Sankt Gallen Sakura beer offers alcoholic tastes of cherry blossom season

Written by: William on February 19, 2015 at 10:26 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The cherry blossom season always brings a gazillion sakura-themed products and campaigns. It’s easy to get tired of this, and yet every year still manages to bring a surprise.

We’ve already heard about the upcoming Starbucks new cherry blossom-themed store designs and special menu items. Now comes something a little stronger — Sakura Beer by Sankt Gallen.

sankt gallen sakura cherry blossom beer sakuramochi bloom

Sankt Gallen Sakura beer goes on sale from February 24th. Could there be a more appropriate product for the cherry blossom? After all, the unspoken rule about the custom of cherry blossom is that it’s actually just an excuse to get horrendously drunk. Ambulances stand by at the major parks since there’s inevitably a few people who need to be taken away after passing out.

sankt gallen sakura cherry blossom beer sakuramochi bloom

sankt gallen sakura cherry blossom beer sakuramochi bloom

The Sankt Gallen Sakura beer is 5% alcohol — low for craft beer — and is made with cherry blossom and cherry blossom petals from Ina in Nagano, selected as one of the best places for seeing the annual bloom. The beer is meant to have the flavor of sakuramochi, the sweet pink rice cake covered with the leaf of a cherry blossom. Yes, this may not appeal to conventional beer fans!

Sankt Gallen is a Kanagawa Prefecture craft beer brewery that specializes in sweeter beers popular with female drinkers. For this new product it has used yaezakura, the “double” cherry blossom strain of sakura.

sankt gallen sakura cherry blossom beer sakuramochi bloom

sankt gallen sakura cherry blossom beer sakuramochi bloom

Sankt Gallen Sakura beer is priced ¥450 (under $4) per bottle, though like most craft beers in Japan you won’t be able to find it in your usual supermarket or convenience store.

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Three-hour wait for coffee at trendy new Blue Bottle Coffee Tokyo branch

Written by: William on February 9, 2015 at 8:35 am | In CULTURE | 2 Comments

Good things come to those who wait, they say.

But it’s bad news if you’re a hipster desperate to get your lips around a cup of black stuff from the latest trendy coffee shop in Tokyo.

blue bottle coffee tokyo kiyosumi wait long line three hours

blue bottle coffee tokyo kiyosumi wait long line three hours

The lines at Blue Bottle Coffee (“the Apple of the coffee shop world”) are so huge there are reports that people were waiting up to three hours just to get in on the first day on February 6th. Let’s be exact here; this isn’t a night club or a restaurant. It’s a small coffee bar in a slightly run-down part of Tokyo (Kiyosumi).

It begs the question: How far can the hipster coffee shop boom go in Tokyo?

blue bottle coffee tokyo kiyosumi wait long line three hours

blue bottle coffee tokyo kiyosumi wait long line three hours

From the faux warehouse feel of Cream of the Crop Coffee to the curated vintage of Fuglen, the watered-down diner serving watered-down beverages that is On the Corner in Shibuya, the chic uber-minimal Omotesando Koffee, the you-cannot-relax fussiness of Obscura in Sangenjaya and the IMA Concept Store in Roppongi, and the despised snobbery of Bear Pond Espresso in Shimokitazawa — haven’t we now had enough of these places?

blue bottle coffee tokyo kiyosumi wait long line three hours

Is there room for any more in this crowded market?! Judging by the anticipation on Blue Bottle Coffee’s first day, it would seem yes!

People starting queuing hours before the branch opened. At 10:30 in the morning the line was stretching down the road just to get into Blue Bottle Coffee, where a cup will cost you around ¥500. 200 people lined up patiently in the early February chill to get their hands on an individually brewed cup of coffee made from beans roasted for a full 48 hours, as Blue Bottle is famous for.

blue bottle coffee tokyo kiyosumi wait long line three hours

Blue Bottle was founded in California in 2002 and plans to open another Tokyo branch in March. No surprises that the second outlet will be in Aoyama.

