Inside Japan Centre! Taste Testing

To many people Japan Centre is the busy food shop and Japanese deli counter in the centre of  Piccadilly Circus, but to the Online Team our home is a bustling warehouse in North Acton. It’s here we update our website, prepare and send out all of the online orders we receive, as well as bake the delicious Japanese bread for the bakery and deliver products to our stores. It’s also where we taste test. Taste testing is a lengthy but (as you can imagine) enjoyable job, so we thought we’d let you guys have a little look at how we bring the best of Japan to you.

Prepare the palate

Did you know that since we’ve been online Japan Centre has made available almost 4000 items? Phew! We’re able to do this by the hard work of not only the Online Team but also the very busy Purchasing Team, who are constantly working to make sure we have the biggest and best range of Japanese food available in Europe. Every so often a new container of goodies arrives and we unleash Japan Centre staff from our different teams to taste test items and help make a decision on what is going to be next on the import list.  Not only is this a fun event as we get to spend our friday afternoon eating food and sipping sake, it’s also about great teamwork as our unique mix of Japanese and British staff helps to pick a balance of  traditional Japanese food that you would find in an everyday kitchen and unique products for the more adventurous food conisseur.

Censored for your safety!

Digging deeper…

As you can probably tell from the main photo, we were sent a lot of items this time (and that’s not even the half of it). Once we’d finished sorting them and found they covered all the games tables in our staff room (the largest room for the job), we knew we’d be there for a while. There are always a few special items in any container, whether they’re dubiously named, oddly flavoured or just plain delicious looking we always remember some more than others. The stand out this time round was sake from Fukuoka that had managed to give itself the best name ever by employing a little word play on the shortened Fukuoka airport baggage tag.

As usual we received a lot of snacks, from rice crackers to bags of crisps including a packet of purple crisps and a packet of super spicy karashi renkon crisps from Kumamoto. Seasoning-wise we found a very interesting sounding yuzu citrus fruit based miso and a white soy sauce from Aichi Prefecture, which is used to give dishes that rich umami savoury flavour without overpowering the natural colour of the ingredients.

The results are in

One of the Japan Centre staff bends down to write something at just the right moment.

Eventually, after a satisfying afternoon the taste testing was over and with our palates satisfied and the products thoroughly judged we returned to work whilst the purchasing team made notes on what had been a hit and what would unfortunately not be making the cut this time.

From testing to store

The ordering process can take a bit of time, but some of these products will grace the shelves of Japan Centre sooner or later. Make sure to keep an eye on our Japan Centre website, especially our new items page for the latest available items, or if you are lucky enough to live in London visit our Regent Street Store!

If you have things you miss from Japan, or that you’ve heard about and think Japan Centre should stock let us know in the comments below!

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