Aji WOW is my series of unusual Japanese food/drink reviews. 'Aji' (味) means 'flavour', and the name's also a pun on 'ajiwau' (味わう) - 'to enjoy the taste of'.
This time: Starbucks sakura raspberry milk.
Cherry blossoms aren't forecast for another 8 weeks. Does that stop brands from jumping on the sakura bandwagon as soon as New Year ends? Of course not.
I didn't go out looking for this raspberry milk. I was looking for a non-alcoholic pick-me-up after lunch. Next to white and brown coffee cartons on the convenience store shelf, the pink design wasn't exactly hard to spot.
And I wasn't expecting to see it there. I drank this on the 14th - the rest of the 'sakura' range wasn't due to launch until the day after. Maybe this came out just for Valentine's Day? Who knows. It is VERY pink.
It's not so easy to see in the photos, but those silver bits are shiny.
Y'know I said I wanted a post-lunch boost? There's no caffeine in this. Or any real raspberry - the label carelessly reveals the lack of fruit juice. This drink is barely even milk, with the total raw milk content 'less than 50%'.
What this DOES contain is 'milk pudding'. Lumps of the stuff, like jelly. If you didn't notice the writing tucked behind the straw, you might assume it'd curdled.
Starbucks helpfully suggests you should give the carton a shake before drinking. But definitely don't put it in the microwave.
250-odd words into this post, time for an admission.
I don't know what sakura's meant to taste like. Every 'sakura' thing I've sampled had another flavour mixed in. I tried a sakura matcha latte years ago and it was vile. But I blame that on the matcha.
The raspberry seems a little off, so that must be it. It's hard to put my finger on exactly how it tastes different, but there's something more than fruit in the mix. And I don't mean that in a bad way. Raspberry was a good choice. It complements... whatever that sakura flavour is.
And then we get to the 'milk' bit. Without the milk pudding, I'm not sure this would taste milky enough. Then again, I wonder if bits of real raspberry would've been a nice addition. I'm curious how this would've turned out as primarily a fruit drink instead of a milk drink.
It isn't overly sweet, but I couldn't drink this more than once a month. And I expect in a month's time it'll have vanished from the shelves anyway.
Verdict: 5/10. Starbucks carries on milking the sakura season for all it's worth.