Cherry blossom adds spring spirit
Cherry blossom in the spring is a gentle gift from nature, the fragile pink flowers swinging in a light breeze are a sign of revival after dull winter.
Cherry blossom, or sakura, is a famous attraction in Japan in the spring season. The blush-tinted blooms attract numerous visitors every year. The flowers are also adored by people across China, and there are many spots to enjoy them in Shanghai.
From Oreos to potato chips, desserts, beverages and snacks, various brands are launching seasonal specialties to celebrate cherry blossom season.
Unlike the more common edible flowers such as rose and sophora that present very distinct fragrances and tastes, cherry blossom actually has minimal flavor. The sweetness is barely there when you eat fresh petals and their super light texture makes the flowers almost undetectable when added in desserts, beverages or snacks — you’d have to picture the blossoms in your head.
The enthusiasm for incorporating cherry blossom in food is mostly inspired by its amazing pink hue and spirit of spring. Taste-wise, seasonal recipes often need to lean on other flavors to make cherry blossom products more palatable.
Popular “flavor companions” to cherry blossom include strawberry, cherry, peach and grapefruit, which share a similar color scheme with the flowers yet present more flavors, as well as matcha — its vibrant green color and slight bitterness would work perfectly with the cherry blossom theme.
Let’s start with Oreo’s new spring edition cherry blossom and matcha cookie, featuring a spring-inspired packaging design that touches the heart.
The flavor of the cookies is mild, thanks to the matcha filling which is less sweet than the traditional cream. The cherry-blossom-colored pink cookie doesn’t have a distinct flavor but subtle sweetness and maybe a hint of a red bean-like smell.
Oreo’s spring collection also has a peach- and oolong-flavored cookie that tastes fruitier with the fragrance of tea.
Like the classic Oreos, there are many ways to incorporate the cherry blossom cookies in various desserts, such as adding crumbled cookies into a simple homemade ice cream in a bag — combine half-and-half, sugar and vanilla extract in a small resealable bag and put it in a larger bag filled with ice and rock salt, squeeze the bag until the icecream is thickened in about 10 to 15 minutes, open the small bag and add in the Oreo crumbles for a lift of the cherry blossom mood.
Glico’s two cookie sticks, Pejoy and Pocky, have also introduced cherry-blossom flavors. Pejoy are crispy cookie biscuit shells with cream fillings while Pocky is cookie biscuit stick with a rich coating.
The cherry-blossom flavor of both types of cookie stick are pleasant for the eyes and very sweet for the palate.
The Pocky cookies taste a little bit almondy besides the overwhelming sweetness. But the gentle pink color of the cookie sticks makes them a great decoration for cakes and parfait.
Meanwhile the Pejoy line has a cherry blossom and cherry flavor, and cherry blossom and matcha flavor, both are less sweet than the Pocky.
Rio, the alcoholic soft drink brand, has released a limited-edition cherry blossom and brandy flavor for the spring season. Containing 3 percent alcohol, the beverage has a pleasant light pink color, rich bubbles and floral scent. The taste is refreshing, not so sweet and no obvious taste of the brandy. Overall, this cocktail can pass as a casual drink that’s especially fitting for a spring-theme picnic.
The Lay’s cherry-blossom- and lychee-sparkling-water-flavor chips is an intriguing creation. The potato chip brand’s new line of sparkling-water chips has received mixed reviews — some enjoy the unique soda-like feeling and sweet flavors while others deem the snacks as overly sweet and slightly wet.
The cherry-blossom and lychee chips, in truth, are purely lychee flavored as cherry blossom has almost no taste. When eating a few chips at a time, there is indeed an interesting sensation of drinking a sweet and sour soda, but the saltiness of the chips is what makes the taste more bearable.
Starbucks has launched a big cherry blossom collection featuring new beverages, cakes and related merchandise. The seasonal specialty drinks are cherry blossom white chocolate matcha latte and cherry-blossom-flavored macchiato, and the spring season blend coffee beans have also taken on a pink look.
Sakura pink in the kitchen
For those who love to dabble in the kitchen, there are a few ways to incorporate cherry blossom in simple recipes to impress friends and family.
Sakura jelly had been trending for a few years because the recipe is relatively easy to follow and the dessert looks spectacular — a blossoming cherry flower floating inside a clear (or light pink) jelly that wobbles delicately.
In Japan, this classic dessert is called sakura mizu shingen mochi, a transparent raindrop cake with a cherry flower inside. It’s a low-calorie dessert made with just agar powder and water plus a salt pickled sakura flower — perfect for spring. There are many easy tutorials and recipes online. Note that water mochi will melt after it sits at room temperature for around 30 minutes, so it’s best served fresh and chilled.
Pickled-sakura flowers were originally used to make tea: steep the cherry blossom in hot water for about a minute before transferring to a second cup with a spoon. The tea is ready in 1 to 2 minutes and you can see the flowers “bloom” in water. It’s a delightful drink that goes well with desserts because the mild saltiness of the tea can provide a good contrast of flavor.
Cherry-blossom panna cotta is an East-meets-West creation that tops a classic Italian panna cotta with cherry blossom jelly and one salt pickled cherry blossom flower.
You can also add salt-pickled cherry blossom on top of cookies as decoration, the flowers remain pink when baked and look beautiful.