Every summer, people across Japan enjoy the delicious flavor of…blue…

When the harsh conditions of a Japanese summer start wearing you down, there’s no better way to refresh yourself than by popping into a convenience store or walking up to a festival food stand and getting yourself some shaved ice. Sweet frozen salvation from the heat and humidity will be waiting for you in stalwart flavors such as melon, strawberry, lemon, and blue.

“Wait, that last one’s not a flavor, it’s a color,” you might be saying, but blue, or “blue Hawaii,” really is one of the standard offerings you’ll find from shaved ice sellers in Japan.

▼ Blue Hawaii shaved ice

It’s a flavor pretty much everyone in the country has tried…but few can really describe it, as shown by Twitter comments like these:

“I’ve always loved blue Hawaii. I wonder what flavor it is.”
“I’ve been eating blue Hawaii shaved ice since I was a kid…but what exactly is it?”
“Just had some blue Hawaii shaved ice for my lunch dessert. It was great, but what is that flavor?”
“My friend told me about a cafe that has great blue Hawaii shaved ice, but I still don’t really understand what that flavor is.”
“Love me some blue Hawaii! By the way, what is blue Hawaii?”

With the Aloha State as part of its name, you might expect blue Hawaii to be pineapple-flavored, but that’s not the case. According to Japan Taste Association representative Koki Mizuno, no one’s entirely sure how blue Hawaii shaved ice got its name, but the most common and plausible theory is that it comes from fancy-looking Blue Hawaii tropical drink cocktails that Japanese travelers saw on Hawaiian vacations during the bubble economy days of the mid-1980s. Some of these drinks were made with eye-catching blue liqueur, and so the name got applied to the blue syrup for shaved ice that started gaining popularity in the late ‘80s.

So what exactly is the blue Hawaii shaved ice flavor? That depends on the individual maker, says Mizuno, since there’s no industry standard regarding the recipe or ingredients. The closest approximation is the soft drink Ramune, whose flavor is also sometimes called “soda” as a generic term, which contains notes of apple and citrus fruit. Blue Hawaii shaved ice syrup, though, tends to have a stronger sweetness to it. It also lacks any sort of sharp tartness at its finish, so while it’s close to Ramune, it really its own unique taste.

But even if the flavor is hard to put into words, it’ll be on the minds and in the stomachs of shaved ice fans more and more as Japan heads into the summer festival season.

Source: Otona Answer via Hachima Kiko, Twitter
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)
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