We previously reported on the development of two kinds of new chocolate chip cookies based on the traditional Japanese snackscastella and karinto, released by Fujiya and their popular soft cookie line, Country Ma’am.

Well, today’s the day these cookies were released to the hungry public, so we snatched up a few bags to see how the American taste of a chocolate chip cookie adopts these two Japanese tastes. Our full, lips-on review after the break!

Country Ma’am: Honey Castella

Castella is essentially yellow sponge cake at first glance. However, different from sponge cake, it doesn’t rely on the addition of any frosting or fruit. Instead it has a mellow but firm taste baked right into it. Although castella lacks the intense sweetness of other packaged cakes there is an unmistakable boldness to it.

Country Ma’am’s take on castella was interesting. They tried to maintain the softness of castella on the inside, and as a result seemed to have made two cookies acting as one. The outer layer was your typical chocolate chip flavor and consistency, but on the inside was a more delicate cookie/cake hybrid material with an infused honey taste and white chocolate chip companions. Such tasty companions.

The taste was extremely smooth; as with real castella there weren’t any powerful flavors to knock your socks off. It was just a velvety sweetness that spreads through the mouth and down the throat effortlessly – all in all a very relaxing cookie, even by Western standards!

Country Ma’am: Black Honey Karinto

Karinto is a fried cookie with a texture kind of like a pretzel but a little flakier. They have been sold with a variety of seasonings both salty and sweet for well over a century in Japan. The flavoring that Country Ma’am employed with its karinto-style cookie, however, was black honey. Black honey is derived from the unrefined “black sugar” of Okinawa and has a consistency and flavor similar to molasses.

I thought the black honey flavor was a little inconsistent among the cookies. In one cookie I would get a sharp taste of raw sugar, but in the next cookie I could hardly taste it at all. Also, it seemed that they tried to match the crispiness of karinto by using a little black honey on the outside. This gave the outside coating of the cookie a slightly harder texture, but nowhere close to a karinto.

These factors gave the cookie a kind of schizophrenic taste. The flavor of each cookie was unpredictable and sometimes didn’t jive with the texture well.

When Chilled

Prior to their release, the makers of Country Ma’am recommended chilling the cookies in the freezer before eating for a cool summer treat. I’m not big on cold and hard chocolate generally, but for the sake of cookieology I gave it a go.

The castella cookie came out much firmer than at room temperature and although the white chocolate chips were now crispy it was more or less the same experience. On the other hand, the black honey karinto cookies really benefit from a little freezer action. The previously not-so-crispy outer coating was now fully realized and definitely had a karinto feel and taste to it. The flavors also came out bolder and more consistently this way.

■ When Heated

In spite of the ridiculously hot weather recently, I went ahead and sampled these cookies after a little heating, which resulted in the karinto cookies taking on yet another form!  This time the outer portion of the cookie was soft and creamy while the inside had a chewy texture to it. However, the castella variety remained largely unchanged aside from the temperature.

In both cases the sweetness seemed to have gotten a boost from heating as well so if you’re not into the subtle sweetness of Japanese cakes and cookies this would be the best way to eat them.


Overall, Coutnry Ma’am: Honey Castella is a reliable cookie that seems to work in all temperatures with a smooth sweetness that anyone could get into. Country Ma’am: Black Honey Karinto on the other hand was a more temperamental cookie that changed greatly with chilling and heating. Given a choice I would opt for the castella but the karinto cookies do make some bold choices and are an interesting taste experience as well.

If you’d like to try out these cookies you’d better act quickly, as with all Country Ma’am specialty flavors, they don’t last long!

Country Ma’am: Official Site
Photos: RocketNews24

These flavors only seem to be available in the five cookie bags sold in convenience stores for around 150 yen (US$1.60)

As always they’re individually wrapped, which cuts down on binge eating, but gives the environment the finger.