economics

May 10, 2010

Kit Kat Kaleidoscope: Far-Out Flavors From Japan

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May 10, 2010
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Kit Kats
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Why stop at just chocolate and crispy wafers? In Japan, Kit Kats come in many flavors, including ginger ale, soy sauce, green tea and banana.
Kit Kats
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Why stop at just chocolate and crispy wafers? In Japan, Kit Kats come in many flavors, including ginger ale, soy sauce, green tea and banana.
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May 10, 2010

The Kit Kats you find in American stores offer a quick fix of chocolate and crispy wafers. But in Japan, Kit Kats go far beyond chocolate, with flavors like ginger ale, soy sauce, creme brulee and banana. NPR’s Lynn Neary talks with Tokyo-based reporter Lucy Craft about the unique candy market in Japan.

And to see how those flavors translate to other countries — like the U.S. — we asked NPR staff members to try some samples and tell us what they think.

Kit Kat Taste Test: Notes From A Crunching

With such a wide range of flavors needing to be sampled, we lined up testers from across NPR’s divisions. To encourage natural and objective responses, subjects tasted the candy in separate sessions.

Participants: Steve Inskeep (host, Morning Edition), Jamie Tarabay (National Desk), Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (Foreign Desk), Jon Hamilton (Science Desk), Linda Holmes (Arts Desk), and Patrick Jarenwattananon (Music Desk).

Royal Milk Tea
Steve Inskeep
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Steve Inskeep takes his Kit Kat tasting job seriously.
Steve Inskeep
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Steve Inskeep takes his Kit Kat tasting job seriously.

Inskeep: Like tea in the Mideast.

Tarabay: There’s something in the middle of this that’s harking back to my childhood.

Garcia-Navarro: Tastes like boarding school tea — comforting but not very nice.

Hamilton: Plain weird.

Holmes: I don’t even know what that taste is, but I was not a fan.

Jarenwattananon: Tastes like a wafer from childhood.

Soy Sauce
Soy sauce-flavored Kit Kats
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Soy sauce-flavored Kit Kats
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Inskeep: Could use a little soy sauce.

Tarabay: It smells gross. I can’t taste anything. It smells weird. It’s not even savory.

Garcia-Navarro: Beyond gross. It tastes like sushi that’s gone off.

Hamilton: Falsely advertised. Perhaps a bit of salt.

Holmes: It smells very much like soy sauce. It’s a very odd taste to me.

Cantaloupe
Linda Holmes
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Linda Holmes takes a tiny bite of one of the wafers.
Linda Holmes
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Linda Holmes takes a tiny bite of one of the wafers.

Inskeep: Mysterious.

Tarabay (making a face after being told the flavor too late): Oh my God. I don’t eat cantaloupe.

Garcia-Navarro: Unusual but edible.

Hamilton: Tastes like an after-dinner liqueur.

Holmes: Like a Jolly Rancher, but the aftertaste is intensely not good.

Corn
Corn-flavored Kit Kat
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Corn-flavored Kit Kat
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Inskeep: Creepy.

Tarabay: I can smell the corn in that … a bit of corn-flakishness in there.

Hamilton: A Kit Kat for the heartland.

Garcia-Navarro: Why would you ever make a Kit Kat this flavor?

Holmes: That is the NASTIEST THING I HAVE EVER EATEN.

Jarenwattananon: The only thing corny about this is my response.

Raspberry Passionfruit
Patrick Jarenwattananon
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Patrick Jarenwattananon marvels at the wonders of flavored Kit Kats.
Patrick Jarenwattananon
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Patrick Jarenwattananon marvels at the wonders of flavored Kit Kats.

Inskeep: A hint of tart.

Tarabay: It smells like Cherry Ripe. [A Cadbury candy bar, it turns out — ed.]

Hamilton: Actually tastes like one of those chocolate-covered cherries.

Holmes: Appropriately, it tastes like a slightly fruity Kit Kat.

Jarenwattananon: Complex, fruity, dark. Yes, I used these words to describe a Kit Kat.

Creme Brulee
Creme brulee-flavored Kit Kat
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Creme brulee-flavored Kit Kat
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Inskeep: Starts out very creme, then gets a little too brulee.

Tarabay: Now I’m disappointed, because it smells like it.

Hamilton: Torch the top and you’ve got yourself a fancy dessert.

Garcia-Navarro: Transports me to France. Not.

Holmes: Smells fake-caramelly.

Jarenwattananon: That was the best high fructose corn syrup I’ve had in a minute.

Golden Citrus
Jon Hamilton
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Jon Hamilton contemplates what he’s just tasted.
Jon Hamilton
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Jon Hamilton contemplates what he’s just tasted.

Inskeep: Tastes like Starburst.

Tarabay: It’s very sherbety, but it smells like a Starburst.

Hamilton: A wake-up call!

Garcia-Navarro: The best one so far.

Holmes: Tastes like gum or citrus candy. Or vitamin C tablets. Not bad.

Jarenwattananon: I didn’t think that could exist.

Green Tea
Jamie Tarabay
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Jamie Tarabay takes a sniff of the green tea Kit Kat.
Jamie Tarabay
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Jamie Tarabay takes a sniff of the green tea Kit Kat.

Inskeep: Bland.

Tarabay: A whisper of steeped green tea — altogether pleasant.

Garcia-Navarro: Yummy.

Holmes: I like this one. Not trying too hard. It has a slight aftertaste of something sinister, though. ;

Jarenwattananon: Disappointingly, neither here nor there. So much wasted potential.

Intense Roasted Soybean
Soybean-flavored Kit Kat
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Soybean-flavored Kit Kat
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Inskeep: No.

Tarabay: It’s a very rich chocolate. Nice and rich, and darker.

Garcia-Navarro: Peanut buttery, but just not as nice.

Hamilton: It does invoke the classic Kit Kat.

Holmes: It’s actually not that intense. It’s … soybeany.

Jarenwattananon: False advertising.

Strawberry Cheesecake
Cheesecake-flavored Kit Kat
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Cheesecake-flavored Kit Kat
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Tarabay: I can’t taste the strawberry or the cheesecake in this.

Garcia-Navarro: Yummy.

Jarenwattananon: Tastes like fake strawberry flavor and not particularly good fake strawberry flavor.

Cafe Au Lait
Cafe au lait-flavored Kit Kats
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Cafe au lait-flavored Kit Kats
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Tarabay: As soon as you put your tongue on it, it tastes like black coffee with milk in it.

Hamilton: Smooth and delicious.

Holmes: This bears absolutely no resemblance to coffee, but I wouldn’t spit it out.

Jarenwattananon: Meh.

Banana
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro
Enlarge May-Ying Lam/NPR

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro after tasting one of the flavored Kit Kats.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro
May-Ying Lam/NPR

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro after tasting one of the flavored Kit Kats.

Garcia-Navarro: Foul.

Jarenwattananon: That’s some good use of Yellow No. 5.

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