Taste Test: Japanese KitKats

Due to popular demand and the fact that
we love trying weird foods and candies,
The A.V. Club will
now regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or
delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at

KitKat: Soy Sauce, Cherry Blossom, Green
Tea, Banana, Strawberry, Soy Flour, Exotic Tokyo

The KitKat originated in England 70 years ago, but
it was the Japanese who unleashed its flavor potential. Japan is home to a
kaleidoscopic variety of KitKats, and not just the humdrum flavor tweaks like
"mint chocolate" we get here in the States. Soy sauce. Brown sugar. Apple.
Kiwi. Strawberry. There are too many to list here (though Wikipedia, of course,
delivers a comprehensive list of
), many of which popped up as limited editions. In Japan, I
bought every variety I saw, which included a few limited editions (Soy Sauce,
Exotic Tokyo, Cherry Blossom) along with others that are mundane to the
Japanese but exotic to Americans, particularly those of us so blinded by
Orientalism that we'll fetishize anything related to Japanese culture. Even
their KitKat
is cooler than ours.

Why is the American version of KitKat so averse to
change? Well, probably because of who owns it: According to Wikipedia, the
KitKat brand belongs to Nestlé, which has to license it to competitor
Hershey's, which had an agreement with the company that owned KitKat prior to
Nestlé. Although the candy is especially popular here (not to mention
everywhere else the world), perhaps Hershey's isn't inclined to tinker much
with a brand it doesn't own. Wikipedia attributes part of KitKat's popularity
in Japan to its name: The phrase "kitto katsu" means "You will surely
win!"—but the similar "kitto katto" means "You will surely miss the cut,"
so maybe that's not it. But we all know KitKat is popular because it's so damn
tasty; even if its name meant "hog anus," the world would devour KitKat by the

Unsurprisingly, KitKat Day was far more popular
than Eel Spine, Squid, And Dried Sardine Day in The A.V.
's Taste Test labs. On tap were a staggering seven varieties of
the wafer candy: Green Tea, Strawberry, Banana, Soy Sauce, Kinako (soybean
flour), Exotic Tokyo (their name, not ours, you members of the PC Police), and
Cherry Blossom.

Of them, Banana and Soy Sauce pulled in the
highest ratings. Soy Sauce had a distinct maple-syrup flavor and very little
"soy sauce" taste, at least to our unrefined Orientalist taste buds. Kinako had
a similarly distinct, unassociated flavor: peanut butter, which made the whole
package similar to a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Exotic Tokyo drew the strongest
reactions, as its mix of passion fruit, raspberry, strawberry, cherry, black
currant, and pepper (with milk chocolate) gave it the boldest flavor of the
bunch. Cherry Blossom was the least popular, earning the dreaded Cherry
Robitussin comparisons.

Office reactions:

Banana (neither a white nor milk chocolate
base—it may not be chocolate at all; eaten in KitKat Bite form, i.e., tiny
little cubes):

— "It tastes exactly like antibiotics I had when I
was a child."

— "I think this is like the best candy bar I've
ever had. It's very good."

— "These have that really intense fake-banana
smell—like banana pudding."

— "Which is exactly what they taste like. You know
that dessert people make, with bananas and banana pudding and Vanilla wafers?
This is like that, in bite-sized form."

— "These are really good. I want more of them.
This may be the best thing we've ever taste-tested."

— "The banana ones are so bright and sunshiny
yellow! They even look appealing. America, get on importing these right the
hell now."

— "I didn't know that I wanted a banana KitKat,
but now I know that I do."

— "The aftertaste is really not so good. It really
tastes like something I've had before—circus peanuts? It lingers and
lingers and lingers."

— "I do believe I could eat an entire bag of those
and not even feel sick afterward. A ringing endorsement!"

— "The banana smells kinda sickly, but it's
actually pretty mild. It doesn't overpower the crunch/chocolate contingent."

Strawberry (milk chocolate base; eaten in
Mini form, i.e., tiny bars)

— "The strawberry ones smell fairly nasty."

— "And it tastes medicine-y. Has that fake-berry
flavor always tasted like medicine, or is it just that there's so much
berry-flavored medicine out there that we associate fake berry with choking
down cough syrup?"

— "The strawberry ones taste exactly like stale

— "Ooh, bad aftertaste."

— "It's a stronger chocolate; it's not very

— "It's really artificial; it's not natural at
all. It's like a faux strawberry flavor. But you put it front of me, and I'll
eat it."

— "Did anybody like that one?"

— "Very reminiscent of those wafer-cream cookies
you could get in strawberry, but covered in chocolate. Another triumph!"

"This tasted more like cherry to me. In any case, this wasn't for me."

"The strawberry flavor seems a little strong and unbalanced. Basically a
strawberry-yogurt KitKat."

— "Man, the aftertaste on both the
banana and now the strawberry KitKats is completely insidious. Usually, when
you look at the ingredients that go into a candy bar, it's the chocolate that's
most apparent, but this is the rare case where the dominant taste is sodium
bicarbonate or calcium sulfate or some other grim chemical."

Tokyo Exotic (dark chocolate base; eaten
in regular form, though the bars were smaller)

— "The Tokyo ones are okay. Not great, but better
than the strawberry."

