Lavender Tea

Lavender Tea

Would it have been unreasonable to hope this tea was actually lavender in colour?

Probably… although I was a bit disappointed to discover there was very little by way of lavender in the smell and taste, either.

The flower fields of Hokkaido in summer are as gorgeous and famous as those in Holland, with lavender in particular a major crop. Farm Tomita at Naka Furano is one of the biggest producers, and over the years have managed to turn their flowers into a range of fascinating products ranging from bath salts to candy and flavoured sodas.

It’s a while since I visited the actual farm, but they have a handy outlet at Sapporo’s New Chitose airport, where I snapped up a few new things to try. As tea goes, this is perfectly refreshing, but nothing out of the ordinary – you have to focus hard to detect a glimmer of lavender flavour. But it makes for an interesting souvenir and (especially since Hokkaido was knee deep in snow at the time) brings back happy memories of summer.

Sweetcorn Tea

Another Hokkaido speciality, from the Tsuchikura company which is based in Sapporo, this corn tea looked like a suitably unusual item both to snap up as a souvenir and also mail easily to daughters who were not lucky enough to be out in the wilds of Japan.

A bit of background research revealed that corn tea is thought to have all manner of health-giving properties, from weight loss to blood sugar stabilisation. It is even said to be a powerful diuretic, so that no more than one cup a day is recommended… None of these things appeared to be mentioned on the back of the packet, however.

Having been appalled by the sweetcorn ice cream which is very popular up here, I was expecting the worst with this, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. The tea had a nice roasted smell and the sweetness of corn, whilst still retaining a distinctly ‘tea’ flavour. It reminded me very much of other (non green) Japanese teas like barley and roasted rice, which I enjoy once in a while.

I won’t be buying more any time soon, even if I do go back to Hokkaido, but this was fun to try.

Genghis Khan Caramels

‘Genghis Khan’ is the name given to a slightly spicy dish made with grilled lamb, which is a speciality of Hokkaido and thus fair game when it comes to picking interesting local flavours and turning them into something surprising as a souvenir – like this pack of caramel candies.

No-one is suggesting that Genghis Khan ever visited Hokkaido, in fact the name comes from the dome shaped grill pan this particular dish is cooked on, which looks a bit like the hats the Mongol warriors used to wear.

When it comes to Hokkaido souvenirs I am far more likely to select sweeter, cuter, items, such as carved wooden bears or melon chocolates, but this was so odd I felt I had to try it.

The smell of the unwrapped caramel nearly put me off, but it turned out that this was the ‘meatiest’ part of the experience. The natural flavour of the caramel, which is made with rich Hokkaido milk, overpowers anything else (and this also applies to the other flavours I have sampled, including lavender and melon), although there is a faint aftertaste of barbeque.

If you are the sort of person who loves the crispy, caramelised burnt bits on the edges of your char-grilled meat, this will probably appeal, otherwise you should stick to the more mainstream flavours. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but now I have satisfied my curiosity I doubt I will be eating any more.