Starbucks matcha marches into the Via lineup with new, Japan-exclusive green tea drink mix

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

The powdered drink series isn’t just for coffee anymore.

While most people immediately think “coffee” when they hear “Starbucks,” the immensely popular chain of cafes also does a brisk business in teas at its Japanese locations. In 2001, the chain introduced the Matcha Cream Frappuccino, which predated the current matcha sweets boom by several years and paved the way for this year’s Chocolate Brownie Matcha, plus the matcha tea latte, which was added to the menu in 2006.

Now, Starbucks is bringing out the first Japan-exclusive item in its Via line of instant beverage mixes: Tea Essence Matcha.

▼ Tea Essence Matcha, hanging out with its coffee-based Via half-siblings

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The matcha Via contains the same domestically produced matcha tea powder as Starbucks uses for its barista-prepared beverages while offering the convenience and portability of Via’s powdered drink bases. Starbucks recommends mixing the contents of a pack with milk for a rich, relaxing cup of matcha latte.

Matcha Via goes on sale June 17 at Starbucks Japan branches and through the company’s online store, priced at 650 yen (US$5.90) for a pack of five.

Japanese sweet sake found to have beauty benefits

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RocketNews 24:

It seems like every time you look, there’s some sort of new fad diet or superfood, all purported to be the best thing you can do for your health or to improve your natural beauty. But the good news is, this one’s actually fun to partake in.

Researchers at a university in Japan have now put sweet Japanese sake to the test, and have found it to have a number of positive beauty benefits, including improvement to under-eye health!

Japanese confectionery company Morinaga recently collaborated with Tokyo Engineering University to study the effects that amazake, or sweet sake, has on the drinker’s health.

Amazake, if you don’t know, is a traditional Japanese drink made from fermented rice, and is often sold at festivals, particularly around the new year period. Despite its name, “sweet sake” is actually a very low- (less than 1%) to non-alcoholic beverage, made using the lees leftover from sake production, and a type of mold – called kōji – used in fermenting miso paste and soy sauce. It may not sound very appetizing, but the amazake develops a natural sweetness as it incubates, and is really refreshing served chilled in the summer or hot in the winter.

▼Outdoor stall selling amazake (甘酒)

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Results from the study have led researchers to believe that the sake lees and kōji mold in amazake are beneficial to personal health and beauty. The study involved 17 participants, all females between the ages of 40 and 60. One group drank a prescribed amount of amazake every morning and evening for one month. The other group was given a placebo- an amazake-like drink, but without the lees and mold found in the traditional stuff.

After the trial month was over both groups were compared. The amazake group were surprisingly reported to have improved, brighter under-eyes than the placebo group. Members of the amazake group were also found to have a slight increase in the temperature of the surface of their skin, which researchers theorize helps promote the excretion of waste from the body, hence giving the test subjects brighter, healthier-looking under-eyes with reduced shadows and eye-bags.

In addition, members of the amazake group also reported having “glossier hair”, and feeling more refreshed when waking up in the morning, while the placebo group did not.

Sound too good to be true? Of course it’s difficult to believe there is a miracle beauty secret out there, and considering the size and short time-span of the study, the results should possibly be taken with a grain of salt, but if you wanted to test it out yourself at home, it would definitely be a tasty experiment. Kanpai!

Starbucks Japan to release frozen drink maker for homemade cool refreshments

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RocketNews 24:

Who’s ready for the hot and humid summer? Japan is approaching the second half of spring, and Starbucks has your back. Later this month they’ll be releasing the “Starbucks Frozen Drink Maker” – a reusable mug that doubles as a super simple frozen coffee mixer. It’s easy, it’s cold and it’s delicious. Let’s take a look!

Starbucks Coffee Japan, will be releasing their “Starbucks Frozen Drink Maker” on May 13 in outlets across the country, so you’ll have plenty of time to practice before the blistering summer really hits full force.

Not that you’ll need a lot of practice though, as the cup makes it incredibly easy to make frozen coffee, which is good, because you might be making it before you’ve had your morning joe, obviously.

The cup is an original design by Starbucks’ kitchenware division and is quite a design indeed. It consists of an inner core and an outer shell. Your frozen drink takes a bit of foresight though, as you have to stick the inner core in the freezer overnight (or at least for a significant length of time) before you can use it.