About the opening CEO James Freeman said: “Tokyo has always been an inspiring place for me, from the architecture to culinary traditions. I’ve always hoped Blue Bottle would have a home here. Opening in Kiyosumi has been a wonderful collaboration between our new and dedicated team in Tokyo to the Bay Area transplants who have moved to Japan to help us brew delicious coffee.”

blue bottle coffee tokyo kiyosumi wait long line three hours

While the hipsters are waiting in line for their over-priced roasted beans, they could feast their eyes on the recent Japanese translation of the James Carr hipster satire comic: Hipster Hitler.

hipster hitler japanese translation

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Deco Latte Coffee Art Sheets: Latte art made even easier

Written by: Japan Trends on December 11, 2014 at 9:00 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

Can’t afford to go to those expensive Tokyo cafes where they serve up latte art? Haven’t yet got your hands on the 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino?

Then try the Deco Latte Coffee Art Sheets.

deco latte coffee decoration art sheet strip snoopy rilakkuma

These are literally how they sound. You place the flavorless edible sheets on the top of your coffee drink. After two minutes they will sort of melt into the drink so the person being served won’t know that you didn’t create the image out of foam.

Ideal for giving a guest a special extra treat with their drink, there are three sets of 10 sheets in this all-in-one pack: the regular strips with a variety of images messages in Japanese and English, plus Snoopy and Rilakkuma versions.

deco latte coffee decoration art sheet strip snoopy rilakkuma

deco latte coffee decoration art sheet strip snoopy rilakkuma

As always, there is the prerequisite slightly wacky TV commercial.

This is how it works.

And when all else fails, you can also make your own 3D latte art with the Awa Taccino.

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Create your own latte art coffee foam sculptures with the 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino by Takara Tomy

Written by: Japan Trends on November 10, 2014 at 10:46 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 5 Comments

Japan has gone a bit coffee-crazy in recent times. We have seen lots of rather tony cafes and espresso bars opening up around Tokyo for hipsters to sip on froth. Starbucks is the second largest chain of coffee shops. Even convenience stores have also started offering real coffee drinks.

And certain baristas have created a social media storm in a coffee cup. Yes, it’s the latte art trend.

This essentially involves turning the foam of a cafe latte or cappuccino into a temporary sculpture floating on the top of the drink.

japan latte art coffee sculpture foam 3d maker awa taccino takara tomy toy

While some have bordered on the truly over-the-top, Kazuki Yamamoto in particular has impressed customers with his artistic skills creating animal figures and sculptures so cute you don’t want to start drinking.

If you don’t have the budget to go to these plush cafes around Tokyo, Takara Tomy has come up with a neat cooking toy so you can make your own latte art at home.

japan latte art coffee sculpture foam 3d maker awa taccino takara tomy toy

The 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino is the latest in Takara Tomy’s growing line of kitchen toys.

It is a special blender gadget that can dispense the milk foam onto the top of your coffee without you having to take a lengthy apprenticeship under Monsieur Yamamoto et al. Instead, just a minute or so to blend, and then control the foam as it comes out of Awa Taccino.

japan latte art coffee sculpture foam 3d maker awa taccino takara tomy toy

All you need is some milk and then the Awa Taccino will blend and dispense the milky foam in a way that’s easy to control and “sculpt” into your choice of latte art.

For the final touches, use syrup or chocolate to add extra features like a mouth, eyes, ears and so on.

Here are some ideas to give you inspiration.

japan latte art coffee sculpture foam 3d maker awa taccino takara tomy toy

The 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino is now on pre-order and will be available in early December.

*Update*

The 3D Latte Art Maker Awa Taccino has got picked up by some major overseas blogs like Wired and Engadget, who seem to love how it resembles a “foam gun”.

Oh, and Takara Tomy made this funny commercial.

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Pepsi Pink Cola: Strawberry milk drink hits Japanese stores in December

Written by: William on October 30, 2014 at 7:50 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

While the world is divided into Coca-Cola drinkers and Pepsi drinkers, there would appear to be a market for strawberry milk cola.

Pepsi Pink Cola hits the shelves of Japanese stores from December 9th and over the winter season. It was previously sold in 2011.

pepsi pink cola strawberry milk drink japan

You might think it’s hardly the most winterly of drinks but actually strawberries feature in cakes popular at Christmas time in Japan.

In the past, Pepsi’s other “special flavors” for the Japanese market like cucumber, salty watermelon and shiso drinks have certainly generated a lot of publicity for the brand. In the world of Japan’s convenience stores and their hyperactive turnover of FMCG, it takes a lot to stand out. Pepsi achieve this here with both the color and the concept itself.

Pepsi Pink Cola will only be sold in Japan, priced ¥140 plus tax. We’re guessing it’s on the sweet side and tastes like strawberries.

