Some of the foods and flavors you experience in Asia capture your imagination and drive you to find them again back in the West. My first “food moment” came just the second night we were in China – a bowl of beef noodle soup in our little hotel restaurant. It cost just US$1 but was the most flavorful and tender meat I’d ever eaten. Since then, other foods and places have become icons to my heart (and stomach) – congee in Hong Kong, Japadogs in Vancouver, and a beverage called “milk coffee” in Tokyo.
A coworker who’d lived in France and traveled widely in Japan called milk coffee “just café au lait,” but that doesn’t really describe its texture or taste, or the role it plays in daily life in East and Southeast Asia.
Imagine a really smooth glass of chocolate milk, but with the rich roasted note – and caffeine kick – as a great cup of coffee. Then imagine it available in cans at every vending machine – and those machines warm the cans in the winter and chill them in the summer. Imagine it in 1-liter and 2-liter cartons at every convenience store and grocery, selling as fast as regular milk, and at a similar price. Imagine not just the dairy producers, but all the soft drink companies, beer brewers, and even tobacco companies offering competing brands. THAT’S how important milk coffee is in Asia.
In the Reviews section at weninchina.com, I'll compare three brands: Seattle's Best (from the USA), Pokka (imported from Singapore), and Freeze (imported from Thailand) - on the attributes of creaminess, flavor, price, and caffeine kick.
If you're headed for Asia, this is a taste to seek out!