Last update: 16/05/18
I had long known that Japanese Kit Kats were a bit of a phenomenon. People at work would bring back bags of green tea, strawberry and melon Kit Kats from their trips to Japan. Two and a half years ago, I took the plunge and ordered a selection box of eight mini Kit Kats from the Japan Centre. Over coffee, my tasting companions and myself tried them, and I wrote down our reactions verbatim, resulting in the first iteration of this blog.
At this point, the floodgates were unlocked. Rather than feeling blasé about the numerous types of Kit Kats foisted on the market by Nestle Japan, I felt a burning desire to try more of them. I scoured importer websites and eBay shops for new flavours. I visited Japan myself, as did one of my tasting companions. We even started considering unusual Kit Kats from other countries. The original blog post grew, but although I occasionally directed people to read it, it was not easily discoverable.
This new post is created to sit on the front page, and is intended from the start to be regularly updated with thoughts and impressions on new Kit Kats from around the world.
In late 2017, ruby chocolate was unveiled. It was hailed as the first new type of chocolate in 80 years (although this ignores 2015’s blonde chocolate), and much secrecy surrounds the method of its production – though those who know about such things have come up with some credible explanations. Obviously, I was excited to try a brand new type of chocolate, especially when I learnt that the UK release would be via the medium of Kit Kat.
The four finger Ruby Kit Kat is at present Tesco exclusive, and it took a few weeks of searching the local outlets to even find it. At one point, I was tempted to turn to eBay, but given that the bars retail at 80p and resellers were selling them for 3-4 times their RRP, I remained patient. Eventually, the bars showed up in my local Tesco, and I quickly snatched up four of them, just to be on the safe side.
Given all the hype and excitement, it seems inevitable that the actual product would be a bit of a disappointment. Ruby chocolate does not have any additional colourings or flavourings, but is naturally pink with undertones of berry flavour. It’s also sweet. Like, really, sickly, sweet. It’s marketed at millennials, because apparently our entitled, avocado scoffing arses will absolutely love this kind of thing. However, the only people this will appeal to are those with a serious sweet tooth, and little kids, who will eat any kind of sugary crap. Sure, we’ll all buy a bar to start with, just for the novelty, but anyone with a discerning palate is unlikely to form a ruby chocolate habit.
Matcha Green Tea
“That one’s awesome.”
Nestle Japan have released numerous variations on the green tea Kit Kat, but the one reviewed here is the standard offering, essentially the base class of matcha Kit Kats. By now, this is a classic flavour and an old favourite. The rich, slightly bitter taste of the matcha is offset by the sweetness of the white chocolate, making a delicious combination.
From time to time, I buy a pack of these for our snack cupboard. Their ready availability also means they’re the cheapest Japanese Kit Kats to buy, making them a more sustainable addiction.
Kyoto Matcha Green Tea
“I like that one.”
A regional variation on the green tea Kit Kat, that comes with a corresponding price tag. It may just have been that we’ve become acclimatised to the more common matcha Kit Kats, but we didn’t rate this one quite as highly. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, it just has no unique selling point.
Hojicha Roasted Tea
“That’s slightly weird.”
“Kind of vegetal.”
“Bleurgh, I hate it.”
At the time of eating, we didn’t even know what Hojicha was – it was only later that we learnt that it’s a kind of roasted tea. The internet tells me that there are people in the world who like this Kit Kat, but the three of us who tried it were united in our disgust. This Kit Kat was utterly hideous, with a horrible vegetable taste that put me in mind of the liquid you get out of the composter. Needless to say, this is not an experience I ever wish to revisit.
“Tastes less matcha than normal.”
This Kit Kat smells of matcha, and leaves a matcha aftertaste, but definitely different from the plain matcha Kit Kats. I really enjoyed it, finding it sweet, delicious and slightly creamy.
“More chocolate than matcha.”
This Kit Kat does not contain any bear, but the packet does feature the cartoon character Kumamon. Unlike the other matcha Kit Kats, this one uses dark rather than white chocolate, which somewhat drowns out the matcha taste. The texture is also dry and brittle.
This bar was our first foray into truly unusual Kit Kats (I hardly count matcha Kit Kats as being particularly outré these days). The flavour was typical apple, similar to cheap, sweet apple cordial. As you can tell from our reaction, it was a distinctly middle-of-the-road experience.
Hot Japanese Chilli
“I approve of this”
You get a warm, pleasant chilli taste from this Kit Kat, but again, it’s not an outstanding flavour experience. The premium chocolate makers have already cottoned on to the chilli-chocolate pairing, so you’d be much better off going for a Lindt Excellence Chilli Chocolate bar instead.
“I don’t mind it, actually.”
“Could even get used to it.”
