I might have mentioned that, until I got to Narita Airport and found the wonderous stores within, I found Kit Kat purchasing a little disappointing on my Oct/Nov 2010 trip… only a couple of flavours could be found while out and about. One of those flavours, and in abundance too, was Cheese Kit Kat. Yes, Kit Kats flavoured like Cheese. What kind of cheese? Flavoured how exactly? Are they still sweet? Are they… gross…? These were the burning questions I was faced with as I saw them on the combini shelf.
This was also the first flavour that made me hesitate a little. I really like Cheese, but I’ve also had some bad cheese experiences in the past. The last thing I wanted to do was have… a bad reaction… on the streets of Tokyo. It wasn’t nearly late enough in the evening for puking in the streets.
Packaging: I don’t mean to say this to take away from the experience, but the best thing about Cheese Kit Kats is the packaging, and just how elaborate (and varied!) it is. Cheese Kit Kat comes in two different sizes of box, 6 pieces or 10 pieces, which seems like a ridiculously negligible difference to me, but then ridiculously negligible differences just add to the ‘airs’ of this particular snack food. You see, the entire theme of Cheese Kit Kats is elegance, and every part of the packaging represents that. The packaging features images of being wrapped in ribbon, for example, and both the boxes each feature a sort of treasure-chest-keyhole printed over where the box opens, alongside an image of an ornate golden key. The larger 10-item box also features gold foil embossed lettering, a matte finish-box with spot-varnish over the ribbons and the Kit Kat logo, and plenty of information about the cheese inside. Even the Kit Kat bars themselves are served as individually wrapped “fingers” of the bar, rather than the 2-attached-fingers that make up the serving of most Japanese Kit Kats (let alone the 4-fingers of North American Kit Kats). Exclusive, petit, individually wrapped, this is high quality Kit Kat… for about 400 yen for 10.
I feel it’s important to note here, that nowhere on the box is the exact type of cheese nailed down. The closest Kit Kat gets on that front is an elaborate ribbon/seal on the red box that proudly exclaims “European Cheese”, which I guess from a marketing standpoint might be all you need, but as a cheese aficionado it’s a little suspect.
Did I mention that the box opens like a little treasure chest? It does.
Now in addition to the packaging being ornate and over the top, it’s actually incredibly functional too. The blue boxes were designed so that they could be displayed vertically or horizontally (see the image at the top of this section), something that I found absolutely delightful from a packaging point of view. I also saw them stacked both ways in my travels, so I guess shop keepers were happy to have options for their densely packed shelves.
Enough about packaging though, you just want to know what the thing tastes like, don’t you?
Scent: Imagine I give you a Cheese Kit Kat, and your curious and slightly horrified. So you open the package and, like all humans, take a quick sniff of a new food before ingesting it, and then respond “Wow, that smells like cheese.” Because that’s what everyone who I give Cheese Kit Kats to does when they open the package. I don’t know what we’re all expecting, but I can assure you: Cheese Kit Kat smells like cheese, when you open the package it really hits you.
Getting more specific, it does smell like a pungent, though-probably-mild semi-soft cheese. A bit stinky, like the best cheeses. Getting closer and inhaling deeper, a sweet scent appears, the white-chocolate base that make up the majority of Kit Kat’s more outre flavours.
It’s not unpleasant, but it is a bit unsettling.
Taste: It’s… it tastes like a Cheese Kit Kat. The first time you try it it’s odd and unsettling. The cheese taste is a little milder than you’re expecting, but the scent of it is still incredibly strong. You’re getting a sort of “cheez” flavour from the bar, and a pungent smell, and then the number one flavour is that white chocolate Kit Kat sweetness. It’s an awful lot to take all at once, as these flavours and smells duke it out in your mouth.
And then, after you finish, you kind of want another one to see what it’s all about. To dig a little deeper into the whole strange mess.
Verdict: Ultimately, by your 2nd or 3rd finger, you kind of reconcile yourself to eating a sweet white chocolate cheese-scented and strangely flavoured candy bar, and even sort of enjoy it. I’ve personally had dozens of them since originally coming across them in Ueno, and now they’re kind of a ‘normal’ (though rarely-encountered elsewhere) flavour. I blame my upbringing and its artificial and processed cheeses, but Cheese Kit Kat is ultimately a nice little snack, mixing sweet and savoury in a very different way than we normally think to do.
(As an aside, I will say the texture is really weird to me, particularly when the bars get a little warm. You have this thing in your hand that looks and smells like white cheese, and it’s kind of melting on your fingers as you hold it, but in a way that cheese doesn’t normally “melt”. It’s disconcerting.)
If you find one of these in the wild, definitely give it a go. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, despite the fact that it delivers just what it says it will on the label…!