This time last year, Nestle Japan released a premium collection called ‘I LOVE TEA’, featuring five tea-based flavours. I just had to have these and C kindly brought back a box during her visit.
The flavours (top to bottom, least to most oxidised) are gyokuro, hojicha, genmaicha, uroncha and koucha.
The series was created in collaboration with Takagi Yasumasa, a patissier and owner of Le Patissier Takagi artisan sweets retail stores and feature a more refined flavour profile than the standard tea flavoured KitKats released by Nestle Japan.
Gyokuro is a type of shaded green tea, considered one of the highest grades of Japanese tea, and prized for its brothy umami-rich flavour and mellow, sweet and full bodied taste. Here, gyokuro tea leaves are blended with a white chocolate enrobing wafers that sandwich a firm white chocolate centre.
The high-quality green tea used in this KitKat is evident in the gyokuro leaves speckled in the enrobing chocolate. Each bite is filled with the rich yet mellow vegetal flavour and brothy notes on gyokuro from the start, with the white chocolate melting to a smooth consistency in the body while leaving the gyokuro leaves on the palate. The gyokuro leaves add a pleasant gritty texture that releases a bright and sweet yet slightly astringent green tea flavour in the finish and lingering long on the palate.
The Itokyuemon Uji Maccha KitKat also uses gyokuro but the overall flavour created is one of a quality matcha latte rather than of the original tea itself. Here, though, there is doubt that this is a gyokuro KitKat as the sweet and creamy quality created by the white chocolate is scaled back dramatically in the enrobing chocolate, taking a back seat to the tea leaf with the white chocolate centre bringing just enough sweetness to balance.
Hojicha is Japanese green tea that’s been roasted, with a toasty, slightly caramel-like flavour replacing the vegetal notes that dominate other green teas. Here, hojicha leaves are blended with a white chocolate enrobing wafers that sandwich a white chocolate centre.
The white chocolate enrobing the KitKat dominates the head and the start of the body of this KitKat, with the flavours of hojicha coming through only towards the end as the white chocolate recedes to leave the gritty hojicha leaves on the palate. The hojicha notes that come through in the finish are deliciously toasty with a moreish caramel-like flavour, and linger pleasantly in the aftertaste. Despite the white chocolate dominating the body, this KitKat again avoids tasting like a hojicha latte as there is a distinct absence of the sweet and creamy flavours that define the Itokyuemon Hoji Cha KitKat.
Genmaicha, or brown rice green tea, is Japanese green tea blended with roasted brown rice. While originally a tea for the poor (the rice served as a filler to reduce the price of the tea), it’s now enjoyed by all segments of society for its warm, full and nutty flavour. Here, genmaicha has been blended with a white chocolate enrobing wafers that sandwich a white chocolate centre.
The immensely enjoyable round and nutty flavour of genmaicha comes through from the first bite through to the last, with the vegetal notes of green tea emerging towards the end of the body as you bite through the tea leaf left behind by the white chocolate. The green tea leaves add a slight astringency that sharpens the warmth of the genmaicha and is well balanced by the mellow sweetness now emerging from the white chocolate between the wafers. The nuttiness of genmaicha lingers on the palate.
Uroncha, or oolong tea, is a Chinese tea that’s undergone partial oxidisation (but not to the extent of black tea) and enjoyed for its flavour that ranges from sweet and fruity to woody and thick to green and fresh, depending on the amount of oxidisation. Here, crushed uroncha leaves are blended with a dark chocolate enrobing wafers that sandwich a white chocolate centre.
A very fragrant fruity oolong comes through from the first bite of this KitKat. These fragrant, fruity notes are well complemented by the slight astringency of the tea and the richness of the dark chocolate, creating a rich, full-bodied sweetness that lingers pleasantly in the aftertaste.
And finally koucha, or black tea, is tea that’s undergone oxidisation more than any of the previous teas and enjoyed for its strong, rich and full-bodied flavour. Here, high-quality koucha leaves are blended with a milk chocolate enrobing wafers that sandwich a white chocolate centre.
A rich and deep black tea flavour in the head develops with a pleasant fragrant sweetness in the body and a more pronounced astringency into the finish. Perhaps a natural result of the oxidisation process, the tea leaf in this KitKat was more coarse and ‘gritty’ than the previous flavours.
These are truly premium KitKats with luxe mouthfeels and sophisticated flavour profiles that celebrate each tea boldly. As a testament to how closely these KitKats adhere the flavours of the original teas, my prevailing preference for less oxidised green teas over more oxidised black teas continued to hold true.
This box of I LOVE TEA Kitkat Series by Nestle contained 10 single mini bars (2x gyokuro, 2x hojicha, 2x genmaicha, 2x oolong, 2x black tea). It was produced in Japan and gifted by friends visiting Japan in 2016.