When I was a kid, my local corner shop sold strawberry flavoured white chocolate bars in the shape of Pumbaa from The Lion King. I absolutely loved them. Then I grew up, and the taste of fake strawberry stopped appealing to me. I even stopped like cheap strawberry ice cream. With that in mind, the fake strawberry taste in this Kit Kat was not a pleasant experience. I think I could force myself to get accustomed to it over time, but my tasting companions outright hated it.
Unlike its strawberry sibling, the raspberry Kit Kat doesn’t seem to use fake flavouring, instead including actual freeze-dried fruit in the bar. This meant it swiftly won over my tasting companions, but I took a little longer to be convinced. On first tasting, I rated it as a distinctly middle-of-the-road experience. However, I ate a couple more bars at home when I was craving something sweet, and slowly I started to be won over. Given that I usually don’t much like freeze-dried berries, this Kit Kat seems to be exceptionally good at wearing down my objections.
“Needs more lime.”
A citrus Kit Kat should be amazing, but sadly this one does not live up to its potential. When you open the packet, you discover that the bar itself is a peachy orange colour, which is a bit of a novelty. Unfortunately, it both smells and tastes like fake orange flavouring, with a hint of fake lemon – and no lime at all, despite all three fruits being pictured on the packaging. Not bad, but it could have been so much more.
Note: I have since learnt that the pictured ‘lime’ is actually a Japanese citrus known as sudachi; however it hardly matters as the taste is not discernibly present.
I love melon, and I also developed a taste for the Yubari melon steam cakes I brought back from Japan last autumn. That being said, I’m not sure I can quite get over the cognitive dissonance of the sweet watery taste of melon, and the texture of chocolate wafer bar.
Japan is full of novel citrus fruit that Westerners are only just starting to become aware of. One of these is iyokan. Since I’m slightly obsessed with all things citrus (and all things Kit Kat), I was very excited about this one. Clearly I had already forgotten the disappointment of the generic citrus Kit Kat.
I shouldn’t have got my hopes up. These Kit Kats smell and taste a lot like cheap orange flavour vitamin C tablets. The search for a good citrus Kit Kat continues.
Roots and Veg
“Needs more wasabi.”
“Not as wasabi as it could have been.”
If you like wasabi, then probably what you like about it is the hot, sharp, peppery kick. As someone who once put seven wasabi peanuts in her mouth at once, you know that I’m looking for a strong taste in a wasabi item. Sadly, this Kit Kat failed to deliver – I’ve seen others say it was too strong for them, but for myself and my tasting companions, it was far too weak.
In contrast, Lindt used to do a dark chocolate wasabi bar which pushed the limits of how much wasabi you can pack into a square of chocolate. I wasn’t actually a big fan of this one, but my primary tasting companion was, and he remains disappointed that the bar was discontinued.
Purple Sweet Potato
I definitely approached this Kit Kat with caution – root vegetables in chocolate did not seem like a natural pairing to me. But that was before my eyes were opened to the tastiness of this combination. Not only is this a flavour experience that brings all of the earthy sweetness with no unpleasant vegetal aftertaste, but it kickstarted my interest in purple sweet potato desserts in general. On the back of this, I bought and enjoyed a slice of purple sweet potato Swiss roll from the Japan Centre, and am keen to get my hands on some Ube spread to put in doughnuts.
Ginger chocolate is widely known for being amazing, and this Kit Kat does not disappoint. It would have been very difficult to go wrong with this flavour combination, so I’m pleased to say that this Kit Kat delivered on taste.
This alcoholic tasting Kit Kat was well received by all, with a distinct sharp, alcoholic taste that pairs well with sweet white chocolate. It instantly entered the rankings as a favourite flavour.
Since we didn’t eat them all at once, however, I had a spare one left at home which I didn’t eat straight away. A few months later, I noticed that the packet was now disturbingly inflated. Assuming that the sake Kit Kat must have been fermenting with time, I had no choice but to dispose of it. If you buy this one, eat it up swiftly.
Rum and Raisin
“It’s like if you put rum and raisin ice cream in a blender.”
“If you’re going to have alcoholic Kit Kats, then I vote for sake every time.”
As a rum and raisin aficionado, I was very much looking forward to tasting this one. And it isn’t too bad, it’s just that it’s ultimately an inferior version of the sake Kit Kat. There’s no real reason to ever hunt down this Kit Kat when the sake one will give you a much more satisfying alcoholic tang.
According to Wikipedia, amazake is a sweetened fermented rice drink, with little to no alcoholic content. That being said, the amazake Kit Kat has a strong smell that rivals the sake Kit Kat in intensity. It was perhaps too long since we’d tasted the sake Kit Kat to be able to discern any real difference – one might expect it to be a bit sweeter, but the difference is probably drowned out by the sweetness of the white chocolate. Still, we enjoyed this one.
“You can taste the beaniness.”
“Not my favourite of beans.”
“Least favourite so far.”
“It has a certain nostalgia value.”
I always tell people that, if they are used to Western desserts, the flavour profile of red bean paste won’t be quite what they’re used to. I’m not even sure I like it that much myself – it’s a more muted sweetness that’s taken some getting used to.