After the core has been successfully chilled, however, all you have to do is pop it into the glass outer sleeve, pour in a packet of Starbucks VIA flavored instant coffee and 180 millilitres (6 US fluid ounces) of milk, then wait two minutes. Once there is a frozen crust, break it with the special spoon and gently stir it up for seven more minutes. The seven minutes of stirring may tire you out a bit, but it will be well worth it for the delightfully refreshing frozen coffee drink you will create.

▼ It will be so easy to make any flavor you want by using the instant coffee sticks.

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The only problem we foresee with this system is that if you want to make more than one drink a day, you’ll either have to wait a long time between drinks, in order to allow the inner core to freeze again, or you’ll just need to have multiple cores chilling in the freezer at any given time. Good thing it comes in the three different “refreshing summer colors” of yellow, white, and light blue. You might as well get one of each. At 3,000 yen (US$25) a pop, however, perhaps it would be best just to stick to one frozen drink a day.

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A daily dose of frozen coffee may not make you immune to the stickiness of summer, but it will at least give you an occasional refreshing respite and now you don’t even have to leave the comfortable air-conditioning of your home to get it. Thank you, Starbucks; summer suddenly seems a little less daunting.

Japan’s desire to preserve youth continues with collagen and protein fortified “anti-aging beer”

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Audrey Magazine:

The desire to preserve one’s youth or to achieve one’s ideal of physical perfection is now in full swing more than ever. Although plastic surgery is more common in Asia, I can see our fair share in my own backyard. With the recent viral Kylie Jenner lip challenge, it makes me think how much more obsessed society is becoming to look like the celebrities they admire (even though many of them are anything but admirable).

Recently, we showed you Japan and Korea’s beauty trends to achieve a younger look. However, makeup and beauty products are simply not enough. It seems that Japan is quite adamant about maintaining a youthful appearance because now, you can find anti-aging properties in their beer.

Japanese brewery, Suntory, produced a new beer called “Precious.” It contains collagen, a protein that is believed to contain anti-aging properties. This protein is what gives skin elasticity and it decreases as we get older; this is why we get wrinkles and our skin isn’t as… perky (yikes). Japanese women believe that using and ingesting collagen products will make their wrinkles magically disappear. Quite a smart move there, Suntory brewery.

There has yet to be studies that prove this beer’s anti-aging claims are true, but it’s certainly a smart marketing gimmick to attract women. I’m not sure if I buy into Suntory’s claims, but since it’s beer, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.

Courtesy of fooddiggity.com.

Japanese sake brewers revive interest by using Western fermentation processes to create “Champagne Sake”

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RocketNews 24:

As imports of Western drinks increase, interest in Japan’s native alcoholic beverages has been declining. There have been efforts to bring drinkers back to traditional drinks such as sake and shochu, but they face tough competition from the likes of wine and champagne, which evoke fashionable, sophisticated images in the minds of Japanese drinkers.

One way to revive interest could be to apply Western fermentation techniques to Eastern beverages such as sake, Japan’s “rice wine”, to create unique twists on traditional drinks.Champagne sake” is an example of this done deliciously right.

Traditional or “real” champagne is sparkling wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France which, after the usual fermentation process, are fermented a second time in the bottle to produce the carbonation. In other words, it’s this special process of secondary fermentation that gives a glass of bubbly its bubbles. People all over the world, including Japan, like to crack open a bottle to celebrate special occasions. At other times, many Japanese people are partial to sake, or nihonshu as it’s known in its native land, a popular alcohol with a long history made from fermented rice.

But what do you get when you apply the fermentation process used to make champagne to sake? Well, you get an effect similar to champagne, but with that special rice wine flavor!

Because of the in-bottle fermentation process, as with champagne, you get the fizz of fine bubbles jumping out at you when you open the cap. It’s different to “sparkling sake“, which has recently seen a boom in popularity, which is simply sake with added carbonation and is more like an alco-pop with around 5% alcohol content. When using the champagne secondary fermentation process, the resultant drink has a fruity flavor and is around 12% proof. It’s very easy to get carried away drinking too much of it but, since it’s made from only rice and natural water, if you’re going to drink alcohol then this is probably a reasonably healthy choice! Apparently it goes well not only with Japanese food, but with Chinese and Western cuisine, too.

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Shusen Kurano is the oldest sake brewer in Nagano and the seventh oldest in all of Japan, and they are extremely proud of their “champagne sake”, called Kawanakajima-Fuwarin, which is different to all the traditional sake they produce. Founded in 1540, Shusen Kurano has over 470 years of history and it’s even said that the famous daimyo Takeda Shingen drank their sake at the Battles of Kawanakajima. While champagne sake may not have been around at the time, if it had been he surely would have enjoyed cracking open a bottle after a win on the battlefield.

