Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lotte Black Black

If you don't live in Japan and follow blogs like this one or shop from Asian importers, it may seem as if there are a lot of interesting options just waiting to be sampled when it comes to foods and snacks and that you can get to all of them given enough time. When you get here, it becomes a bit more complex because there is so much around you that it is hard to pick and choose. It's not just that there is a new KitKat every other day, but also that you're competing with traditional sweets shops selling things like bean cakes and rice crackers, and fresh snacks made in stalls (like taiyaki).

Black Black is one of those things which has been on my radar for two decades, but I never tried it. It's a classic offering, and that probably is one of the reasons why I've ignored it for so long. It's not like it's going to stop being carried and vanish. Unlike many of the all too common seasonal or limited edition items, Black Black isn't going anywhere.

The funny thing is that I always assumed that Black Black was licorice gum, because, well, it is black. There are few sweets back home that are black and not made of licorice. The truth is that licorice is not a common flavor in Japan. In fact, I only ever see it as an imported food and my husband offered some licorice twists (Twizzlers) to students and they were decidedly so-so on it. I've read that the plant that licorice is derived from is part of traditional herbal medicine ("kampo") in Japan. It could be that the flavor is associated with illnesses rather than treats.

As soon as I broke the seal on my pack of Black Black, I knew this was no licorice gum. A very strong mint flavor wafts out of the pack. The flavor is intensely spearmint and it was actively unpleasant for me during the first 3 minutes of chewing and remained almost bitter for over 7 minutes of chewing. It is one potent chew.

The main draw of Black Black may or may not be the intense flavor and long-lasting nature of the minty chew, but I'm guessing part of what keeps it selling is the inclusion of caffeine. The Japanese are pretty nuts for caffeine-spiked stimulants, and this seems like it's just another delivery system for the third most popular legal drug of choice in Japan. For the record, alcohol is the most popular one, and nicotine is the second.

Frankly, I thought this was disgusting. It was too intense and tasted like chemicals. I couldn't believe that the flavor became bitter as time went by rather than simply mellowing out. I chewed it for about 10 minutes because I felt I should give it a chance. I wouldn't buy this again and have no expectation that I'll chew even a second stick. Besides the fact that it tastes gross to me, it contains sugar (though is only 8 calories per stick) and I don't like the idea of chewing on something saturated with sugar. Oddly, it also has Erythritol, Aspartame, and L-Phenylalanine in addition to sugar so it's also spiked with artificial sweeteners. I guess there's something to object to for everyone in this gum.

This was just "bleecch". I can't imagine anyone would chew this gum for any purpose other than to extract a stimulant from it or to wipe out a case of absolutely lethal halitosis (which I don't suffer from, fortunately). I'm sure Black Black has its fans. I'm just never going to be one of them.


Anonymous said...

How funny! I've seen this here in L.A. and always thought it was black licorice gum as well! I am not a fan of black licorice (or licorice in general), so I'm glad I haven't been missing out on anything. Thank you for the review. I know I stayed away from this gum for a reason...LOL!

Serena said...

Wow. I don't live in Japan and I tried this about 6 months ago. A local bookstore where I live imports Japanese snacks and I buy them occasionally. I decided to try Black Black even though I wasn't sure what flavour it was. I had a better experience with it but I still found it very bitter. After chewing it for about 5 minutes it started to become more tolerable for me.

Sherry said...

This truly is nasty stuff in my opinion, but my husband keeps it in the car and chews on it when he needs a sort of pick me up on the road.

Candiman said...

Any time I have a cold I buy this gum but not in stick form.
It clears your sinuses right out and you can't taste it so well with a cold anyway.
Give it a try!

Orchid64 said...

Hi, Candiman, and thanks for commenting! I'll give your suggestion a try next time I catch a cold. :-)

cabusi said...

Good choice to keep in the car. I have a pack on me quite often. It is great for those drives when you need a pick me up yet don't wanna stop into 7-11 for coffee. It is too bad that you do not enjoy the intensity of this gum. It actually reminds me of the intensity of altoids. They work great after a heavy flavored meal to kill bad breath fast ^^