Last month, I ordered the April 2021 Sakuraco box, a new monthly Japanese tea/traditional snack subscription service. Basically, you get a box of 20 authentic, locally-sourced Japanese snacks, teas, and home goods delivered to you every month for less than $50. Not a bad deal, especially considering that you can’t find any of these treats outside of Japan. Here I document the unboxing, give my first impressions, and taste test everything. Enjoy!
As a side note, this post is image-heavy!
So first and foremost, let me describe the box. When I received it in the mail, it was much more compact than I was expecting, but I could tell it was stuffed with treats. The exterior was completely smothered in bubble wrap, so the contents were fairly well protected. Carefully ripping off all the tape and bubble wrap revealed a beige-colored cardboard box covered in lovely blush pink and gold foiled sakura blossom designs, with the Sakuraco logo in the top left corner. Now that I’ve eaten/drank everything, I shall be using the empty box to store random odds and ends.
When I cracked it open, I was greeted by a pretty floral postcard from the founder (which I pinned to my bulletin board above my desk), as well as an informational booklet detailing the contents of the box. I appreciated knowing more about the delicacies I was about to consume; learning more about international cuisine is rewarding in and of itself.
Undearth those, I unearthed the snacks. A veritable treasure trove of them! I was impressed that everything arrived in almost-perfect state. Once I pulled everything out and laid them on the table, it was apparent that there was simply so much to savor! My brother and I sampled two to three snacks a day, and it took almost two weeks to complete everything (granted we weren’t eating them every day).
So let’s get onto reviewing every item in the box, in order of what we ate!
Soft Milk & Strawberry Baumkuchen
By Daiyo Foods (Aichi)
A must try cake for everyone with a sweet tooth, this fluffy treat combines the flavors of milk and Japan-grown strawberries to create an elegant cake experience.
This was the first thing we tried because it caught my eye with its cute shape and color. Baumkuchen originated in Germany, and it literally means “tree cake”. The circular layers of cake resemble the cross-sectional rings of a tree, hence the name. In 1919, the German confectioner Karl Joseph Wilhelm Juchheim introduced this pastry to Japan, where it quickly gained popularity (source). This particular cake is light, fluffy, and full of ichigo (strawberry) flavor. The strawberry flavor isn’t artificial either. I’m not sure how they Daiyo Foods did it, but it tastes exactly like the sweet yet tart fruit, and combined with a richness from the soft milk flavor, it’s absolutely delicious. I would’ve prefered it to be a bit more moist, but overall I’d say it’s a wonderful teatime treat.
Matcha Yokan Roll Cake
By Nisshindo Confectionery (Nagano)
With the combination of soft matcha castella cake surrounding sweet azuki red bean and cream filling, this bitesize cake makes an amazing light snack for any sweet tooth.
Up next, in keeping with the baked goods theme, we tried this roll cake. It was quite tiny, perhaps 2.5 inches in diameter and the pastel green shade was striking. The cake layer was fluffy and moist this time, in comparison to the baumkuchen from before. The azuki red bean paste – anko – flavor was fairly overwhelming though, so it was hard to discern the more delicate matcha. I happen to love anko, so that was fine by me. I do wish there was a bit more cream as I could hardly taste it.
Matcha Mochi Monaka
By Bessho Confectionery (Nagano)
Inside crispy monaka wafers, you’ll find an elegant matcha and azuki paste, providing a balance between bitter and sweet. The added mochi also contributes an amazing contrast of textures.
I actually tried this one with my dad. The wafer melted in my mouth; it didn’t have any particular flavor or fragrance, but provided a good contrast in texture to the matcha azuki paste inside of it. Azuki paste is quite dense and sweet (though not as sweet as most American desserts). As mentioned before, I happen to love it, but I was apprehensive of my dad’s opinion of it since he has never tried it before. Thankfully, he liked it as well!
