drinks

Starbucks sakura series 2015: Caramel, chocolate and a flowery chiffon cake

With Valentine’s Day out of the way, and plum blossoms still in bloom, it’s time for early spring marketing to burst onto the scene in Japan. Leading the pack, as it does every year, is popular coffee chain Starbucks, with the nation’s other favourite flower, the cherry blossom, taking centre stage in their annual line-up of sakura menu items and merchandise.

This year, the humble cherry blossom meets caramel and chocolate in latte and Frappucino forms, and also finds itself in a beautiful pink and white chiffon cake. Curious to know what sakura tastes like when blended with such sweet partners? Join us as we bring you all the photos and flavours from our recent visit.

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Craft brewer releases beer made with cherry blossoms, just in time for sakura season

Japan’s cherry blossoms are beautiful enough to enjoy without any alcoholic accompaniments, but it’s a fact of life that for many people the drinks are the real draw of a sakura-viewing party. Yet while there’s definitely a certain charm to knocking back a few cold ones in the park with a group of good friends, it does seem like a waste to take the focus off the flowers, since they bloom for such a short time.

That doesn’t mean you need to slow down your drinking to maximize your appreciation of the cherry blossoms, though. It just means you’ll need to pick up a few bottles of this special beer that’s made with sakura petals.

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Awesome wooden Dragon Ball mugs let you knock back a soda like Goku (or a beer like Master Roshi)

Training to be the mightiest martial artist in the galaxy is thirsty work. But when you’re feeling parched after a hard day of kicking through solid rock and firing kamehameha energy blasts from your hands, doesn’t it seem just a bit below your station in life to drink from the same sort of glass as people who haven’t forged their bodies into a weapon on par with the finest blades of tempered steel?

The solution to that dilemma is one of these awesome wooden Dragon Ball mugs.

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Attack on sobriety! Attack on Titan teams up with plum wine maker for new anime alcohol

Along with its naked giants and high-flying fight scenes, anime and manga mega hit Attack on Titan is defined by its oppressively bleak atmosphere. Its world is one in which not only do rampaging monsters want to eat you, the ruling aristocracy is ready to kick you out of the walled city if you’re too big a drain on its resources.

Compelling as its story may be, after spending enough time in that setting, even fans of the series could find themselves needing a stiff drink. If so, they might want to reach for a glass of the soon-to-be-released Attack on Titan plum wine.

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Daiso wine, the super cheap vino from Japan’s largest chain of 100-yen stores 【Taste test】

If you’ve had the pleasure of shopping at Daiso, you know Japan’s biggest chain of 100-yen stores sells just about everything. An array of kitchenware, school and office supplies, and even basic articles of clothing such as underwear, neckties, and belts can all be yours for just 100 yen (US$0.84) each.

Daiso even sells food and beverages, with seasonings, snacks, and soft drinks lining the shelves. This is common knowledge among thrifty shoppers looking for a cheap place to stock up on snacks, but if you’re searching for something stiffer than a bottle of tea or cola, a trip to the convenience or liquor store is still in order, right?

Not necessarily, as we recently discovered that some Daiso branches now sell wine. As big of a surprise as that was, we were in for an even bigger one once we poured ourselves a glass, because it’s actually pretty good.

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Forget panty vending machines – BOGOF canned coffee is all the excitement we need!

If you’ve been to Japan or just watched Japanese movies and TV, you’re bound to have noticed that they have vending machines coming out the wazoo. Seriously, those things are everywhere! Head out to the deepest inaka (countryside) and you’re still bound to run across a random vending machine nestled in the greenery as though it’s been waiting its whole life just to slake your thirst. But with so many vending machines all over the place, drinks companies have had to get competitive, and reports from Twitter speak of a mythical machine that dispenses two for the price of one canned coffee! But just what sort of wizardry is this?

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Japanese man invites neighbor in for a few beers immediately after being shanked by him

A story out of Saitama Prefecture almost sounds like the script to a heartwarming movie. In an apartment house in Kawaguchi City, until a few days ago, two senior citizens were living next door to each other. The men shared a love of beer, and since they were both living alone, would even sometimes pass off their excess food to one another if they happened to buy too much at the grocery store.

