It’s not just the temperature that makes these two drinks very different. 

When sakura season starts in Japan, it doesn’t take long for the petals to burst into full bloom in quick succession, transforming the landscape into a dazzling display of beauty. That’s exactly what’s happening at Starbucks in Japan right now, because after the season kicked off with its matcha and sakura jelly chilled cup, the cherry blossom items have been coming thick and fast and now we have more than 20 options to choose from, covering everything from sweets to drinkware.

The highlight of the season is always the limited-edition Frappuccino, and this year’s aims to capture the taste and beauty of a traditional Hanami Dango sweet. However, the icy beverage is always accompanied by a hot version that tends to get lost in its shadow, so we were curious to know — how does this warm beverage stand up to its more famous companion?

▼ In order to find out, we purchased both of them, starting with the Hanami Dango Frappuccino, which is priced at 678 yen (US$4.57) for takeout or 690 yen for eat-in.

Lifting the lid on this drink revealed its stunning topping, consisting of sakura-flavoured fiantine — fiantine is a crepe dough that’s been rolled out very thinly and then baked and crushed into pieces — and tiny hanami dango pieces.

Hanami Dango (“Flower-Viewing Rice Cake”) is a traditional Japanese skewered sweet consisting of three rice cakes — one coloured pink to represent the sakura buds, one coloured white to represent the flowers in full bloom and one coloured green to represent the flowers that remain on the tree once the flowers have fallen.

▼ Hanami Dango is the perfect sweet to eat while viewing the sakura cherry blossoms.

Image: Muscle Plus

The long and storied history of hanami dango as a cherry blossom treat has now entered a new chapter with this latest evolution into a Frappuccino, and it’s a mighty delicious one, with white bean paste, sakura and strawberry sauce and a soy milk base creating a delicious, aromatic flavour.

▼ Every sip delivers the gentle flavour of sakura, with the hanami dango pieces adding bursts of chewy texture.

With the Frappuccino tasting so good, we could understand why the hot version is so often overlooked, and though it had some tough competition, we were ready to show it some love.

▼ This year’s hot limited-edition beverage is the Hanami Sakura Cream, available in Short through to Venti sizes, priced from 540-680 yen.

For starters, the cup it was served in was significantly more beautiful than the plain clear one that came with the Frappuccino, so that was a win for the Sakura Cream right off the starting block.

Lifting the lid on this drink revealed another beautiful topping, and the sakura fiantine seemed to pop even brighter than it did on the Frappuccino, with the cream resembling a snowy mountain range, providing the perfect backdrop for the pink flakes.

While this drink doesn’t contain dango pieces, it does contain white bean syrup, which gives it a similar flavour to the Frappuccino, but the addition of sweet caramel imparts a bittersweet note to the mix, creating a beautiful depth of flavour that pairs well with the steamed milk.

The gorgeous sweet yet floral aroma was irresistible, enveloping us in a warm embrace that made us fall in love with it. Both the similarities and differences between the two drinks actually made us think they worked beautifully in unison, with the Frappuccino perfect for sunny days under the blossoms and the warming Sakura Cream ideal for yozakura, or “night sakura” events.

So next time you purchase a Frappuccino in Japan, be sure to show some love to its warm companion too, as it has a lot of love to give. A sakura drink this good deserves to step out from the shadow of the Frappuccino, and we’ll definitely be giving it some more love before it disappears from the menu on 12 March.

Photos ©SoraNews24 
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