Monday, June 14, 2010
Green Tea Cherry KitKat
After sampling this KitKat, I started thinking about what the essential elements of the brand are. Wafer-based sweets have been around for a very long time, and there are many of them to be had. In fact, one of my favorites is the less-sweet European-made bar, "Toggi" and if I was offered an assortment of wafer snacks, it'd be my first choice. For the record, the Toggi wins with me because of the inclusion of hazelnut paste. If I were a goddess, my followers would have to make offerings of Nutella to me in order to avoid incurring my wrath.
How is it that Nestlé formulated, packaged, or promoted a combination of very common elements and made a hugely successful brand name while many other similar variations seem like also-rans (even when they existed before the KitKat)? What separates a KitKat from any other confection with a wafer base and at what point does a creation cease being what we'd consider a KitKat? No, that's not an existential question. How far from its basic formula can Nestlé Japan drift in flavor, size, color and texture before what we're consuming isn't a "KitKat" anymore?
The reason this question came to mind is that this KitKat in many ways came across to me as the least distinctive KitKat I have ever had. In fact, it ended up tasting about 80% like nothing more than a very sweet sugar wafer. There was a light roasted green tea flavor but I mainly tasted it in the first bite or two, and no cherry that I could even detect. Note that this lists only .5% as the portion of green tea extract powder. That's just not much at all. The filling was sweet, as was the white chocolate, and it had a sense of "creaminess" to it that I associate with sugar wafers. It didn't even smell like anything other white chocolate.
I'm not sure how Nestlé Japan managed to formulate a KitKat so far divorced from its roots that it tastes pretty much like a sugar wafer, but, perhaps surprisingly, I liked it. I liked it because I like said wafers and have no access to decent ones in Japan such that this felt like a bit of a blast from the past for me.
Because this was "yet another green tea (and/or cherry)" KitKat, I wasn't keen on sampling it when it first came out on March 1. I saw it on sale in many convenience stores and a few drug stores and strolled on by. I was only convinced to try it when it showed up for 69 yen at Okashi no Machioka. I was a little surprised that it was in the discount bin so quickly. I picked this up on March 27 so it was reduced in price (original price: 120 yen) within a month. This could mean it was over-produced, wasn't popular enough, or that the market for KitKats is a little over-saturated. It is definitely uncommon for new flavors to make such a rapid journey to the discount bin.
This was also reviewed on Jen's KitKat blog, though she seemed to have a much greater sense of the cherry flavor than I did. I simply couldn't distinguish it at all, but I have noticed that one of the issues with food reviews is that all of our taste buds work differently so it's helpful to look at more than one review to get an idea of various experiences. Note that if you hate green tea, this probably won't put you off. Yes, there is a mild green tea flavor, but the bitter notes that come along with it are snuffed out of existence by so much sweet white chocolate and creamy sweet filling. Like the green tea big bar KitKat, this is a good "starter bar" for those who aren't fans of green tea because it is so weak and inoffensive for those who dislike the tea's inherent bitterness.
I liked this, and am giving it a happy rating because these ratings reflect my feelings about such things, but I'm not sure if I could recommend this bar to people who like green tea or cherry necessarily. If you like very sweet, wafer-based treats with a slight Japanese flair (from the green tea), then go for it.