By Aziroan (Ishikawa)
Elegantly sweet and refreshingly bitter, matcha kintsuba is a must-try Japanese sweet. Maker Aziroan lovingly created this red bean jelly treat, which is coated in a matcha batter.
My first thought when I unpacked this was “it looks like a green brownie”. The similarities ended there, however; this dessert was completely different. It was literally a block of azuki bean paste, and tasted… well like a block of azuki bean paste haha. It was heavy and sugary, yet – due to the addition of jelly – not cloying. I also liked the whole red beans inside because they created another dimension of texture. The matcha coating on the exterior added a light green tea flavor, but not overpoweringly so.
By Tengudou (Hokkaido)
Made under the supervision of renowned green tea specialists Ujien – this fluffy and chewy matcha mochi gets sweeter the more you chew it. Please enjoy it slowly for the full experience.
When I first unwrapped this, I didn’t realize the outer layer was actually rice paper. So my brother and I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to separate the mochi from the incredibly thin, fragile paper layer haha. Eventually I thought, “this is harder than I thought, maybe I should try eating the paper”. Long story short, it was indeed edible and all our efforts were wasted. So I’ve never eaten plain mochi before; the closest I’ve gotten was mochi ice cream. This was really tasty, and it tasted distinctly like matcha. The texture was indeed chewy and it was fun to eat!
Sakura Sugar Candy
By Tsuyamaya Confectionery (Shimane)
A spring limited edition treat. Made by combining soft mousse, meringue and agar jelly. Finally it is combined with sakura agar jelly to create a fluffy and delicate spring sugar candy.
These candies were amongst our favorite items from the box. Normally I don’t care for candies unless they are chocolates, but these were an exception. I expected a gummy, hard-to-chew consistency with an overly saccharine artificial taste. However, these were light and fluffy – probably owing to the meringue and mousse – and infused with a mildly sweet floral sakura flavor. Also, aren’t they just so pretty to look at? Like tiny pink crystal cubes!
By Kashiwado (Niigata)
While not being overly sweet, these matcha scented crackers are a delicious crispy snack. Perfect for sharing with friends over tea or enjoying as a light midday snack.
These were very addicting. Their texture was light and crisp, and I appreciated how cleanly pieces snapped off when I bit into them – no crumbs whatsoever. Also the swirling vine designs adorning the surface added an air of elegance. As something to note, these sweet crackers do have an eggy aftertaste that’s not dissimilar to the taste of a crêpe. I couldn’t distinguish a matcha taste to them due to that. I would have liked a bit more matcha flavor, perhaps accented with some vanilla as well.
By Eguchi Confectionery (Fukuoka)
Produced in the Chikugo region of Fukuoka, Yamecha is a tea known for it’s refreshing taste. Made using sugar and syrup, the Yamecha filling inside these crispy monaka wafers is a beautiful balance between bitter and sweet.
Unfortunately, this little confection got a bit squashed during transit. Luckily, the cute money pouch design on the top was still unperturbed so I was glad for that! The exterior wafer layer tasted similar to that of the matcha mochi monaka we tried previously. Inside, it was filled with a thick and sweet filling with an aromatic green tea scent. I thought the texture of it was similar to anko, but wasn’t sure of the ingredients since the description mentions “sugar and syrup”. Still, it was delicious and satisfying.
By Tsuruya Confectionery (Osaka)
Made with Shizuoka grown Matcha tea leaves, known for being a tea lover’s haven, this smooth and silky pudding balances earthy matcha and creamy flavors for an unforgettable Japanese dessert experience.
Normally when I think of pudding, I think of the Jell-O pudding cups from my childhood – very creamy, milky, and sweet. This pudding wasn’t like that. It was actually quite gelatinous and slimy, and tasted very clearly of matcha. The aftertaste was smooth and silky, but the initial impression was bizarre. It didn’t have much sweetness to it either. My brother didn’t like this one and it wasn’t one of my favorites either. This could be due to the fact that we have a very different notion of pudding here in the United States, so we’re simply not accustomed to the Japanese version.
