All About Japan

Starbucks Unveils 2018 Sakura Drink Line

Food & Drink Cafés Cherry Blossoms

Every year, people in Japan look forward to cherry blossom season, a time of year when the days slowly get warmer and pink-hued limited-edition treats appear in stores. One of the most highly anticipated sakura releases to appear on the market every year is the Starbucks collection.

Starbucks revealed all the details for the new 2018 collection, including some interesting surprises that will have customers lining up at branches around the country from next week for a taste.

First up is the Sakura Strawberry Pink Mochi Frappuccino (¥580 [US$5.29]), which pairs cherry blossoms with strawberries for a refreshing springtime flavor. The highlight of this drink is its unusual glutinous texture, which comes from its star ingredient: Domyoji-ko, a dried powder made from steamed sticky rice. This sticky rice powder originates from Domyoji, a temple in Osaka where the rice was once said to cure illnesses and is used mostly in sakura-flavored Japanese confectionery today.

The cherry blossom-flavored sticky rice pieces can be found scattered throughout the entire drink, and on its sakura mochi sauce whipped topping, which, when combined with the crunchy strawberry chocolate chips, is said to create “a whole new Frappuccino sensation.“

Next up in the range is the Sakura Strawberry Pink Milk Latte, which combines the sweet-and-sour taste of cherry blossoms with fruity strawberry flavors. Hot milk is added to the sakura-strawberry sauce base, along with finely chopped pieces of sakura leaf and sake lees, an umami-filled non-alcoholic by-product from the Japanese rice wine-making process, which gives the drink more depth of flavor.

Rounding off the new lineup of beverages is the Sakura Strawberry Pink Tea (¥430-¥550), the first tea-based sakura offering in the history of the company. Using Starbucks’ Teavana brand chamomile tea as the base, this drink combines sakura-strawberry sauce with freeze-dried strawberry pieces, creating a sweet-and-sour hot beverage with a pulp-like texture.

Joining the sakura beverages is a range of beautiful drinkware, which will be released in two installments. The first range, called “Looking Back,“ which features retro-inspired, traditional cherry blossom designs, will be available from February 15.

Prices range from ¥620 (US$5.65) for the beverage cards, up to ¥4,500 (US$41.80) for the large stainless steel bottle (third from the left in the back row below).

The second range, called “Looking Forward,“ features more modern designs, with vivid colors that pop against plain backgrounds, creating images of “hope for an exciting future.” This collection will be available in stores from February 28. The items here range in price from ¥1,300 (US$12) for the sakura glass (front, middle) to ¥4,600 (US$42.73) for the stainless steel dot bottle (back left).

This year you’ll also be able to take the blossoms home with you on Starbucks’ Spring Season Blend coffee packs. Ranging in price from ¥849 for the six-pack drip variety (below right) to ¥1,430 (US$13.28) for the 250-gram pack (below left), these don’t come with any cherry blossom flavor, unfortunately, but the beautiful limited-edition springtime packaging makes them a perfect seasonal gift for friends and family.

As with all of Starbucks’ limited-edition releases, these won’t be around for long, so be sure to get in quick to get your hands on the sakura range before they disappear for another year.

Sakura season runs from February 15 to March 14, 2018, at Starbucks this year.

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