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Summer Drinks: Our guide to the best Japanese “cool” beverage makers

Written by: Japan Trends on May 30, 2014 at 11:51 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

A major trend in Japan recently is how local beer brands are trying to reverse their falling sales as the population declines and younger consumers turn away from traditional beers.

After years of product development suicide where they foolishly put all their efforts into producing ever-cheaper beers that could circumvent the beer tax laws and be priced at post-Bubble-friendly levels, the results — daisan beer, happoushu, non-alcoholic beer — are so bad that they have damaged the reputation of the breweries for a generation.

Now they are trying to make a comeback with another approach entirely, attracting younger people to drink beer as an attractive summer beverage. And so we have seen seasonal “super cold” beer bars and beer gardens opening in Tokyo in the last four years, as well as special “extra cold” beer servers being installed at limited numbers of restaurants and beers.

Yes, foam and cold temperatures make for a perfect thirst-quenching summer drink! This has now combined with the trend for toy makers, especially Takara Tomy, to produce food toys for kids and the family to enjoy making stuff at home.

Here are some of the best results: great home drink makers that serve up ideal beverages to cool you down this summer!

Frozen Beer Slushie Maker by Kirin Ichiban

kirin ichiban frozen beer slushie maker

Originally created as a free promo giveaway to advertise Kirin’s summer beer gardens where you could get these “beer slushies”, the Takara Tomy co-produced tool was so popular it then became its own product. A beer slushie? You haven’t lived till you’ve tried it!

Beer Hour

beer hour can dispenser foam creamy head

This is the original in the Takara Tomy ARTS series of beer servers that can fit a standard can and then also give you the foamy head that a freshly-poured sud will have in a Japanese bar. Although not common overseas, the creamy cap will actually prove very refreshing in the dog days.

sonic hour beer froth foam maker

There is now the Sonic Hour Beer Head Froth Maker and the Beer Hour Cold, with an extra ice pack that keeps your beer can chilled.

beer hour cold can drink creamy head froth foam server

And for that real freshly-pumped-draft-beer sensation, get out the Beer Jug Jokki Hour Foam Maker. Just push down on the switch to create the cooling foam bubbles in your glass.

beer jug jooki hour foam maker glass

Premium Beer Server Gokurei

premium beer server gokurei super cold beer dispenser

This is the latest in the Beer Hour series, a beer server that can also give you the foamy head AND serve up super cold beers. A great addition to any summer picnic.

Fuji on the Rock Ice Maker

This special ice shape maker means you can toast with Japan’s most famous mountain in your glass.

fuji on the rock ice maker mountain

Tumeta Oicino Frozen Smoothie Maker

tumeta oicino frozen drink chilled ice cream smoothie maker

It resembles a cocktail shaker but it’s actually a chilled smoothie-style drink maker. The maker, Takara Tomy ARTS (of course), promise that the type of drink the Tumeta Oicino creates is a completely new kind of beverage, a sort of ice cream crossed with a frozen smoothie.

Fujiyama Glass

fujiyama glass keita suzuki design mount fuji beer

Not necessarily a summer drink but this still looks cool. The Fujiyama Glass will turn your glass into a beer-colored Mt Fuji. Just correctly pour in your beer with a foamy head (use the Beer Hour for best results!).

Ice Ball Mold

ice ball mold sphere maker cool down drink

And when all else fails, get out the now classic Ice Ball Mold and create perfect ice spheres which not only look awesome, but they melt slowly and keep your drink cooler for longer.

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Sharp’s Healsio Ocha Presso brews better, healthier cups of tea

Written by: Japan Trends on May 13, 2014 at 9:49 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Teapots are all well and good but they retain only around 30% of the nutrients from the tea leaves.

Sharp spotted a way to deliver better cups of tea and in a very convenient way for the person who really values their kitchen.

Enter the Sharp Healsio Ocha Presso, an “espresso maker” for tea.

sharp healsio ocha presso tea maker

Not only is this super convenient (it can make matcha green tea, chai, black tea, herbal tea, and even latte), the tea is actually healthier since the Healsio Ocha Presso brews a cuppa with 1.9 times the catechin of tea from a teapot.

Now available from Japan Trend Shop in either white or black designs, this is a very stylish-looking addition to your home.