This Kit Kat isn’t even just azuki flavour, it’s meant to simulate a toasted sandwich filled with azuki paste. It seems to be an enduring flavour that’s available long-term, but I’m not sure why, as it’s simply unpleasant. Even if you like red bean paste – and one of my tasting companions really does – this Kit Kat does not deliver on flavour.
Cookies and Cream
Cookies and Cream is a common flavour combo (usually meaning Oreos are involved). The ones we sampled aren’t the ones now on sale in the UK, but of course another Japanese flavour. It’s very sweet and creamy, so despite its small size, the two finger bar can still feel like a bit much. Unless you have a really sweet tooth, there’s not much to recommend this one.
This one was a step up from the original strawberry Kit Kat. Instead of fake strawberry flavour, there appear to be actual freeze-dried strawberries in the wafer, which are far tastier. The cheesecake element is a rich sweetness that’s just shy of being too sickly – certainly of a kind with the aforementioned Cookies and Cream. In short, it’s better than the plain old strawberry Kit Kats, but still not amazing.
Tokyo Banana is not actually a type of banana grown only in Japan, but a sweet banana dessert. This Kit Kat is based on the dessert, and is distinct from the white chocolate banana Kit Kat, which I’ve yet to taste. The shape of the bar has been altered slightly, clearly with the aim of making it look more like a bunch of bananas. Unfortunately, the Tokyo Banana logo printed on the bar overly resembles a cock and balls to my corrupted mind.
I was surprised that this bar was milk rather than white chocolate, but that probably stopped the whole thing from being too sweet. It has a strong banana taste, which didn’t come cross as overly superficial and fake.
The Momiji Manju is a maple-leaf shaped cake item, filled with red bean paste. I was excited to try the Kit Kat just because I liked the maple leaf shape of the manju, which just goes to show how shallow I can be when it comes to desserts.
Despite my prior misgivings about red bean paste, this Kit Kat was nice. It has a pleasant, nutty, flavour, and somehow manages to taste almost healthy. Obviously it has no health benefits to speak of, but it may just be a bit lighter on the sugariness than most of its brethren.
So apparently kinako is soy flour, which doesn’t immediately sound like the best of flavours for anything. We actually didn’t know that when we tried this Kit Kat, and were pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted. It has a rich, creamy flavour, but manages to avoid being too sweet. Definitely a good one to have with a cup of coffee.
Everyday Luxury Cranberry & Almond
The Everyday Luxury sub-brand of Kit Kats claims to have been inspired by the Kit Kat Chocolatory in Tokyo. These are rare single finger bars of standard Kit Kat chocolate, topped with chopped almonds and cranberries.
All of the ingredients are pleasant, so it’s hard to dislike this one, but it’s equally difficult to feel any strong positive feelings about it either. There are better products out there combining chocolate with almonds or cranberries – in fact, why not just pick up some chocolate covered almonds and dried cranberries and eliminate the Kit Kat element altogether?
Everyday Luxury Matcha Double Berry & Almond
This one is very similar to the above, except that the base Kit Kat is matcha, and raspberries have been added to the “sprinkled on top” elements. My tasting companion felt that the added extras clashed with the base Kit Kat, and that a plain matcha Kit Kat would be superior to this overloaded product. I found that the matcha taste dominated and thus I was essentially ignoring the topping. Certainly neither of us could detect the added raspberries.
Bitter Dark Chocolate
“Fairly ordinary dark chocolate really.”
Obviously you aren’t going to get a premium dark chocolate experience from a Kit Kat, but I have to say that I was still expecting something more from this. As with the dark chocolate Kumamon matcha Kit Kat, this one was disappointingly dry.
When we started the Kit Kat sampling quest in late 2015, we thought Japan was the only place selling such a variety of crazy flavours. But one of my tasting companions returned from a trip abroad with two new flavours from Kit Kat Arabia.
Unlike the Japanese two-finger bars, these packs come with a non-standard five fingers. The packs are marked as ‘recloseable’ (which seems to mean that you are welcome to use the glue originally sealing the packs to reseal them), which is just well as scoffing all five fingers would count towards 10% of your daily recommended calories.
If you look at the picture on the packaging, you’d be forgiven for thinking that around a third of the thickness of each finger is going to be due to a thick coconut cream running through the centre. The reality is somewhat different. Whilst the coconut flavour is indeed distinct, it appears to just be spread in a very thin layer between the wafers. Still, it does taste good, and is a different flavour from anything in the Japanese selection.
Again, this isn’t as special as it looks on the packaging, although at least there is a respectable layer of filling between the wafers. Said filling is essentially indistinguishable from Nutella, and whilst it’s nigh impossible to go wrong by adding Nutella to a sweet treat, it does mean you’re essentially better of just eating a Ferrero Rocher. Why bother with the trappings of a Kit Kat as a vector for Nutella?