What are Tsubu Anpan Buns?
Tsubu Anpan Buns? More like my favorite treat ever!
All jokes aside, these treats really are great for those that enjoy something just sweet enough. I will further explain my love for them later in this piece, but for now, let me explain exactly what they are.
I am, by no means, a history expert on this Japanese delicacy. However, my research and findings are a result of my genuine intrigue and love for the Tsubu Anpan bun. First things first, Japanese sweets are called "Wagashi (和菓子)", and are very different from Western style treats. Japanese desserts typically are less sweet and incorporate some sort of paste, primarily from sweet beans. “Tsubu” refers to the Tsubu-an paste (written 粒あん), which is formed from the process of roasting the whole azuki bean until it softens, then proceeding to add sugar or sugar syrup and using the whole bean in the paste. "-an (餡)" also known as Anko (餡子)) in Japanese, stemmed and developed from the meaning “filling”. The most popular paste used is that of the red bean, “Azuki (小豆)”, which is the bun we carry at Coffee Lab! Red bean tastes similar to a sweet potato and is the most popular to the point that they simply refer to red bean as “-an” in Japan.
How did we get Anpan buns?
Until around the 19th century, Japan did not have traditional gluten products. The west introduced a very simple bread product that Japan tweaked, in my opinion, for the better. The first Japanese anpan was created by a displaced Samurai (during this time period, many of the Japanese army members were known to have a multitude of skills). Samurai Yasubei Kimura transformed classic yeast bread by taking the Japanese practice of using yeast used in sake and filling the sweet bread with Anko (the red bean paste).
The emperor at the time asked to be fed this dish everyday. Once that was known, the country went crazy for the sweet treat. They even created their own figurehead for the bread, Anpanman, who had the body of a superhero and a head made of bread. This figure's popularity could be compared to that of Tony the Tiger (Frosted Flakes) or Ronald McDonald (McDonald’s). Japan even included and wrote books featuring the characters for over 50 years. Everything that could be marketable included Anpanman.
Bury me in Anpan..
Tsubu Anpan Buns are by far my favorite treat offered at Coffee Lab, if not one of my favorite treats period. I can credit part of this to my fascination with Japanese culture, and part to my appreciation for a treat that is just sweet enough to give me endless serotonin. While growing up, I was introduced to the wonderful world of Studio Ghibli. I was enchanted by the incredible treats that were displayed on screen, from the Taiyaki fish cake seen in Kiki’s Delivery Service to the Anpan buns featured in Spirited Away. I was constantly witnessing my favorite characters enjoying these treats, oblivious to what they actually tasted like. You could imagine my excitement when I found out we were going to start selling them (also that I was going to have constant access to them hehe). My first time trying the anpan buns was actually at Coffee Lab, and I must say, they did not disappoint.
So, come on in and give them a try! If we’re out, sorry, I probably bought them all.
Alumni at Northwestern University
Floor Supervisor at Coffee Lab & Roasters -- Evanston
Digital Marketing Specialist & Blog Writer at Ignitus Digital