Kawanakajima-Fuwarin retails on the brewery’s website at 450 yen (US$3.70) for 180 ml, 750 yen ($6.20) for 300ml, and 1,250 yen ($10.30) for 500ml. If you do pick any up, be sure to let us know what you think.

Asian remedies that will cure your hangover

 

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Audrey Magazine (by Jianne Lasaten):

Sure, Asian glow is one thing to worry about, but what about those nights when things go a bit too far and you end up taking one (or five) more shots than intended? Hopefully you got home safe and sound (that’s what’s most important, after all).

But when you wake up the next day, you have to face an immediate problem. When the world is still spinning and you feel too nauseous to move, you know you’ve been hit with the dreaded hangover. For my friends and I, a comforting bowl of pho usually does the trick. But what helps everyone else?

Buzzfeed shared their list of interesting traditional hangover remedies from around the world. Below, we bring you the hangover cures, Asian style! We have to warn you though, you may have to be a brave one to try a few of these…

Philippines: Balut and Rice

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Ah, yes. The signature “weird” delicacy of the Philippines is also a well-known hangover cure. According to the Travel Channel, balut, which is a developing duck embryo, contains cysteine– a substance that breaks down alcoholic toxins in the liver.

 

China: Congee

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This rice porridge contains ginger, garlic and scallions. All three ingredients combined should help ease those headaches.

 

Japan: Umeboshi

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Umeboshi is a pickled sour plum that is well-known for its health benefits. It contains natural bacteria, enzymes, organic acids and alkaline. These help eliminate excessive acidity in the body.

 

Mongolia: Picked Sheep Eye in Tomato Juice

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Commonly known as the “Mongolian Mary,” this beverage is not for the faint of heart. Tomato juice contains simple sugars to boost your glucose levels back up as well as re-hydrate you after a night of drinking. The significance of the sheep eye? Well, that’s still a mystery.

 

South Korea: Haejangguk

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South Korea definitely came prepared because Haejangguk literally translates into “soup to cure a hangover.” Although the recipe differs in every region, this spicy beef broth usually contains pork, spinach, cabbage, onions and congealed ox blood.

 

Indonesia: Kaya Toast

Courtesy of latimes.com

This traditional Indonesian breakfast will satisfy all of your sweet and salty hangover cravings (ladies, this would probably be just as helpful for that time of month). Warm toasted bread slices are served with salted butter and Kaya Jam, a sweet mixture of coconut milk, sugar, eggs, and pandan.

 

Bangladesh: Coconut Water

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We can’t argue with this one. Coconut water is known to have a significant amount of potassium and will keep you hydrated.

 

Thailand: Pad Kee Mao

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Nicknamed “drunken noodles,” this spicy dish is said to be a favorite among Thai men after a night of drinking. It usually consists of wide rice noodles, ground beef (or other meat), basil and other spices, onions and bell peppers.

Starbucks to release Almond Milk Latte and Frappuccino in Japan for a limited time

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RocketNews 24: 

For years, fans of Starbucks have been petitioning the coffee chain for a non-dairy alternative to soy. While the company recently responded by adding coconut milk options to their U.S. menus, lovers of almond milk were left out in the cold due to concerns over nut allergens.

Now, for a limited time, Starbucks Japan will be taking the bold step out into nut allergen territory with the release of the Almond Milk Frappuccino with Honey Crunch and the Almond Milk Latte with Honey Crunch. If you’re in Japan from 18 March to 14 April, you’ll be one of the lucky few to introduce your tastebuds to a sweet treat others can only dream of!

The Frappuccino features a good blend of honey and almond milk, topped with honey-flavored whipped cream and sweet honey syrup. Providing the crunch are tiny nuggets of candy-coated almonds. While the tall size will retail for 520 yen (US$4.30), short sizes can also be provided on request. Although for such a rare menu item, we’ll be eyeing up the Venti at 600 yen ($4.96).

The latte promises to showcase the deliciously nutty flavor of the milk by pairing it with a mellow espresso and a light hit of honey. If you love the aroma of almond milk, this will be the drink for you. Prices start at 420 yen ($3.47) for the short size.

These limited-edition drinks will be available from most outlets around Japan and may sell out during daily business hours, depending on demand. Be sure to get in early so you don’t miss out!