Two new drinks capture the taste of a famous Japanese hanami tradition. 

In Japan, there are a number of signs that signal the coming of spring, such as the blossoming of the plum trees at the end of January and Risshun on 4 February, the traditional start of spring according to the old calendar. These days, though, we’ve become accustomed to a more modern indication that spring is on the horizon — when Starbucks unveils its annual limited-edition sakura collection.

That day came today, when Starbucks gave us a first look at what they’ll have in store for us this cherry blossom-viewing season, with one hot and one cold beverage both inspired by hanami dango sweets.

Hanami“, which combines the word for “flowers” (“hana”) and “look” (“miru”), means “cherry blossomviewing“, while “dango” is a traditional sweet consisting of three sweet and sticky mochi rice balls skewered on a stick, as seen in the image below.

Image: Pakutaso

Hanami Dango are a colourful variation of these skewered sweets, with three colours that are said to represent the sakura, making them perfect treats to eat while viewing the cherry blossoms. At the top of the stick is a pink-coloured mochi, which represents the buds of the cherry blossoms, in the middle is a white mochi, to represent the flowers in full bloom, and at the bottom is a green mochi, symbolising the leaves that remain once the flowers have fallen.

Against this backdrop, this year’s Starbucks sakura drinks promise to be some of the chain’s best-ever releases, as they’re said to capture the look and flavour of hanami dango within them.

▼ The new drinks, with the hanami dango sweet that inspired them on the left.

The Hanami Dango Frappuccino (pictured on the left in the photo above) contains pink, white and green mochi pieces throughout the drink to recreate the look and chewy texture of the sweet, while the main body is filled with a sweet white bean paste sauce, a cherry blossom and strawberry sauce, and soy milk that pairs well with the bean paste to create “a gentle Japanese sakura flavour“. On top of the beverage is a mound of whipped cream, pink sakura fiantine inspired by the image of falling cherry blossoms, and a scattering of hanami dango to “create a visual that will heighten the sense of cherry blossom viewing”.

▼ The new drinks are like a “Cheers to Sakura”.

Those wanting a warming drink this sakura season can opt for the Hanami Sakura Cream, which combines steamed milk with a sweet white bean paste sauce and caramel flavoured syrup to represent the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Like the Hanami Dango Frappuccino, this drink is topped with crispy Sakura Fiantine as a tasty take on flower-viewing.

To help amp up excitement around the new drinks, Starbucks is expanding on the “Cheers to Sakura” concept with a series of augmented reality experiences for customers.

▼ By using a QR code and their camera, customers can photograph their drinks with sakura in full bloom…

▼ …enjoy a pop-up Bearista…

▼…and cheers their drink with their very own customised Bearista.

So if you’re lucky enough to be in Japan this spring, don’t forget to put Starbucks on your list of must-visit cherry blossom-viewing spots. Both drinks will be only be on the menu for a limited time while stocks last, from 15 February to 12 March, with the Hanami Dango Frappuccino available in a tall size only, priced at 678 yen (US$4.57) for takeout or 690 yen for eat-in, while the Hanami Sakura Cream will be sold in Short through to Venti sizes, from 540-680 yen.

Source, images: Press release
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