With certain varieties of sakura trees already covered in pink blossoms, Japan has got cherry trees on the brain. Everyone is looking forward to go out and see the flowers that’ll only be here for a short time, but why settle for one Japanese tradition when you can have two by combining it with limited-availability fast food, in the form of cherry mochas and frappes from McDonald’s.
While the cherry blossoms are undeniably the icon of spring in Japan, there’s a bit of room for debate as to what constitutes the season’s representative flavor. Some, like Starbucks, would argue you can’t go wrong with producing Sakura flavors from the flower’s petals or leaves of the trees, which are also used in traditional Japanese sweets like sakura mochi.
Others would say cherries themselves are the logical choice, even though Japan’s flowering cherry blossom trees don’t bear fruit. This is the tack that McDonald’s is taking with its two special springtime beverages, the first of which is its cherry mocha.
Actually, at the counter you’ll have to order a “sakuranbo mocha.” Although the English word “cherry” is known to and used by many Japanese people, McDonald’s marketing gurus decided to go with the Japanese name for the fruit, sakuranbo. Not only does it have a more sophisticated ring to it, it also drives home the point that the cherry syrup added to the espresso is made from Japanese cherries, because if there’s one thing Japan loves as much as cherry blossom, it’s domestically grown agricultural products.
There’s also chocolate syrup mixed into the coffee, and just to make sure the sweetness doesn’t make the sakuranbo mocha too one-dimensional, there’s a cherry blossom drawn in tangy raspberry sauce to top off the beverage.
If you’re not a coffee drinker, McDonald’s can also whip you up a sakuranbo frappe. The frozen beverage also makes use of Japanese cherry syrup, and mixes things up a little with strawberry candy chips sprinkled into the whipped cream on top, for a color evocative of the pale pink cherry blossoms that will soon be covering Japan.
Prices start at 320 yen (US$3.10) for the sakuranbo mocha and 360 yen for the frappe. Both are available now, and McDonald’s says they’ll be on the menu until late April, well after the last of the cherry blossom falls in the Tokyo area.