— "They taste a little like Raspberry Newtons, but
with a completely different texture."

— "I think it's worth noting that none of the
chocolate ones have a strong enough chocolate flavor for it to matter. It's
that same waxy, fake meh-chocolate from American KitKats. Which is why I like
the banana ones so much—it's a completely different flavor that doesn't
try to approximate chocolate."

— "Now this tastes like
antibiotics. It tastes like cough syrup."

— "I don't like this at all."

— "KitKat just can't go wrong. Whatever you put in
a KitKat, it'll be great."

— "I didn't think I liked these on first bite, but
they have a nice tang that complements the chocolate really well. I think it
might be guava, but it's too subtle to tell."

— "As a guava lover, I'm gonna say this tastes
like guava."

"I'm getting grape."

— "Tokyo is delicious; the streets taste like

"When did raspberries become exotic? After the dark chocolate, a small burst of
raspberry flavor. A little overpowering flavor-wise. I probably couldn't eat
more than six or seven of these buggers."

Green Tea (white chocolate base; eaten in
normal form)

— "Oh my God, it's completely green. There's no
chocolate unless it's white chocolate."

— "I like it; it's sweeter than I thought it would
be. It's subtly tea-flavored."

— "I like this the best. I love this one,

— "Oh my God, that's so good I can't get over it."

"Are they paying you to say this?"

— "Boring. Why people keep
trying to 'flavor' things with green tea when green tea has practically no
flavor, I don't know. I guess if you like your mouth to taste vaguely like
white chocolate and wax, green tea-flavored candies and ice creams are okay."

— "Very sweet—tastes more
like sub-par white chocolate than green tea."

Sauce (white chocolate base; eaten in normal form, though with smaller

— "If this one's good, I'm getting a KitKat

— "Eww, more white chocolate."

— "Ooh, I actually really like this. It
tastes like pancakes and bacon!"

— "Maple syrup. It tastes kinda maple-y."

— "It tastes like crap soy sauce—like what
you find next to the canned crispy things in the grocery store, the kind that
tastes like caramel color and something else."

— "Yeah, the soy sauce ones are definitely
maple-flavored. Maybe I've been missing out all these years by not dumping maple
syrup on my stir-fry."

— "It tastes like pancakes and syrup! Oh my God,
breakfast KitKat!"

"Probably the most underwhelming KitKat in the bunch. I was looking forward to
this all week, and it doesn't taste anything like soy sauce. Now I'm gonna have
to continue dipping my KitKats in soy sauce the old-fashioned way to get my

"I taste maple syrup and butter. You could claim it was waffle-flavored, and
I'd believe it. Put these on a plate with the bacon lollipops, and it's breakfast."

Blossom (white chocolate with subtle cherry swirl; eaten in normal

— "This is all Hello Kitty eats."

— "These things smell like conditioner and look
like decorative soap."

— "I have no idea what that tastes like. Fake
cherry, vanilla, and almond all swirled together, maybe, with a plastic Barbie
aftertaste? It's actually kind of tasty, in an 'I have no idea what I'm eating
or sensing' sort of way."

— "I think this is what it'd be like going down on
Barbie's cherry blossom."

— "This one's quite pretty."

— "I don't think this needs to be eaten, really."

— "It smells like Tylenol."

— "This should be hanging on a 9-year-old girl's
wall, not eaten."

— "Oh no! It tastes like cherry Robitussin! I'm
gonna gag!"

— "If Halls made wafers, it would taste like

— "I feel like I'm eating a scented candle."

— "My breath smells like Pier 1 right now."

— "It has that weird cherry-popsicle artificiality
to it. Cherry's the first one I really can't see eating another one of."

— "I love KitKats, but this one reminds me of mom
cramming cherry Robitussin down my throat."

— "The cherry taste is very artificial. I think
the Japanese have 'cherry' confused with 'Robitussin.'"

(milk chocolate; eaten in Mini form)

— "This is kinda how I expected the green tea to
taste: peanuts crushed in a cup of coffee."

— "It's like something Starbucks would stick in
the whipped cream of a high-end coffee."

— "I definitely enjoyed the coffee flavor."

— "The soy flour tastes like coffee residue and
peanut butter stirred together. Sludgy and weird."

— "Okay, here's the thing about KitKats in
general, as far as I'm concerned: They're a nothing candy. They're pleasantly
crisp and crunchy and sugary, but otherwise they're completely generic. They
taste like rice paper in wax."

— "In keeping with that, none of these flavors
were offensive at all. They were just variations on pleasant but bland. Except
for the banana. Those things are good. Because they actually
taste like something."

— "It smells better than it tastes."

— "Peanut-y goodness. A good KitKat for the

— "I taste nothing but a regular
KitKat, except less sweet. My mouth feels a little dry after eating it.

to find them:
Outside of Japan? Try eBay, where ex-pats and others
have made a cottage industry of selling them. Available now: Red Bean,
Hazelnut, Sweet Pudding, Banana, Caramel & Salt, Strawberry, Green Tea,
Orange, Soy Sauce, White Milk, Apple, Grape, Koucha (black tea), and more. You
can also find some flavors—including the rare Mango—via EyeOnDeals.