YOKU MOKU Cigare is a treat that most people in Japan will have enjoyed at one time or another. Inspired by Western confectionery, YOKU MOKU Cigare has developed a loyal following around the world but particularly in the Middle East, where it is not unknown for customers to purchase 100 boxes at a time or order an entire tray loaded with confectionery in a showcase. YOKU MOKU Cigare is a uniquely Japanese gift that has captured hearts across the globe.
The SHUN GATE team was lucky enough to receive a box of YOKU MOKU Cigare to try. In this article, we give you our impressions of this product, including taste, appearance and other important considerations.
YOKU MOKU Cigare is defined by its rich buttery taste. Many of us have been enjoying YOKU MOKU Cigare since childhood, and remember the wonderful buttery aroma with fondness. The way the crunchy wafer biscuit crumbles in the mouth is another of its delights. YOKU MOKU Cigare combines flavor, aroma and texture in one irresistible package that has entranced generations through the years.
In many countries of the Middle East, where alcohol is forbidden on religious grounds, sweet treats are very popular, typically to have with coffee at an evening gathering with friends or family. It turns out that YOKU MOKU Cigare from Japan has garnered an enviable reputation among those with a sweet tooth.
To find out the secrets behind the bewitching YOKU MOKU Cigare, the SHUN GATE team visits the YOKU MOKU production facility in Tokyo. Product Development manager Atsuhiro Miida informs us that the legendary treats are made from nothing more than butter, sugar, eggs, flour, almond powder and a dash of vanilla essence. These are plain and simple ingredients. But there is a secret: it’s the butter that makes all the difference.
“We use Hokkaido butter, which has a more intense flavor,” explains Miida. “Being a dairy product, butter can change subtly from season to season and from year to year. That means that we have to constantly adjust the timing of the mixing process as well as the consistency and temperature of the ingredients.”
Only the most experienced operators are allowed to prepare the batter. Maintaining the butter at the perfect level of softness and monitoring the state of the batter is an exacting science that requires years of skill as well as patience and dedication, not to mention making the famous roll shape, a process that has been finessed over many years at YOKU MOKU.
Miida tells us that there are three parts to the baking process: low, medium and high heat. They have to achieve three objectives at the same time: producing fragrant edges, getting a soft, crisp texture in the middle, and ensuring the batter is pliable enough for rolling. The batter is rolled very gently into shape, allowing a slight gap between the layers, which is what gives it that wonderful melt-in-the-mouth texture. In the pre-automation days, the workers would roll the batter by hand in front of the oven, and their hands would swell up terribly from the intense heat. Today, the punishing work is performed by machines designed specifically for the task, which is good news for the workers. And the end result, of course, is just as tasty as before.
Miida thinks the enduring popularity of YOKU MOKU Cigare outside of Japan can be attributed to the uniquely Japanese sensibility of this confectionery treat.
“That exceptional combination of sweetness and light texture comes down to getting the maximum quantity of butter and sugar that we can. YOKU MOKU Cigare has the ideal combination of sweet taste, light and crunchy bite, and melt-in-your-mouth biscuity goodness. Although it is inspired by French confectionery such as langues de chat, I believe that this exquisite combination of attributes is an expression of the quintessential Japanese sensibility. And I think this explains its popularity outside of Japan.”
This expression of Japanese sensibility can also be found in the exterior thin film packaging, developed through extensive research and testing. The packaging has been designed to provide protection for the thin and fragile contents, yet is easy to tear open and splits neatly.
Part of the joy of receiving a gift is in the act of opening it up. Miida tells us that a great deal of thought has gone into this aspect of the YOKU MOKU Cigare, and indeed this is evident from the packaging.
The first overseas YOKU MOKU store was located in the upmarket department store chain Neiman Marcus in the United States. Despite the lack of a major advertising campaign, the new “YOKU MOKU from Japan” quickly developed a loyal following that spread to other countries. Word travelled fast, and it was not long before YOKU MOKU started fielding requests to open up more overseas stores. Thus it was that in 2012, YOKU MOKU became the first Japanese confectioner to set up business in the UAE (United Arab Emirates).
The ongoing global success of YOKU MOKU can be attributed to the in-store philosophy as much as the products.
For example, the YOKU MOKU store in the UAE is stocked entirely with supplies from Japan, extending beyond the products themselves to the wrapping paper and ribbon and even the carry bags. The in-store displays and the etiquette of greeting customers are designed to exactly replicate the largest store at Aoyama store in Tokyo. In other words, there is a strong emphasis on quality of presentation.
Thus the in-store environment aims to convey a sense of Japanese hospitality. Local workers are trained in Japanese etiquette, including greeting customers in Japanese, opening the door in the correct manner and presenting the goods with both hands.
At the same time, customer service must also take into account the cultural considerations of the host country. In the UAE, for instance, confectionery is commonly presented on a large tray when welcoming guests to the home or office. The UAE store caters to this demand with a home delivery service, and often fields bulk orders for gift trays and multiples of 100 boxes.
Our last stop is the YOKU MOKU store in Aoyama, a short walk from Meiji Jingu shrine and the famous Omotesando shopping strip, home to leading fashion brands from around the world. The conveniently located store is popular with locals and tourists alike. Being close to foreign embassies and headquarters of foreign corporations, it also does brisk trade with foreign residents looking for that quintessential Japanese gift to take back home.
When you shop at the YOKU MOKU store in Aoyama, an attendant escorts you back to the door after your purchase, handing over your goods with both hands. It’s an example of the elegancy of expression in manufacturing that Japanese people take for granted, as well as the hospitality extended to the customer. The fame of the YOKU MOKU Cigare has spread all over the globe. It is a gift to be proud of on the world stage, one that rediscovers the Japanese spirit that has been treasured since long ago, even among Japanese people.
Writer : HISAYO IWABUCHI / Photographer : SATOSHI TACHIBANA
*Some of the images posted on our website have been provided by those whom we interviewed.
|Head Office||Sumitomo Fudosan Kudan Building, 1-8-10 Kudan-kita, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo|
5-3-3 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
＊Five-minute walk from Omotesando subway station
10:00-23:00(10:00-19:00 on Sundays and public holidays)
18:00-23:00 (closed Sundays and public holidays)
|Closed||New Year holiday period|
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