From fizzy, creamy drinks to donuts and sweets—plus foods you wouldn’t consider for a sakura infusion—I’m on a mission to savor some of this year’s newest cherry blossom-flavored treats.
What do cherry blossoms even taste like? If you were to pluck a few petals off a tree, it would taste pretty gross. Trust me. I tried it. However, they are edible and have been used in sweets and teas for centuries. Cherry blossoms have a sweet and fruity rose flavor, almost like regular cherries, and sometimes sour depending on how genuine the taste is.
1. Starbucks ‘Sakura Fuwari Berry Frappuccino’
Starbucks and its brand of melted ice cream they’ve tricked the world into believing is coffee has become the poster child for sakura-themed drinks in Japan. I was not a fan of last year’s concoction and can’t say this year’s Sakura Fuwari (soft) Berry Frappuccino fairs much better.
It’s still unforgivably sweet.
The milky frappuccino uses sakura-strawberry sauce, sweet and sour raspberry panna cotta and vanilla-and-sakura crumble—none of which I can differentiate from the taste of sugar. At least this time they blend in chunks of freeze-dried strawberries and not last season’s blobs of phlegm-like pudding.
I also got a sakura brick—I mean donut. The heavy cake donut is coated with fruity sakura glaze and salty-sweet sakura powder.
2. Convenience store lattes
Starbucks isn’t the only place in Japan selling sakura-themed coffee drinks. Almost every café at the moment has a cherry blossom-inspired latte, including popular brands at the konbini (convenience store).
If you’d rather not pay a premium for what is essentially coffee and flavored milk, Mt. Rainier and Doutor Coffee sell sakura lattes for ¥99 at most convenience stores. Compared to Starbucks, these actually tasted like cherry blossoms. According to the labels, they use “cherry blossom extract.” The Doutor latte also blends white chocolate.
They are, surprisingly, not that bad. Then again, when you’re only paying a dollar for artificially flavored sugar sludge, your expectations aren’t very high.
3. Krispy Kreme ‘Mochi Mochi Sakura Donut’
The Krispy Kreme original glazed is one of the few nostalgic vices I have from growing up that I can easily find in Japan. It is a delightfully delicious and fluffy ring that releases endorphins from the moment I bite into it, filling me with warmth and making me fat and happy.
This travesty is a plain cake donut covered in a mildly sweet and sour “sakura” jelly and coated with powdered sugar and white chocolate flakes. I bought two because the lady at the register told me to heat it up at home for more “mochi mochi (sticky, glutinous) flavor.” I tried it and the only difference was it went from a hard-to-chew donut that I hated to an easy-to-chew donut that I hated.
4. 7-Eleven ‘Sakura’ pudding
Convenience stores in Japan are a whole different beast to what we might be used to in the West. I’m unlikely to walk into one for some trail mix in America, much less an actual meal. Here, it feels like I’m having an off week if I don’t buy a tamago sando (egg salad sandwich on white bread) or some fami-chiki (boneless fried chicken) from my local FamilyMart.
Therefore, I had no problem trying the Cherry Blossom Milk Pudding from 7-Eleven. Japan loves pudding (or プリン). I have probably never seen so much pudding anywhere else in my life.
Also, just look at it. It’s like someone stuffed a unicorn into a soft-serve machine. The base is milk-sakura pudding, topped with sakura whipped cream, slightly sour sakura sauce and white chocolate flakes. That’s a lot of sakura flavor stuffed in a tiny bowl. It’s still pretty sweet, but it doesn’t overwhelm you like the Starbucks frappuccino and actually tastes like cherry blossoms: floral, sweet and slightly sour
5. Shake Shack ‘Shack-ura’
Shake Shack, the American burger joint, opened in Japan sometime in 2015 (around the time of its IPO), which was the last time I ate there. There is nothing wrong with Shake Shack. I assume. But if I’m going to pay upwards of ¥2,000 for a burger and fries, it better blow my mind.
This year, the fast-casual restaurant has two different sakura-flavored shakes and a sakura lemonade for a promotion called Shack-ura. Hilarious. The products are the Shack-ura Shake, the Cherry & Shack-ura Shake and the Shack-ura Lemonade.
The cherry shake uses a cherry puree and is described as sour, so I opted out. I’m here for the sweet stuff. The regular Shack-ura Shake uses a custard and vanilla base with sakura syrup and was delicious. It has a mildly rosey-sweet taste.
The lemonade, on the other hand, tastes like melted cough drops—hard pass.
6. Taco Fanatico ‘Sakura Tacos’
This sakura taco from the trendy tapas bar Taco Fanatico in Nakameguro made headlines for its sheer Japan-ness.
It is actually a dessert taco made with sakura red bean paste, matcha whip cream and crunchy and sweet tostada-like bits, wrapped in a pink beet tortilla and a sakura tree leaf.
The line to get into the bar was quite long and is located on the Meguro River, famous for its beautiful cherry blossom views that draw tens of thousands of people (or more) every year. It was a bit like waiting in line for a churro at Tokyo Disney, so I was very ready to be disappointed.
However, it was easily the tastiest sakura-themed anything I have ever eaten. Sweet and flowery, with a touch of cinnamon crunch, I could have eaten a box of them if they weren’t around ¥400 and small enough to fit in my palm.
Tried any of these sakura treats? Know of some that are even better? Let us know in the comments.