Japan has a pretty well deserved reputation for novel and unusual seasonal beverages, more or less entirely due to Pepsi’s string of annual really weird flavors several years back.* While Pepsi has largely calmed down with their more exotic flavors — they don’t even sell Pepsi Twist anymore — it’s hardly unfair to suggest that the unique seasonal drink market has collapsed. If anything, it’s stronger than ever.
*Like Pepsi Ice Cucumber or Pepsi Azuki or Pepsi Dry (the non-sweet cola!) or Pepsi Shiso, the last couple of which I actually genuinely miss more than you will ever be able to understand. At least there’s now cola-flavored Wilkinson seltzer, which essentially fills that “non-sweet cola” hole in my life.
The interesting thing to note is that the market seems to be heavily trend-based, and the road from Point A to Point B is rarely truly straightforward. While 2015 and, to an extent, 2016 were decidedly The Year of the Mojito (with lime-and-mint-flavored just about everything), 2017 has been a bit of a wild ride.
The first half of the year was seemingly The Year Japan Discovered Cilantro (or coriander, or pakchi). Cilantro-flavored products popped up left and right — cilantro-flavored popcorn, cilantro-flavored potato chips, cilantro-flavored chocolates.
More recently, though, as we’ve moved into summer, another trend entirely has shown up. It began, innocently enough, with mint lemonade, itself perhaps a remnant of The Year of the Mojito. Not half bad, to be honest — if I were a lemonade-making man, I’d absolutely consider adding mint next time.
However, things took a turn shortly after I came across this. Spiced lemonade, flavored with peppermint, spearmint, ginger, black pepper, and lemon balm. This was also very good, to be honest. A bit reminiscent of the way that freshly ground black pepper works extremely well in hot cocoa.
Then, of course, there is this, which you have no doubt been expecting for several paragraphs:
Cilantro lemonade. At convenience stores, it even had a little tag around the neck that read, essentially, “They go surprisingly well together!”