Ahh, Japanese summer. The season where I frantically try to keep bugs out of my apartment and spend the majority of my time sweating like a pig. In fact, I really love summer even if I do rack up quite the aircon-induced electricity bill, and one of the reasons why is because of all the limited edition goodness that comes out when the weather heats up. For today’s Otaku Lounge I’ll be reviewing two such limited edition drinks, both released by Coca Cola Japan – Fanta Grapefruit and Fanta Ume.
First up to the plate, Fanta Grapefruit. In fact, this flavour is not completely new, having previously been released as a limited edition drink in Japan in 1993 and then again in 2002. Evidently it must have garnered enough popularity for it to be released a third time in 2013, although I failed to be especially impressed.
I don’t mind grapefruit as a general rule, and will occasionally drink a grapefruit flavoured juice if I need a pick-me-up but aren’t in the mood for anything overly sweet. Unfortunately, this is where Fanta Grapefruit ultimately falls short for me. While the taste is far from terrible, it’s actually far more sugary than I’d like. Sip one was admittedly nicely refreshing, and the next few mouthfuls were palatable enough, but after that it went downhill, and polishing off the rest of the bottle became something of a chore. Whether you like grapefruits themselves or not, there’s not enough of the real citrus sourness to counteract the syrupy sweetness – it’s there somewhere, but once the initial pleasant aftertaste has worn off, it’s very faint. While I’d recommend Fanta Grapefruit to those who prefer the ultra-ambrosial, saccharine-soaked style of fizzy drinks, it’s just too cloying and cheap tasting for me to want to buy more in a hurry. I give it two and a half stars out of five.
Next on the table is Fanta Ume. This limited edition flavour was released in the spring so I’m a bit late to the game, but as of this writing the product is still on the shelves of every Japanese supermarket and konbini I’ve been to.
For those not as familiar with Japan, ume is the Japanese word for plum – more specifically the variety commonly known as the Chinese plum or Japanese apricot. I approached Fanta Ume with a healthy degree of respect because, unlike most of my coworkers, I’m not at all a fan of umeboshi, the pickled and dried plums which are so often a staple of the traditional bento lunch box. They’re normally flavoured with salt on top of that, and so are extremely sour and not meant to be eaten on their own (usually small bits of it are peeled off and mixed with rice). I needn’t have worried however, since Fanta Ume carries only a hint of the bitterness of umeboshi, and is actually more reminiscent of the sweet umeshu liqueur that I’ve become rather fond of since coming to Japan. Unlike Fanta Grapefruit though, I didn’t get so much of the sickly-sweet backlash after the first few mouthfuls and quite happily downed the whole thing. While I still would have preferred a little more of a kick to it, Fanta Ume is surprisingly refreshing – easy enough to drink but with just enough tart tanginess to balance out the sugar. Four out of five stars for me.
Question of the post: Have you tried either Fanta Grapefruit or Fanta Ume, and if so, what did you think? If you haven’t tried them, would you do so if you easily could? (Personally I think they’re both better than grape, which I wasn’t even able to finish – although at least the commercial is funny.) And regardless of what country you live in, what’s your favourite Fanta flavour?