On a journey to taste the entire spectrum of Japan's gummy candies, we've selected a variety of 25 to be tasted, and over the next few weeks we will be testing batches of five at random. Welcome to part one of the series (introduction is over here!). Today, we'll be getting our fingers sticky with our first gummy sampling. Tracking down two locals to participate in the rating process, these lucky candy lovers will score each gummy for sweetness, sourness, chewiness, and softness. The tasters then compile their impressions to give an overall score between one to five. Let's begin with todays gummies: Puré Grape, Sours Strawberry Yogurt, Kaju Orange, Calpis (original flavor), and Shigekix Muscat Grape. Here we go!
1. Puré Grape
Grape is perhaps the least disagreeable of fruit flavors. It goes down easy and delightfully. From the outside, nothing about this gummy presents a challenge. On first bite, however, we discover a hidden ingredient: sour sugar-coating!
Not overwhelming, the coating gives the eater an extra moment to contemplate the chewing experience, and as someone once said, "the sweet is never as sweet without the sour." Let's see if our taste testers agreed.
With a four star overall rating, this may just be one of the higher contenders of the day.
2. Sours Strawberry Yogurt
Beautiful hue for this squarely-shaped, robust little candy. The extra yogurt component is curious, and it doesn't enter the flavor coctail until several chews in. For the naive casual eater, this yogurt taste may be offputting (I quite enjoyed it, though!). Indeed, one of our taste testers truly detested these gummies.
Curiously, this gummy ranks very low in sourness, despite it's namesake. And unfortunately for this candy manufacturer, the average score is a mere 1.5 stars. For shame...
3. Kaju Orange
This is the gummy of elementary school brown lunch bags, what in the west we refer to as "fruit snacks." With that characteristic softness and easily digestible flavor cocktail, even the pickiest eater will find themselves gobbling up every piece.
Very popular with our taste testers, the Kaju Orange gummy comes out with an average of 4.5 stars, which just goes to show you that nostalgic kids treats fare well with the adult crowd too.
4. Calpis (original flavor)
Calpis is a yogurt-flavored, slightly acidic popular drink first introduced to the public in 1919. Though non-carbonated, it commands a similar fanbase as Coca Cola or 7-Up, and is used to mix alcoholic drinks in street-corner pubs throughout Japan. Everybody loves Calpis, but it's unfortunate name, which sounds uncannily similar to "cow piss" when phonetically translated, more or less ensures a limited market appeal abroad.
Anyways, the yogurt/lactose flavor concoction makes Calpis a perfect candidate for its own gummy. And of all the gummies tested today, this Calpis gummy is truly a refined creation. In particular, it's the texture – incredibly soft on the inside while maintaining an outside dexterity akin to a grape peel – that intrigues us.
One picky taste tester doesn't share my enthusiasm, giving only three stars to this exquisite wonder of a candy. How unfortunate!
5. Shigekix Muscat Grape Gummy
If there's one thing that wins us over about Shigekix, it's the cult-like mentality behind the candy. Each flavor is accompanied by a deliberate, stone-faced character, challenging the eater to even try it.
It purports to be overwhelmingly sour, and indeed it is sour, but can't compete with some of the more extreme candies on the market in the west (take a taste of Warheads if you need convincing). Despite all the goofy branding (courtesy of manufacturer UHA Mikakuto), the flavor fails to live up to the hype. Sour, hard and small means these are difficult-to-chew and not enjoyable to swallow, all without any particular flavor to speak of. Too bad...
Now that we're in a sugar coma, we'll have to take a quick break before we begin tasting our next batch of gummies. Before we depart, a quick recap of our rankings. In this session, Kaju Orange came out as the clear winner, followed by Puré Grape. Shigekix and Sour Strawberry Yogurt trailed at the back of the pack, while the Calpis gummy sits smack dab in the middle. You may want to take notes, as this review will provide a handy guide for your candy cravings next time you're wandering the sweet aisle in Japan! Stay tuned for the next episode, where we try five more gummies.
All photos by Bakemono Ltd.