Sure, 64-year-old Shingo Tsutsui didn’t like the noise his 70-year-old neighbor made walking around the hardwood floors of his thin-walled apartment, but that little bit of cantankerousness just adds to the Odd Couple-like appeal of the story, doesn’t it? Or at least it would, if Tsutsui had responded by contorting his face into comically frustrated expressions instead of what he actually did, which was to attack his neighbor with a kitchen knife.

As shocking as that is, though, it’s not nearly as unexpected as the victim’s reaction: inviting his attacker in to have a couple of beers together.

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Drinking sake just got more convenient with convenience store Family Mart’s new canned brews

Like with wine, there are variations in flavor between different types of Japanese sake. However, it can be kind of tough to pick up on the subtle differences unless you’re drinking them back to back. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for prices for anything other than the house sake at restaurants to start at about 800 yen (US $6.75), so putting together your own sampling set can get pricey.

But if you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to dip you toes in the wide, wonderful world of sake, convenience store Family Mart is here to help, with its new lineup of affordably priced canned sake.

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Attention coffee lovers: The RocketNews24 Ultimate Café Fukuburuko Ranking 2015 is here!

It seems like we’ve been spending every spare moment we have snatching up fukubukuro, the lucky bag bundles that shoppers in Japan buy at New Year’s without knowing what’s inside. As a matter of fact, by the time we stopped and took count, we’d grabbed eight different fukubukuro from cafés near our office.

As a result, we’re pretty much stocked up on coffee for the next couple of weeks. Honestly, we’ve got so much we’d be happy to pour you a cup, if only the RocketNews24 offices had a visitors’ lounge. But since it doesn’t, instead, we’re going to give you the information you need to pick the best café lucky bag for yourself, as we present the RocketNews24 Ultimate Café Fukubukuro Ranking 2015.

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NSFW: Russian “beer” commercial leaves foreign male viewers amused, confused 【Video】

This Russian carbonated beverage commercial is definitely doing its job of making people want to buy their product, but it is also indirectly introducing an under-acknowledged Russian drink to other countries. It all works, however, due to its overly explicit publicity tactic.

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Pepsi reboots Japan’s Peach Boy with 3 action and monster-filled ads that’re 8 kinds of badass

The story of Momotaro is one of Japan’s oldest folktales, but a lot of its elements seem a little silly. For starters, the hero’s name translates as “Peach Boy.” His companions are a monkey, a dog, and a pheasant, who he wins over by giving them some sweet dumplings in exchange for their help against the story’s villains, who all have outie bellybuttons.

Goofy as these details may sound, though, the core of the tale is absolutely epic. A young hero who harnesses the power of wild beasts, then sails into the heart of demon territory to rumble with them on their island fortress? In a world where every literary and comic character is a candidate to become a darkly stylish action hero (heck, even Batman’s gritty reboot is getting its own gritty reboot), why hasn’t someone revamped Peach Boy into something closer to Peach Man?

Actually, someone already has, but you won’t find the new Momotaro in theatres, and while you might catch him flipping through the channels on TV, you can’t find his adventures scheduled in the program guide. That’s because this amazingly awesome version of Momortaro is actually a series of commercials from Pepsi.

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Japanese town axes milk from school lunches, debate likely to wage until cows come home

I’ve lost count of the number of Japanese people I’ve met who were disappointed to find out I don’t have what they consider quintessential American eating habits. The last time I had a steak was a year ago. I’m perfectly happy eating rice, and I love fish, since, you know, I grew up in California, which is a coastal state (same ocean as Japan has, too).

But there’s one stereotype I do conform with, and that’s how much I love milk, despite being a full-grown adult. Many Japanese people, on the other hand, associate the drink with their childhood, since it’s been served in elementary schools for decades.

