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Cereal Eats: Japanese Coffee Milk Cereal

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

The Japanese certainly know how to have fun with their candy and snacks, a certain wild, no-rules craziness involved. So I was thrilled when Christine gave me this Japanese cereal to try.

She got the cereal in the coffee section at Mitsuwa, a Japanese mega grocery store in Edgewater, New Jersey. Apparently the gimmick here is that the cereal turns the milk a coffee flavor. Christine informed me that the brand is "MugiMugi", the title is "Cereal Time" and the small subtitle says, "Milk coffee flavor."

The words over the big title say something like "delicious in wheat" (which Christine speculated might be an attempt at saying it's delicious because of the wheat?) the red oval says something about the dietary fiber in the wheat. The blue part says, "if you add milk it becomes an even more delicious breakfast snack." Sounded like a plan to me.

Christine also told me that cold cereal isn't all that popular in Japan, with breakfast being more along the lines of miso soup, fish, rice, etc. Though if it were popular, I could imagine the spectrum of fascinating ideas to mirror that of their Kit Kat flavors.

A note on coffee milk: I'll admit it. I love sweet milky coffee. I like "good" coffee too but, the former holds a close place in my heart. I know that puts me in trouble with true coffee aficionados, but it's the truth, and I'm sick of hiding it!

You know those repulsive coffee creamers?yeah I actually like some of those too. Leave me unattended at a gas station coffee area and I'll basically end up making a milkshake. Häagen-Dazs Java Chip (formerly Coffee Mocha Chip) Ice Cream is, to me, the perfect bite of food (don't tell the cereal).

While I was deprived of nearly all delicious snack foods in my childhood (in the Palermo cabinet: unsalted almonds, rice cakes, dried apples, the rare pretzel rod) my mom actually did let me have some coffee exposure early on, by giving me coffee milk (milk, with a tiny bit of coffee). Sometimes, she would even pour a little bit of coffee into my cereal. Sorry if that repulses anyone but don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

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Before experimenting with milk, I tried out a (ginormous) dry handful. It's a puffed rice cereal, airy and lightly sweet, with the "coffee" coating giving it unique flavor. Somewhere in the Honey Smacks family, but far superior.

I was anticipating an instantly beautiful coffee color to appear after adding the milk, like a chocolate milk mix effect. I got impatient and took a bite, then didn't stop until the first bowl was gone. This cereal is crispy, light, toasty, sweet and delicious. It adds the slightest bit of richness to the milk and the smallest hint of coffee (but I was really looking hard for it.)

I poured a second bowl, this time forcing myself to let it steep, which unfortunately made the cereal go soggy, though it still remained delicious. After some stirring and coaxing, the milk turned the color of coffee ice cream, though coffee flavor didn't really increase. I was momentarily disappointed but seconds later when I was working my way through my third bowl, I realized I didn't really care about the coffee milk.

This cereal is delicious, addictive, and I need to get my hands on another bag ASAP.

Coffee is yet another one of those flavors that has almost no representation in the cereal world. Hey big cereal brands, you out there? How about some sort of coffee cereal?

About the author: Aside from doing an awesome job with her role as Advertising Sales Manager, Leandra Palermo secretly harbors a lifelong passion with all things crunchy and served with icy cold skim milk. This column represents the culmination of that love affair.

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