Japanese Snack Food Review: Grass Jelly Drink

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This is another one of those vacuum packed drink cans that will try to pull off your fingertips when you open it, so use caution if you choose to try this stuff. A notably strange thing happened when I was opening our test can – one of our cats came running up meowing in expectation of a handout. I suspect the sound of this opening is similar to the sound of a tin of tuna fish, or at least close enough to trigger the “must get treats” circuit in the kitty brain.

A standard trick with this particular cat is to offer him some of whatever you happen to be drinking. Invariably, he’d inch up close, nose twitching, until he’d recoil in disgust after getting a snootfull of scent off of whatever we had open. The reaction would vary only in degree, with spirituous drinks and ginger ale sending him fleeing while fruit juices and milk would rate a glance of withering contempt before he would stalk off.

That all changed with this stuff. After getting an initial whiff of it, he leaned in close to sniff it again. And again, with a growing look of bafflement and curiosity. I suspect that if I hadn’t taken the can away, he would have continued to investigate it. In a way, this cat was the first reviewer to experience the strange olfactory mystery known as Grass Jelly Drink.

It smells like leaves. Old autumn leaves that have been on the ground for a rain or two. Not exactly a pleasant smell, but not horrifying. Just something you don’t usually associate with a beverage. The art on the can shows it served in a glass with ice, so I poured myself some. The liquid is a syrupy dark brown, rather like an uncarbonated cola. In a glass, the dead leaf smell is much stronger.

As it turns out, I was wrong about the ice. In the bottom of the can was a collection of gellid cubes. This was the Grass Jelly. The liquid was just a delivery mechanism. The whole thing together was the liquid form of Green Jelly Cake.

The taste of the liquid is… Well… It’s very odd. It tastes like a very strong glass of not very good tea that’s been doped with a couple dozen spoonfuls of sugar in an effort to hide the taste. The texture is kind of slimy, probably due to the corn starch on the ingredient list.

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The only saving grace, as Her Boo-ness said is that, “It doesn’t taste as bad as it smells.”

Still, that’s not good. And it doesn’t improve over time. The aftertaste goes from cloying and stale to just plain stale in under five minutes. Drinking more to clear the mouth is tempting, but it’s a temptation that must be avoided. That just makes it worse later.

Overall, I’d have to say it’s a drink worth avoiding. If you want to take the risk, let this haiku be a warning:

Stench of rotting leaves

Taste is not as bad as smell

Half a point for that

Final Score

of 0.5 Wasabi Peas out of a possible 5.

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