Our reporters’ experienced palates are tested once again

If there’s one food that’s universally appealing to people around the world, it’s probably cheese. Of course, there are different kinds of cheese, of various levels of stinky, that may divide fans, but can you say confidently that you know someone who hates cheese? Even vegans like it enough to come up with plant-based alternatives.

Our foodie reporters are no exception, and so as part of our Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check, in which they conduct blind taste testing of affordable and expensive versions of food to see if they can tell which one is which, we’ve decided to test them to see if they can tell fancy cheese from convenience store cheese.

Our selection for this test is camembert, a French cheese that is often considered “the queen of cheeses”. It is a softer cheese with a white moldy rind that’s very popular and relatively easy to find in Japan. You can buy it at supermarkets and convenience stores as well as at fancy specialty stores.

For this Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check, we selected a luxury cheese we found at a cheese specialty store called Fromagerie Hisada in the upscale department store Isetan. It cost 2,030 yen (US$13.50) and is advertised as a “milky, delicate, luxury cheese” that lacks some of the more pungent aromas of other cheeses.

As the cheap cheese, we purchased Yukijirushi Hokkaido 100 Camembert Cheese, which we found at a convenience store for 300 yen. In yen per gram, the price for the fancy cheese is about double the budget cheese. Will that price difference be evident in the flavor?

Let’s explain the rules of the Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check before we start. Without knowing which cheese is which and with their eyes covered for the duration of their test, participants must sample each kind of cheese, secretly labeled “A” and “B”, and guess which is the more expensive one. Whether it’s good or bad, and whether they like it or not, does not matter as long as the cheese they choose is the more expensive cheese.

Our reporters were fairly confident they could pick out the luxury camembert. But were they right? Let’s find out what each reporter choose.

P.K. Sanjun: “A”

P.K. : “Ah, I think I can tell after eating them both. The answer is A. A had a much greater depth and complexity to its flavor. In comparison, B is simple, or, to put it in negative terms, kind of dull. Also, B was much stickier than A, which makes me think B is more of an ‘off-the-shelf’ item. It has a kind of manufactured feel to it. Anyway, the one that tastes more expensive is A.”

▼ Go Hatori: “B”

Go: “Ah, A is good. Yeah, I think this one is the more expensive one. Oh, wait…What’s this? Hmm…B is pretty complex. You need some wine to go with it. The flavor of the mold feels kind of luxurious. On the one hand, A was pretty easy to read, but it it’s flavor just felt ordinary. B felt so masterful. Not the kind of cheese you’d give to kids.”

▼Seiji Nakazawa: “A”

Seiji: “A is really good! I think A must be the more expensive one. It has a really unique smell, like the smell of the sole of your foot. It’s very particular. I’ve never tasted anything like it. B has its own unique taste, but it felt like the same kind of taste I always get from camembert. Like kind of refreshing? Anyway, I’m going to base it off the unique taste and choose A. A seems like it’d be good with wine.”

▼ Ahiru Neko: “B”

Ahiru Neko: “I eat a fair amount of camembert cheese. But…hmmm? A feels like it’s kind of cheap? Okay, okay, okay. I got it. It’s gotta be B. A tastes like standard cheese, but B tastes like a really proper cheese. A would not be served at a restaurant, but a really good one would serve B. This should be easy for everyone to figure out.”

▼Masanuki Sunakoma: “A”

Masanuki: “I don’t eat that much cheese, but since we’re deciding which is more expensive…No, I have no idea. I’m not too sure, but A tasted better. A has an obvious flavor, or a familiar flavor. B felt like it was a bit mild in flavor, like it’s made from natural ingredients. And the texture was a bit peculiar. However, A was more delicious, so I’m going with A.”

▼ Yuichiro Wasai: “B”

Yuichiro: “I don’t really eat cheese, and I guess it’s been a while since I’ve joined a Rating Check. But I feel like A feels a bit cheaper…Wait, are they the same? Oh, I think I got it. A is clearly heavier on the salt, which makes me want to drink with it. It feels crude, but in a good way. On the other hand, B tastes more natural. It feels like it’s delicious because it’s made with simple ingredients. I’m pretty confident about this one.”

▼ Mr. Sato: “A”

Mr. Sato: “What could be different between two camembert cheeses? A is really good. Ah, this is hard. But I like A better. A has a kind of dessert flavor to it. To be honest, the impression A left on me was so strong I can’t judge B fairly. If I were to be willing to spend more money, I guess it would be on A. If I had to say it, I’d say B might feel cheaper.”

▼ Takashi Harada: “A”

Takashi:  “A is very sticky. B is like something completely different. But I think A is the more expensive one. It has a slightly unnatural flavor, but it was a full-on cheese. I felt like B lacked impact, and I think A is the more proper cheese because of its creamy interior.”

▼ Yoshio: “B”

Yoshio: “I feel like I can remember A. It’s like…in my memories? B is the more expensive one. B kind of tastes like blue cheese. I’m not sure I’ve ever bought blue cheese at a convenience store. A is definitely richer. I think it would pair better with wine. But I think they went to more trouble making B. A is kind of straight, and B had more richness to its rind.”

This blind testing had our reporters more starkly divided than usual. Five were on Team A, and four were on Team B. Both teams had a lot of people who where confident on their answers, but who was right?

So which one was the Isetan Fromagerie Hisada cheese?

The answer is…


A had a much more complex and deep flavor, and though B felt like a more natural cheese, there was something missing from it. The creaminess somehow felt like it was manufactured.

Here are our reporters’ accuracy rankings:

▼ P.K. Sanjun (correct): 32 wins, 8 losses (80 percent accuracy): “A’s flavor is deeper.”

▼ Seiji Nakazawa (correct): 27 wins, 7 losses (79.4 percent accuracy): “A has a distinct aroma.”

▼ Ahiru Neko (incorrect): 23 wins and 12 losses (65.7 percent accuracy): “Everyone should be able to tell.”

▼ Masanuki Sunakoma (correct): 24 wins, 15 losses (61.5 percent accuracy): “I’m going with A since it tastes better.”

▼ Go Hatori (incorrect): 22 wins, 14 losses (61.1 percent accuracy): “B isn’t a cheese for kids.”

▼ Yuichiro Wasai (incorrect): 18 wins and 12 losses (60 percent accuracy): “B is a natural cheese.”

▼ Mr. Sato (correct): 20 wins, 14 losses (58.8 percent accuracy): “A feels like a dessert.”

▼ Takashi Harada (correct): 18 wins, 18 losses (50 percent accuracy): “A is a full-on cheese!”

▼ Yoshio (incorrect): 16 wins, 17 losses (48.4 percent accuracy): “B smells like blue cheese.”

So five of our reporters were able to pick out the fancy cheese as the fierce battle to have the most discerning palate at SoraNews24 continues. What will they taste next in the Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check?

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