The coming of spring in Tokyo is an exciting season for many. The weather begins to gradually warm and then, what for months was just a grey backdrop, suddenly is filled with color as the city’s many cherry blossoms start to bloom. Tourists and locals alike gather to view the flowering cherry blossom (or sakura), picnicking at parks with family members, friends and co-workers.
But as quickly as the city is filled with the soft pink and white hues of sakura, their petals soon and, rather dramatically, begin to fall. Cherry blossom season is relatively short, lasting about one to two weeks. However, this is the ephemeral beauty of the sakura and part of its enduring charm, which also extends to other aspects of springtime here in Japan as well.
Pretty in Pink
For you see, sakura-themed food and drinks are popular during this period of time, but just as with the actual bloom itself, these products are only available for a limited time.
Starbucks Japan in particular has gained a reputation for its annual cherry blossom collection, which includes merchandise ranging from tumblers and mugs to even blankets for hanami. Of course, they offer cherry blossom-themed food and drinks too. Mister Donut has donuts taking inspiration from sakura mochi, a traditional Japanese sweet, and even the country’s many konbini have cherry blossom-themed products.
However, a small, Tokyo-based brewpub called Schmatz has become well-known (largely through Instagram) for its unique “Spring Hanami Specials.” In past years, these included a sakura cotton candy pizza and even a sakura schnitzel with pink butter inside.
I decided to give Schmatz a try and see what they had to offer for the 2019 cherry blossom season.
Bite Into a Pink Pepper Pretzel
To commemorate the opening of their Nakameguro location, and staying true to their German heritage, this year Schmatz is offering two sakura-themed soft pretzels: pink pepper and pink berry.
The pink pepper pretzel (they’re both listed on the menu using the German “bretzel”) is made using organic wheat flour and beet paste, giving it a deep pink, almost magenta color. It’s then sprinkled with rock salt and crushed black pepper.
This was my first pretzel I had since arriving in Japan two years back and, honestly, it was great biting into one again. Chicago, much like Tokyo, has a yearly German Christmas-themed market, where you can find heaps of quality, freshly-baked pretzels and this had all the hallmarks of such: a crisp, lightly baked outer layer and soft interior. The salt and pepper, likewise, has a decent amount of flavor that pairs nicely with a beer.
Still, I had some reservations about giving the pink berry pretzel a try. For some reason, I thought it was going to be overly sweet. However, it actually was surprisingly balanced. The frosting, a strawberry and chocolate framboise, was pretty subtle with a slight fruity taste. This paired well along with small bits of freeze-dried strawberry and salt sprinkled on top. Overall, it remined me of something like salted caramel. The The blend of salty and sweet doubles the taste sensation. Plus, it’s really unique, screams springtime.
Oh, did I forget to mention, they have a sakura-themed pink glitter beer on tap! If beer isn’t your thing, don’t worry, there’s a pink glitter sour available too. Both of these drinks can be purchased for take-away from a convenient outdoor stand at the Nakameguro location; so, you can take your Instagenic treats with you while strolling along the Meguro River.
Either way, if you prefer something a little more traditional, or want to try something new, make sure you visit Schmatz before the cherry blossoms are gone. They have multiple locations across Tokyo, but these limited edition, sakura-themed food and drinks are only available until April 7.
Learn more at schmatz.jp