One city in Niigata Prefecture, though, has decided it has no more tolerance for drinkable lactose, and starting this month, is removing milk from its school lunches.

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Japan’s awesome drinkable cookies in a can mean there’s no need to pour yourself a glass of milk

For the most part, cookies in Japan are crunchy little things. One very notable exception, though, is confectioner Fujiya’s Country Ma’am line, which are soft, chewy, and also absolutely delicious.

What makes Country Ma’am cookies so good is how moist they are, and now confectioner Fujiya is taking that one step further by turning them into a drink! We got our hands on a few cans of this miraculous beverage, and while it’s still early in our relationship, we think we may be in love.

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We don’t know what Vanadium is either, but Asahi put it in a drink for you anyway

On November 18, Asahi released its new Fuji-san Vanadium Natural Water Hot, apparently banking on the idea that regular convenience store-going human beings would both a) know what Vanadium is, and b) actually want to consume just plain hot water out of a bottle.

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New stir-in powders promise to make beer even more delicious with boosted malt, fruit flavors

Last year, we talked about seasoning maker Ajigen’s Magic Powder that Makes Ramen More Delicious. Weird as the idea seemed initially, the more we thought about it, we realized it could be just the thing for people with a desire for a tasty meal but no time or motivation to cook for themselves.

That said, if your schedule is so packed you need to prepare dinner in three minutes, we’re guessing you also can’t spare the time for a trip to the bar and a pour of some flavorful and unique craft brew. Thankfully, Ajigen is back again with more magic powder, this time for your beer.

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Kentucky Fried Café – New KFC in Japan to offer upscale coffee, tea, and sweets

Although I never met the man, Colonel Sanders doesn’t strike me as a hurried individual. Anybody who’s willing to add 11 different seasonings to his fried chicken can see the value in taking the time to appreciate the finer things in life. I like to imagine that rather than rush through his meals, the KFC founder would linger at the table, at least for a few minutes, and when his schedule allowed, for periods extending to “a spell.”

That’s why I think he’d approve of KFC opening its first full-fledged café this month in Japan.

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Four ways to enjoy delicious strawberry Calpis (other than giggling at its name)

With its startling name, it’s taking time for the yogurt-like beverage Calpis to catch on with non-Japanese consumers, who sometimes know it better by its alternate name, Calpico. For people in Japan, though, Calpis is old hat, so much so that its makers occasionally feel the need to mix up the product line with new versions and special flavors.

This year, that means strawberry Calpis. We just got our hands on a bottle, and if you can get past any hang-ups about the name, here are four ways to enjoy this delicious limited time treat.

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New coffee-flavored potato chips “taste like chaos”

Just like how everyone gets excited about superhero crossover projects, two different companies combining forces is a sure way to get junk food fans in Japan fired up. We’ve seen this before with Kentucky Fried Chicken potato chips, and now spud lovers have a new flavor many people are used to getting amped by: coffee.

Since we’re always ready to add to our extensive resume of potato chip sampling, we picked up a bag to try some for ourselves, and they turned out to be even more surprising than we’d imagined.

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Enjoy latte art at home in seconds with the amazingly easy-to-use Deco Latte strips

We like latte art, and its frothy 3-D variant, as much as the next group of visually stimulated coffee sippers. But as nice as it is to have a trained barista decorate your drink with a kitty or smiley face, most of us don’t have the time, equipment, or manual dexterity to add illustrations to drinks we make for ourselves.

But now those artistic flourishes don’t have to be something you can only have when you go out and pay five bucks for a cup of coffee, with new products that’ll let you enjoy latte art at home for about as much effort as tossing a cube of sugar into your mug.

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Pink strawberry milk Pepsi set to return to stores in Japan this winter

We’ve talked before about all the cool Kit Kats Japan gets, but the chocolate-covered wafers aren’t the only sweet indulgence with exclusive-to-Japan versions. Once a year or so, Pepsi releases a special flavor for the Japanese market, too.

This winter the soft drink maker is bringing back a popular hit from a few years ago, with the return of strawberry milk Pepsi.

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