We won’t be seeing cherry blossoms on the trees for a while yet, but sakura will be showing up in our desserts very soon.

“When does sakura season start?” is a difficult question to answer, since Japan’s cherry blossom trees are notoriously fickle. The even trickier question, though, is “When does sakura sweets season start?”

You might expect sakura sweets season to coincide with when the cherry blossoms bloom, in late March/early April. However, the most traditional sakura-related confectionary, sakura mochi (which uses the leaves of the sakura tree), is customarily eaten as part of the Hinamatsuri celebration (also known as the Doll Festival or Girl’s Day), which is held on March 3. You could also apply the logic that, by the old Japanese calendar, spring started the day after Setsubun (the bean-throwing festival) which takes place on February 3, and so even early February is an appropriate time for sakura sweets.

That third way of thinking seems to be the one Starbucks Japan is going by in the timing of the release of its newest dessert drink, the Sakura White Chocolate with Milk Pudding.

The drink is the latest addition to Starbucks Japan’s Chilled Cup line, which is offered exclusively at Japanese convenience stores. While many of the Chilled Cup varieties are coffee or coffee-based, this pure dessert beverage is all about creamy indulgence, not caffeine fixes. Starbucks partner Suntory promises a fragrant cherry blossom aroma, sweet white milk chocolate, and a satisfyingly substantial pudding-like texture. If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting sakura sweets, they usually have a trace of palate-cleansing saltiness to this aftertaste as well.

▼ If you were disappointed by Starbucks’ previous fascination with adding strawberry flavor to its sakura drinks, you’ll be happy to know that there’s no such fruity interference here.

The Sakura White Chocolate with Milk Pudding goes on sale February 8, priced at 237 yen (US$2.05), and you can be sure we won’t be waiting until the actual cherry blossoms bloom to grab one for ourselves.

Source: Suntory via Entabe
Images: Suntory
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he keeps the spirit of sakura sweets season in his heart all year long.