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We’ve talked before about the booming trend of latte art in Japan, in which baristas create intricate pictures in the foam atop your coffee. But what if you prefer to get your caffeine fix from a cup of tea instead of a mug of java? Does Japan have anything cute to brighten your beverage?

Why yes, it does! And if you like a little citrus in your tea, you can spruce up your drink with a slice of lemon grown in the shape of a heart.

Travelers who visit Hiroshima and eat in restaurants are most likely to dine on the savory crepe-like dish known as okonomiyaki. However, the prefecture is also known for growing some of the best lemons in Japan, particularly on the islands and coastline of the Inland Sea.

Recently the Mihara Citrus Fruit Company, located in eastern Hiroshima Prefecture, produced a crop of heart-shaped lemons by cradling the fruits inside a V-shaped wedge while young, then placing a cylinder on top of them as they grew. When things went well, the lemons could be sliced into cross-sections with a distinct heart shape.

Unfortunately, things only went well about half the time. On the other 50 percent of attempts, the lemons came out looking just plain weird, with neither the cuteness of a heart nor the balance of a regular lemon to entice buyers.

To tackle this problem, researchers at the Hiroshima Prefectural Technology Research Institute developed a new casing for growers to use. Ostensibly operating under the theory that you can never have too much love, the researchers created a heart-shaped mold in which to grow the cutesy lemons.

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Farmers started using the new casing in July, and have found it to be a tremendous improvement over the old design. Growers are reporting a success rate of over 80 percent, and also say that the new cases only take one-fourth of the time of the old ones to set in place.

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The new cases also produce lemons with a more uniform shape throughout, meaning that the area that can be sliced into heart-shaped cross sections is much larger than before.

▼ New casing (left) vs. old casing (right)

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The heart-shaped lemons don’t taste any differently from other lemons grown in Hiroshima, but their unique appearance is making them a popular choice for the many occasions during the year in which Japanese custom dictates exchanging gifts with business and social associates.

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One such gift-giving occasion is coming up soon at the end of the year. Coincidentally, mid-winter also just happens to be when oysters, another Hiroshima specialty, are at their tastiest, meaning the prefecture has both your entrée and its seasoning all set!

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Sources: Nari Nari, Hiroshima Prefectural Technology Research Institute
Top image: Hiroshima Prefectural Technology Research Institute
Images: Hiroshima Prefectural Technology Research Institute, Tabelog