By Kanemata Confectionery (Nagano)
Refreshingly sour with sweet elements, enjoying this Japanese plum jelly treat is a great way to wash away the fatigue of winter and welcome spring with open arms.
The exterior of these yokan was again exactly like the wafer layers of other sweets we tried prior. The filling was unexpectedly delicious. The pale peach-colored jelly had a slight fruity sourness which cut through the very natural sweetness, and it was quite aromatic. I would say it smelled more floral than like plums. Additionally, the little wafer bits on top added a nice crunch which contrasted well with the soft jelly underneath. In my brother’s words, “it really does taste like spring!”
By Yamada Confectionery (Aichi)
With seasonal & sweet Sakura Karito – the clue is in the name. The slightly salty flavor of the sakura mixed in with the sweetness of the cracker aims to recreate the flavor of sakura mochi (but with a lot of crunch).
These crispy tidbits were hands-down our unanimous favorite of the box. Ironically, they were the only deep-fried items. They tasted quite familiar actually, like pieces of crispy doughnut – sugar-coated, buttery, and dangerously easy to devour in one sitting. I didn’t get much of a salty sakura taste from them, but it’s probably due to the fact that I was wolfing them down at breakneck speed haha.
Matcha Azuki Waffle
By Confectionery Studio Sheri Coco (Ibaraki)
Enjoy the rich, sweet and traditional flavor combination of azuki red bean and matcha in this delightfully fluffy waffle. Try warming the waffle in a toaster to elevate this indulgent treat.
As per the description, I heated these tiny (adorable) waffles in the toaster oven, and I’m very glad to have done so. The outside was nice and crispy, and the inside was soft and fluffy. I really liked them! Like the karinto, the taste is quite familiar as well. Very much like waffles that I grew up with, but with a matcha taste and studded with azuki red beans. I love waffles, matcha, and azuki, so this was right up my alley.
Golden Plum Tea
By Sekimoto Foods (Wakayama)
Enjoy a little luxury this spring. This sweet and sour plum tea features beautiful gold leaf. Enjoy watching the sparkling gold float, contrasting against the light pink tea, before taking a sip.
The golden plum tea was opulently packaged in gold, and inside was a pastel pink powder and various little specks of pink, green, orange, yellow, white, and black. I know the black bits are dried pickled plum, but I’m not sure what the rest are; if anyone knows, let me know down in the comments below! Anyway, once I added hot water to the tea, it immediately turned into a salmon pink shade, the little bits floated to the top (save the plum), and I could glimpse the gold flecks in all their shimmery glory. The smell was glorious too – like sakura blooms, fresh and uplifting. The taste was completely unlike anything I was expecting! Japanese sour plum – or umeboshi – is quite salty, as I learned immediately upon taking a sip of this tea. In fact, the tea was less like a tea, and more like a savory broth, in my opinion. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about this tea, but I’m sure that it is an acquired taste.
By Japan Mag (Osaka)
Enjoy the refreshing feeling of spring all year round with this traditional Japanese yunomi cup. The gentle pink and orange coloring of the sakura motif make it a great partner for the Golden Plum tea.
The last item in the April 2021 Sakuraco box was this sakura yunomi cup. A yunomi is a Japanese teacup typically made of ceramic, and having no handle. I’ve always seen them in anime and wanted one of my own. Now I finally have one! I used it for my golden plum tea above, but since have washed it and carefully stowed it away in my dresser drawer. I’d like to preserve it forever haha.
And that brings this lengthy post to an end! Overall I am very impressed with the Sakuraco subscription service. Everything I received was beautifully packaged and very obviously handled with care. All the treats were curated to compliment each other, and I appreciate that. With the whole COVID-19 situation, it’s difficult – impossible, even – to travel and experience the cultures/foods of other countries. Thanks to services like this, though, it’s possible to partake in some aspects of it. So a huge thank you to Sakuraco for making that happen!
You can get your own box here.