My joke is that there are vending machines like every 20 metres in Japan. Realistically though, given how often they’re clustered together, it would probably average out to less than every 10 metres. There are a lot of them. They are techonologically advanced, and rarely vandalized, and even when you’re walking down an access road next to a river and there’s no one else around, there will be a vending machine next to a lamp post and nothing else around, it will have an assortment of cold coffees and cold teas to quench your thirst in the insanely hot Tokyo summer sun.
Hence, Kirin Afternoon Tea Milk Tea Special!
It’s sweetened English tea, with milk! Chilled! And sweetened! And available all over Japan! Again, this might be stretching the technical definition of a “snack” somewhat, but I tend to err on the side of “if it comes out of a vending machine and it’s got sugar in it, it counts.” So, let’s see what it’s all about!
Packaging: Oh, delightful. A custom bottle design with that great Kirin refractory design featured on many of their bottles and cans. The plastic wrap with the logo has a metallic sheen and an upscale, classy logo. It’s got a classic milk jug! And mountains! And a portrait of The Duchess of Bedford! And the phrase “The English custom of taking afternoon tea was invented by the Duchess of Bedford” is written right on the bottle! No, you’re not likely to get a higher class of tea than this from a vending machine.
Scent: It smells great, actually. Really deeply and richly of tea, with a great many notes of sweetness. If I had to guess it’s a fairly normal English Breakfast Tea, or Orange Pekoe tea. It’s strangely refreshing though, which is sort of strange for a milk-based beverage.
Taste: I was there when a British friend of mine tried this for the first time. He was… unhappy.
This will be possibly the sweetest glass of tea with milk (“milk tea”) that a real tea drinker will ever drink. It is… sweet. Like, three teaspoons of sugar sweet, and milk too. The second ingredient on the label after “milk” is “sugar”… And It’s Delicious! Seriously, I know that a lightly sweetened tea with a little milk (not to mention served hot, rather than iced from a vending machine). But it’s a great beverage, and it really is refreshing!
It’s a full-bodied tea, really rich and tasty. I know it sounds a little strange, but the sweetness adds to the flavour of the tea rather than being too sugary on its own. It has a great texture too, lovely and smooth and milky, and whether its cold or even comes up to room temperature it’s really nice. I’d recommend it.
Unless you’re a tea snob, in which case, you will hate it. I guarantee it.
Verdict: I’ll be honest with you, Kirin’s Milk Tea (The Afternoon Tea Milk Tea, more accurately) is a favourite, go-to drink in Japan and its wide availability in North American import stores and Asian grocery stores makes it easily found. It’s refreshing, tastes great, and even gives you a bit of a caffeine hit first thing in the morning. It’s not quite the same thing as a cuppa first thing in the morning, but for Japanese on the go, regardless of where they go, it’s around and it tastes great.