sharp spicy notes, brown sugar notes and deep nutty notes. It’s a rich flavour that hits all the parts of your mouth.
Ultimately it’s a cinnamon biscuit though. Now that happens to be one of my favourite things in the world, your mileage may vary but I’m calling it now, this is my favourite Kit-Kat.
Yep, historic day guys. Note it down, Kit-Kat reviewing has reached its apex, I have found the greatest Kit-Kat.
Shame I only get two in this box.
Matcha Green Tea
The Ur, the platonic ideal, the number one Kit-Kat somebody thinks of when discussing japan is of course the green tea Kit-Kat. Specifically Matcha green tea, a kind of green tea powder that is incredibly bitter.
I have written about some green tea variant dozens of times as nestle seems to keep trying to reinvent the wheel with it. Green tea tiramisu, fluffy green tea, green tea for adults, etc. But this one here is the original green tea kit-Kat, the daddy of them all.
It’s a shame then that the packaging is a big let-down. Although it goes the smarter route of using an asymmetric design it wastes most of its space with a big old slab of pale green colour. I’d forgive it if Matcha was a pale green colour but it isn’t Matcha is deeply vibrantly green. It’s green like a crayon or a yucca plant, not green like pea soup or a hospital wall and this Kit-Kat by far resembles the latter.
Frankly that pale institutional green colour always conjures up vision of hospitals and dentists for me so it isn’t exactly selling me the flavour here.
Although the Kat itself is worse as they’ve coloured it the green of a very ill person’s stool. This is diarrhoea green. Food should not be this colour. Well, not when you eat it anyway. It does smell nice though. Although faint it has a nice clean refreshing smell that does strongly resemble Matcha.
And it eats just fine. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more. Real Matcha tastes of very little except bitter and the trick with it is to pair it with something sweet to cut the bitterness and release the refreshing tea flavour. Kit-Kat side steps this by adding sugar and making it taste sweet to begin with. That means you mostly have sweet nothingness and a slight tea flavour. It’s waxy but creamy and probably too sweet. It also has a horrible aftertaste similar to what you get with artificial sweeteners. But it does kind of work, it’s not bad whilst you eat it and it does pair quite well with some real tea since it is so sweet.
Our final Kyoto flavour is
a kind of green tea that is roasted to turn the leaves brown making it similar to a black tea but with less caffeine. I’ve never actually heard of Hojicha and apparently it is a relatively modern invention created in Kyoto in the 1930’s. Sadly it’s slipped under my radar as I do like the sound of it. Consequently I can’t tell you if this Kit-Kat tastes like Hojicha, just whether it tastes nice or not.
The packet is similar to the green tea, asymmetric but with a big old slab of pale yellow nothing for much of the wrapper. It does one up the green tea as it doesn’t put me in mind of a hospital and it also has a nice detailing on the left side of a rose, evocative of an old fashioned tea room.
Well, if the last Kat was ill person’s shit coloured this is just straight up regular shit coloured. Honestly I have to take a photo of this to share it with you all.
My photography skills can’t really capture the awfulness of it. That is not an attractive colour for a chocolate bar, or indeed anything. Avoid pale browns guys, it isn’t a good look.
It also lies and makes you think you’re getting real chocolate but nope, brown coloured white chocolate. Brown, coloured, white, chocolate. That’s just evil Nestle.
It has no smell at all and a taste that is hard to place and hard to describe. It’s not as sweet as Matcha and actually tastes more like green tea than Matcha does with a much more consistent tea flavour throughout. But there are other flavours in here too. There’s a kind of burnt flavour, particularly in the after taste and something I can only describe as tasting the way rotting leaves smell. That’s not entirely unpleasant despite the metaphor I chose in fact it’s distinctly autumnal.
I like this a lot more than the Matcha and its worth comparing them since they are very similar in taste except this is a touch less sweet, a touch stronger in the tea aromas and also has that added extra something that I’m struggling to place. It has a horrendous after taste though, not only do you get the sweet artificial sweetener taste but a taste of burnt that sits in there for ages. It kind of spoils the rest of the biscuit, fortunately that just means it pairs well with a mug of tea, or indeed some Hojicha I’d assume.