Starbucks gives us a delicious reminder that sakura sweets are different from cherry ones.

This week, Starbucks made our heart, and sweet tooth, sing with the launch of its newest Japan-exclusive dessert drink: the Sakura Cherry Frappuccino. But wait, sakura trees are cherry trees, right? So isn’t “Sakura Cherry Frappuccino” a little redundant? Sakura sweets are cherry sweets, right?

Actually, they’re not. Japan’s famous sakura trees are non-fruit-bearing varieties, and sakura desserts actually have the flavor of the blossoms themselves and/or the leaves of the trees, which are often preserved in salt for a taste that’s salty, sweet, and just a tiny bit floral. Sakura flavor isn’t really anything like cherry flavor, so we were anxious to see how combining sakura with sakuranbo (as the cherry fruit is called in Japanese) would work.

So we headed to Starbucks as soon as the new drink came out to try it for ourselves. It certainly looks the part, with an enticing pink hue that’s Japan’s standard image color shorthand for “spring,” topped with a fluffy swirl of whipped cream.

The beverage’s milk base is enhanced with both sakura and cherry sauces, the latter made with bits of fruit, but there’s one more special ingredient. Mixed in with the whipped cream are konpeito, tiny little star-shaped traditional Japanese candy pieces, with their light blue and pink colors contrasting nicely with the pure-white whipped cream.

On our first sip, the initial sensation was juicy, slightly tart cherry, both light and refreshing. The cherry sauce has a touch of a gelatin-like texture to it, but is still liquidy enough to easily blend with the sakura sauce with a few stirs of your straw, with the resulting combination sweet and satisfying, but not bloatingly heavy. The konpeito are also delicious, with their crunch meshing nicely with the familiar texture of a blended-ice Frappuccino base.

▼ Our regular Frappuccino taste tester K. Masami, diligently performing her duty

The timing of the cherry blossoms themselves is notoriously hard to predict, but we know exactly how long the 590-yen (US$5.35) Sakura Cherry Frappuccino will be sticking around, as Starbucks says it’ll be part of the menu until March 12.

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