Although a little late in the season for this, it’s time to talk about seasonal snack food in Starbucks in Japan.  Not too long ago I wrote about the seasonal snack offerings here in the US for holiday 2010 and raved about the wonderful chocolate covered macadamia nuts.  Shortly after writing that blog post, I heard from one of this blog’s regular commenters, Kaori, that Japan also got some really interesting treats for the 2010 holiday season.  The entire concept of “strawberry popcorn” had me intrigued!  Lo and behold, I received a gift box in the mail with three treat foods from the 2010 Starbucks holiday food lineup in Japan.  Though most blog readers here will never try these items or see them at their local stores, it was so interesting I had to share it here.  And besides, there are a number of people reading this site who come from Japan!

The three Japan treats were Strawberry Popcorn, Nutty White Cookies, and Cranberry Ball Cookies.  I want to point out that the U.S. Starbucks do regularly sell popcorn at this time, and it is available in two flavors: (1) Butter and (2) Salt and Pepper.  If you want to go back and read my previous blog article on the popcorn available in United States stores, click here.

And now on to the review of the three Japanese treats:

Strawberry Popcorn – This was surprisingly good.  The strawberry flavor is pretty mild, and it’s really not all that sweet.  It doesn’t taste very real though.  Somehow the strawberry tastes exceedingly artificial.  It is essentially mildly sweet popcorn with a strawberry essence to it.  I would buy this if it were offered here, though not on a regular basis.  I still like the classic butter popcorn available in the United States Starbucks better.  However, I like the strawberry popcorn better than the salt and pepper flavored popcorn.  I always like to include the warning that one should brush and floss after eating popcorn!  Popcorn easily gets stuck in periodontal pockets and can be the start of an abcess.

Nutty White Cookies – The nutty white cookies are absolutely delicious.  They’re essentially a shortbread cookie.  Crunchy, not overly sweet, and lightly buttery and nutty.  I wish we had had these here this past Christmas.  These are the perfect little cookies to serve to a guest with a cup of coffee, or to have handy to dunk into your cup.  Perfection.  As most coffee masters know, nutty flavors easily complement coffee.  These might be fabulous with Organic Shade Grown Mexico or with Guatemala Antigua.  These cookies taste like something that you might find in your grandmother’s kitchen made as a holiday treat for home, or for a cookie exchange.  They taste natural and don’t have indiscernible unnatural sugar flavors.

Cranberry Ball Cookies – These are the sweeter counterpart to the nutty white cookies.  They don’t particularly taste like cranberry but do taste like they have more sugar added.  I like these cookies but they are not the perfection of the nutty white cookies.   These would be a little harder to figure out which coffee exactly pairs with them too.  The artificial pink/red color is not a natural looking color either.  I think these cookies too are supposed to have some nutty flavor in them, but that is overpowered by the sugary flavor.  Oddly, these cookies have something in them that is kind of chewy and I think it is supposed to resemble a cranberry bit. This cookie gets one thumb up and one thumb down.  Might be fabulous if you’re craving something a little sweeter, but not nearly as delightful as the nutty white cookies.

As I snacked my way through this blog post, I am reminded that one thing I want Starbucks to improve upon is their efforts to make sure food pairs with coffee.  When I previously wrote about the Black and White cookie at Starbucks, I noted that the packaging says right on it that those cookies pair with Sumatra.  I am sorry I don’t have photos of the reverse of these three snack items, but in any case, it’s entirely in Japanese.  Maybe there is a core coffee mentioned, but I can’t tell.  My point only is that the overwhelming majority of new Starbucks food products seem to get launched in the stores with zero conversation about which whole bean offering will pair nicely with the coffee.  I’d like to see the care put into the packaging to include a mention of a coffee pairing suggestion, as has been done on the Black and White cookie packaging.

This is an open thread.  Talk about anything Starbucks-related.  Also if you’ve tried these snacks, please weigh in!