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Kirin’s fresh take on bottled green tea turns our expectations, and frowns, upside down.

There are dozens of brands of bottled green tea available in convenience stores and vending machines here. Since people in Japan don’t add sugar, cream, lemon, or any other flavorings to their green tea, it might seem like one brand should taste the same as any other, but the specific type of tea leaves used, where they’re grown, and how they’re prepared can all impact the flavor.

Among the most commonly found brands, Kirin’s Namacha has always been a big seller, but as of March 22 the company is changing the recipe. The exact details of how are shrouded in trade secrecy, but we snagged a bottle ahead of the official launch date and turned it over to Meg, one of our Japanese-language correspondents who has a special fondness for Japan’s favorite non-alcoholic beverage.

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The new Namacha is new on the outside too, as it comes in a classy plastic bottle that, at first glance, looks like it’s made of glass. Before twisting the cap off. Meg turned the bottle upside down and gave it a few light shakes, which she’d heard improves the flavor.

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And because RocketNews24 runs on the principle that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, some of the rest of the team pitched in.

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▼ Umm…thanks, guys.

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Like its container, the updated Namacha itself has a new look. Whereas the old version was mostly transparent with a vague yellowish tinge, the new version is an opaque green.

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▼ New on the left, old on the right.

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So, is the new Namacha an improvement on the old one? In Meg’s opinion…

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Namacha has always been refreshing and light, but to Meg, Japanese tea needs a little substance to it too. Like its predecessor, the new Namacha still has plenty of sweet (by tea standards) notes to it, but it’s also now got a pleasing finish with a touch of bitterness and a refined aroma.

▼ As a matter of fact, it was so refined she decided to pour what was left into a Japanese-style teacup.

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With winter finally done, and Namacha priced at just 140 yen (US$1.25) a bottle, we can easily see ourselves cooling off with some on a warm spring afternoon in the park, or after the next time we work up a sweat hanging one of our coworkers by his ankles while researching an article.

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