Chocolate, strawberry and cherry blossom are taking a break in favor of more citrusy, tropical, summer tastes. Lemon is always in, with an increased wealth of options to choose from in summer. There’s also the refreshing chocomint flavor that has become a summer mainstay in Japan. In addition to these classics, there are also limited-edition summer flavors popping up.
Convenience stores’ shelves are a surefire way to get your hands on whatever flavors are trending this season, as well as the big food and beverage franchises. Afternoon tea spreads are also seasonal and small cafés and cake shops often keep up too. Here are some summer food trends in Japan that we recommend.
Aside from the melon aroma and shape of the iconic melon pan, the beloved melon fruit is a summer luxury item in Japan. The prices of special breeds of melons are newsworthy information every summer. This year, a pair of Yubari melons were already auctioned off for ¥3 million in Sapporo. But the price and types of melons are many and so are the flavor options.
This summer, Starbucks is leading the charge with its The Melon of Melon Frappuccino, launched on June 1 and available until July 12. This is part of a green theme for summer and it’s a pun on the Japanese phrase “Yori, dori, midori” meaning “being spoilt for choice.” Along with the melon frappuccino, Starbucks also offers matcha and kiwi sweets.
The popular sweets chain Ginza Cozy Corner offers melon fruit sandwiches, melon parfaits and melon cakes this summer. Shiseido Parlor Ginza has a melon parfait, along with a strawberry one and a cherry one.
At the higher end, Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo Otemachi already started a melon-themed afternoon tea. Hotel New Otani Tokyo is showcasing melon as part of its summer afternoon tea, along with matcha and chocolate, served at the Garden Lounge. Both are available until June 30. If you miss out on those two, Cafe & Dining ZelkovA has its very own melon-licious afternoon tea campaign running until early September.
Even face masks are going down the melon flavor route. The manufacturer Tomigen is selling face masks with melon, mint and peach fragrances.
Speaking of peach, who doesn’t love iced peach tea in summer? Japanese convenience stores have it at the ready, along with Lawson’s peach ice cream and peach mochi from Seven Eleven.
This summer, McDonald’s McCafé by Barista’s summer specials are a peach frappé and a peach smoothie. The Japanese coffee chain Café de Crié goes even bolder with a seasonal peach Lassi yogurt. It also has a peach tart in its seasonal sweets offer. Peach is also one of the seasonal drinks at Cinnabon.
In the afternoon tea realm, peach is queen over at dessert café Bon Bonheur, on the fourth floor of Ginza Mitsukoshi. Hotel Chinzanso is also celebrating all things peach with its afternoon tea spread using red, white and yellow peaches. It’s all rounded off with the Peach Bellini cocktail.
Mango & More
Mango and other tropical fruit flavors are trending too this summer. In Japan, the freshest mango comes from Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu. If you’re after luxury fruit, Miyazaki is your keyword. For mango-flavored treats though, the options are numerous.
Ministop, the only convenience store chain that serves fresh soft cream, has mango soft cream as its seasonal flavor this summer. Lawson has mango mochi daifuku and one of the frozen fruit smoothies that Seven Eleven started offering in May 2022 is mango.
Tapioca tea is also getting a mango twist, with both popular tapioca tea chains Gong Cha and Chun Shui Tang serving mango tapioca tea this summer.
That’s on the go, but if you want a proper sit-down and decadent sweets, there are a number of hotels that have tropical afternoon tea this summer. Grand Hyatt Tokyo in Roppongi combines mango and peach in its Alice in Wonderland afternoon tea (from July 1 to September 16). Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel & Towers does the same (from July 7 to August 26).
Mandarin Oriental Tokyo goes all tropical for its afternoon tea, so in addition to mango, you can taste passion fruit, coconut and dragon fruit sweets. Hilton Narita also went full tropical and South-East Asian in theme, offering a buffet of sweets and savories from various countries.
Tomato IS a Fruit
An eternal debate for some, pure science fact for others, the status of the tomato is not always clear. We’re mostly used to seeing it in salads and on pizzas, but food trends in Japan are starting to push it in the sweet direction.
We’ve already seen sweet dried tomatoes and tomato candy in souvenir shops across Japan. This summer, tomato is boldly entering the summer drinks and afternoon tea category.
The oldest Japanese coffee franchise, UCC Ueshima Coffee serves sweet tomato milk coffee as its summer special, alongside the less risky orange milk coffee drink.
Hotel Gajoen Tokyo wrapped up its mango-themed afternoon tea on May 31 and made tomato the superstar of its next afternoon tea spread (from June 1 to June 30).
All Things Okinawa
Japan’s southernmost prefecture is intrinsically tied to summer memories. This is the prefecture that, aside from beautiful beaches, has fields of pineapples and sugar cane too. So, in summer, if you cannot go to Okinawa, Okinawa comes to you.
Convenience stores bust out the spam onigiri that Okinawa is known for. Lawson held a special Okinawa Fair in its stores during May and many products might still be available. Goya stir-fries also pop up more often on menus. Juices and lemonades have a shikuwasa (native Okinawan citrus fruit) version in summer too. Keep an eye out for Okinawan delicacies in the coming weeks.