After multiple homestay exchanges in Japan, I became a big fan of KitKats. Did you know there have been over 200 flavors released in Japan since 2000? By comparison, the basic varieties in America are boring — milk, dark and white chocolate and if you’re lucky, cookies ‘n cream. Even in Hawaii, flavors at stores like Marukai and Don Quijote — matcha (green tea), raspberry, strawberry, and baked pudding — are just a trickle.
On my recent trip to Japan, I spent nearly $90 on KitKat flavors I hadn’t had before. I would have bought more, but I ran out of luggage space. Some were crazy and some were crazy good. Here’s the best of the best:
Japanese Sake KitKats
This is one of the latest and greatest flavors released in Japan that’s getting all sorts of buzz in the States. A side panel on this stand-out box explains the different occasions for specific sakes. This one was released to celebrate springtime cherry blossom “hanami,” or flower viewing. The KitKats are made with real sake and have an 0.8 percent ABV, and there’s a warning about not feeding it to children.
Opening the wrapper, the smell of sweet sake wafts out like you just popped a bottle of the real thing. The white chocolate-based KitKat ends up tasting much like a nigori, the unfiltered and cloudy sake, and really made me want to drink a glass. I ended up buying multiple boxes of this one.
Citrus Golden Blend KitKats
Known in Japanese as the Kankitsu Ogon Blend, this is a mix of orange, lemon and sudachi, a kind of Japanese lime. The KitKats themselves smell, taste and are colored like a Creamsicle. Did I mention that I love Creamsicles? The coating tastes like orange cream, with just a little zestiness sandwiched between the wafers.
The KitKat Chocolatory
Nestle realized just how much the Japanese love KitKats and opened the first Chocolatory in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district in 2014. Since then other locations have sprung up, like the one in the basement level of Tokyo Station’s Daimaru where I bought the next few KitKats. The flavors they sell at a KitKat Chocolatory are new and experimental, and some are only available at Chocolatory locations.
Chocolatory Moleson KitKats
Sold for 500 yen (about $4.50) each, this KitKat is just one 4.5-inch “finger” (the official name for a KitKat stick) packaged in its own slide box, and it’s the first KitKat with a topping. Why on earth does it cost so much? The almond and cranberry topping is placed by hand to ensure a beautiful appearance and the base is actually another Chocolatory product: the Chocolatory Sublime, a 66 percent cacao dark chocolate that’s also only sold in single-finger servings.
Chocolatory I ‘Heart’ Tea KitKats
Other than matcha, I’d never seen another tea-flavored KitKat until I visited the Chocolatory, where I found an “I <3 Tea" set of five tea flavors. The two fingers of each even look like they're infused with specks of tea leaves. My favorite is the Oolong Tea; the aroma is strong and the roasted yet sweet tea flavor is perfect.
Chocolatory Special KitKats
The “Special” flavors change, but I ended up with Green Tea & Kinako, Pistachio & Raspberry, Strawberry Maple and Butter. Seriously. Butter. I needed to buy an assorted box so that I could try them all! If you’re curious about the taste, we sampled them in this video just for you: