Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Ramune KitKat Mini
My husband and I were perusing a discount snack shop and they had a sign up that said that the next KitKat flavor to be released on June 16, 2009 will be "ramune" flavor. Ramune is a Japanese "soda" flavor which has a distinctive bottle that has a marble in it. It comes in different flavors but was originally a lemon-lime flavor mix, but there are actually a variety of flavors which are sold as ramune.
When I first came to Japan, I thought of ramune as "weird blue" flavor since it seemed a lot of the "soda" flavor candies and drinks were blue. It's not a bad flavor, but it's not really that great either. My guess is that most of the ramune that I've sampled is artificially flavored and therefore not the best quality.
The interesting thing is that, like many "Japanese" foods, ramune is actually something brought to Japan by a European person. In this case, a Scotsmen. One thing that sometimes irks me is that I'll see people talking about recipes for "Japanese bread" or "Japanese cheesecake" or whatnot. Prior to various Europeans introducing certain types of food culture, Japan didn't have a culture which included traditional baking with wheat (or almond) flour. There really is no such thing as "Japanese bread" or "Japanese cake" which is put in an oven and baked. There are only European recipes which are popular in Japan.
At any rate, ramune is actually a phonetic approximation of "lemonade". Le = Ra (ラ), Mo = Mu (ム), Nade = Ne (ネ). This may not make sense just looking at the spelling, but keep in mind that Japanese uses phonetic characters which, for the most part, are consonant vowel pairs and not single letters and "lemonade" doesn't use a "lee" sound, but a "lay". There are some sounds in English that the Japanese can't reproduce because they don't exist in their language.
At any rate, it is a logical choice for a summer KitKat release to choose a beverage that is so linked with the change of season in Japan. The choice Nestle Japan will make in terms of flavor is also an interesting one. Given that there is variation in ramune flavors in sweets and sodas, they had some flexibility.
When you open the package, the first thing you smell is bubble gum. The bars are pale bluish-green and about half the length of the usual KitKat finger. I paid 30 yen (about 30 cents) for one mini bar at 7-11. You can buy big bags of these for about 300-350 yen ($3-$3.45) and get 20 bars at once, but I preferred to pay more and get less for an unknown candy.
The first bite of this is of distinct and clear, but good, bubble gum flavor. Despite being a white chocolate-based KitKat, it's not overpoweringly sweet. The finishing flavor is like fizzy sour candy that you had as a kid. You know, the sort which you got for Halloween and put in a glass of water sometimes to see how it dissolved and then if you were really brave, you drank the water.
I thought this was pretty good and my husband loved it. In fact, he's considering buying a whole large bag of the mini bars to keep around as a sweet at work. I'd definitely buy these again, though I probably won't have the chance given how short-lived these specialty flavor KitKats seem to be these days. If you can sample this, I'd recommend you do unless you really dislike bubble gum flavor.