In the best tradition of Japanese monozukuri, this is more than just an electronic gizmo for giving you a quick cup of tea. Quite the opposite, the Healsio Ocha Presso features an internal ceramic tea mortar to mill the tea leaves into a fine powder.

sharp healsio ocha presso tea maker machine matcha

The resulting tea is stronger, fresher and healthier, since the grinding is a slow 100rpm and so there is no friction, and thus no loss of catechin, chlorophyll and dietary fibers. Instead, these all stay in the tea for you to consume and benefit from.

Mill the leaves into a powder and then put the powder into the brewing pot, to be stirred and blended into a perfect cup of green tea. Now all you need to do is master the Tea Ceremony and you are truly Japanese!

See more at Japan Trend Shop.

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3D ice sculptures from Suntory Whisky cool your drink, look amazing

Written by: William on April 23, 2014 at 2:31 pm | In CULTURE | 2 Comments

Now this is an innovative way to cool down your drink.

While we still love the quietly industrial and precise ice sphere offered by the Ice Ball Mold, there is something to be said for having “3D-milled ice cubes”. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in not understanding exactly what that means but when the results — including a miniature Japanese temple — are this stunning, who cares?!

suntory whisky 3d ice cube rock sculpture shoe temple

3D on the Rocks” as the stunning ad campaign declares.

A shark. The Statue of Liberty. An astronaut. A space rocket. Michelangelo’s David. A high-heel shoe. Design ideas were submitted by members of the public which were then selected to be made by drilling into a block of ice.

suntory whisky 3d ice cube rock sculpture statue of liberty shoe

The ice sculpture is then placed into the whisky glass to melt and cool the beverage. Artistically a bit of a waste but what a great concept!

Here’s the ad to give you more of an idea of how the ice shapes are made.

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BrewDog bar in Roppongi, opens March 1st

Written by: Japan Trends on February 21, 2014 at 11:40 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Scottish beer brand BrewDog is set to open its own bar in Roppongi from March 1st.

BrewDog Roppongi will offer ten beers on tap — six standards and four seasonal brews — plus a further ten guest beers from the UK, Japan and around the world. The bar, managed by BrewDog Japan, will also be decked out using furnishings procured from the same supplier as BrewDog UK uses.

brewdog roppongi bar

This comes amid a flurry of new craft beer and micro brewery bar openings in the Tokyo area over the past few years. Although the actual number of craft beers and smaller breweries hasn’t itself increased much (or at all) since its peak in the early 1990′s, there has been a major boom in bars. Many of these are managed or staffed by foreign residents.

While drinkers often decry the decline in beer standards in Japan, the rise of the craft beer bars shows that consumers are willing to pay more for quality beer (in larger servings than regular beer anyway) in the right environment.

Single craft beer brand bars are also itself not without precedent. For example, there is the wildly popular Yona Yona Beer Kitchen, which opened in Akasaka-mitsuke in October 2013 and serves only Yona Yona beers from Karuizawa. These include the eponymous Yona Yona Ale, Tokyo Black and Aooni, plus seasonal specials.

While this is BrewDog’s fist Asian venture, the beer’s connections to Japan are already quite firm, not least because it brews an imperial stout called Tokyo that is a very nice oaky sud (and strong). You can already get BrewDog on tap at places like the snug Beer Pub Camden in Ikebukuro, as well as in bottle form from Tanakaya at Mejiro Station. BrewDog sales doubled in Japan between 2011 and 2012.

brewdog roppongi bar

BrewDog also already has several specialist bars around the UK as well as in Stockholm last year. A bar in Sao Paulo also opened in early 2014. Its current expansion is backed in part by the firm’s successful Equity for Punks crowdfunding scheme that was massively oversubscribed.

“Launching bars outside of Europe is a huge step towards taking the craft beer revolution global,” BrewDog co-founder James Watt told BBC Scotland in December.

“The craft beer scene has really blown up in some unexpected destinations in recent years and it’s amazing how people from around the world have taken to a small brewery from Aberdeen. Three years ago we never imagined we’d now be planning to open a bar in Tokyo or Sao Paulo, and it’s a testament to the passion and loyalty of our beer fans and Equity Punks.”

We love BrewDog for its pop bottle design and its tongue-in-cheek approach to naming; Punk IPA, Dead Pony Club and Dogma are just some of their wittily denominated range.

BrewDog was founded in Scotland in 2007 and currently exports 62% of its beer to 32 countries around the world.

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