Japan is no stranger to exciting, original or downright odd beverages. Just 20 feet from this writer’s apartment, in fact, there’s a vending machine that sells cans of grape jelly or caramel pudding flavoured “drinks”, and convenience stores stock an enormous array of beverages from green tea or chilled coffee to butterscotch milk and melon soda.

Still, it’s better than row after row of tremor-inducing caffeine-packed cola and the illegitimate offspring of child’s cough syrup and lemonade that is Dr Pepper, I suppose…

On the 15th of this month, however, dairy experts Meito brought Japanese consumers something altogether more challenging- a milk-based drink that’s designed to taste not just like strawberries, but classic Japanese favourite strawberry daifuku mochi rice cakes!

But no sooner had the delicious-sounding beverage found its way into stores than internet users starting leaving rather odd comments on message boards about the drink’s taste…

Daifuku (lit. “great luck”) is a traditional Japanese sweet, or wagashi, that is comprised of mochi (glutinous rice shaped into a small ball) stuffed with a sweet filling. Mochi are enjoyed year-round, but are especially popular during new year’s celebrations, and come in a variety of flavours.

 ▼Strawberry Daifuku (the real deal)

While quite a departure from the real thing, and many food purists would likely roll their eyes at the thought of comparing the two, Yukimi Daifuku, a fun, ice-cream-filled riff on the classic sweet is also a firm favourite among Japanese. The outside ist chewy and requires biting or cutting into, while the inside is filled with 100% vanilla ice-cream.

Although Yukimi Daifuku vanish from most stores after late spring, come September they’re back and are readily snapped up by customers who missed their curious texture and flavour during the summer.

But could a drink designed to taste like a classic Japanese sweet really taste like sweet green peppers instead? Is it possible that the makers got something horribly, horribly wrong here?

Our brave food writer, Food Queen Satō, picked up a couple of packs of the curious new drink to try out…

Colour: They say that the first bite is with the eye. Sure, this is a drink, so there’ll be no biting (unless we freeze it and make an ice-cream- ooh, there’s a thought!), but it’s as good a place as any to start!

The drink comes out of the carton a surprising light brown colour, quite far removed from the usual electric pink strawberry milk image that we’ve gradually come to accept as normal and not in any way unnatural and alarming…

We can only imagine that this is similar to what we’d get it we threw a few real strawberry daifuku into a blender and gave it a few minutes on “high”.

Smell: Rather than smelling of its sweet ingredients, the Strawberry Daifuku Milk smells of, well, milk. It has that certain dairy smell that some people love while others can’t stand. There is, however, a note of sweetness in there, but it’s far less sickly-smelling than standard strawberry milk.

Taste: Taking a single mouthful and letting the flavour spread across the tongue, the first thing that hits you is that it’s surprisingly sweet. Were someone to tell us “this is strawberry daifuku”, we’d be a little unsure of whether to take them seriously, but the drink tastes a lot like a mixture of milk and azuki (small, red beans usually eaten sweetened and used in a number of wagashi or Japanese sweets), which is by no means a bad thing.

It’s when you swallow the drink, though, that things get funky…

Soon after the liquid is gulped down, it gives off a sudden, curious smell and after-taste like something between raw fruit and vegetables. When internet users tweeted about the smell of “sweet green peppers”, this must be what they were referring to! It seems strange to refer to the taste in such a way, but thinking about it, it really isn’t far from the truth…

Passing samples of the drink around the RocketNews24 office, the team confirmed the original internet rumour.

Five, six, seven gulps later, the verdict was in- “sweet green peppers” or, in some cases “plain old bell peppers.” Not exactly what one would expect from a drink advertised as Strawberry Daifuku

However you care to describe it, and whichever vegetable the drink’s aftertaste reminds you of, this is definitely an… original flavour to say the very least, and should definitely be tried to be believed!

What do you say, guys? Anyone in the market for a strawberry/milk/green pepper drink? If you’re in Japan, or able to pick up a pack of Meito’s new Strawberry Diafuku Milk on import, we’d love to hear your impressions…

Images RocketNews24

Ichigo Daifuku photo by Boutique Elm  Yukumi Daifuku: Lotte
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