27 November 2011

Video: Night Taxi Timelapse in Hong Kong

Posted tonight on YouTube by Agence-France-Presse (AFP); nicely done. I really miss Hong Kong...

24 November 2011

weninchina.com now on Google+

Our Google+ page is now up and running.

Stop by and +1 us into one of your Circles, I guess is what we're supposed to say. For now, I just want to learn what G+ can do, figure out how to integrate it with all the other media pieces like our Facebook Page, YouTube channel, and Twitter feed.

There are some new media reviews coming soon, an article about Chinese "Lucky Numbers", and the seasonal update on Transpacific flight options. Stay tuned, and drop us a note with any suggestions, feedback, or just to say "Ni hao."

15 November 2011

Still more Milk Coffee reviews!

While I continue to advocate for your local dairy to follow the lead of their Asian comrades and start putting half-gallons of rich milk coffee on supermarket and convenience store shelves across America, in the meantime I’ll keep presenting the various single-serve options you may come across.
The Milk Coffee Review Criteria are:
1. Creaminess. On the one side are the super-dense drinks like Vietnamese CafĂ© Su’a made with condensed milk, almost toffee-like in thickness. On the other side is watered-down coffee. An ideal milk coffee texture should resemble 2% milk – not too fatty but not too watery. Our scale is 0 = water; 10 = thick condensed milk.
2. Flavor. This is a more-complicated judgment, subject to individuals’ taste – as all the different drink options at Starbucks will attest. There seems to be a four-way balance in the drinks I’ve tried: water – chocolate – milk – espresso. A good milk coffee doesn’t have to shy away from cocoa notes but can’t ignore the coffee beans (otherwise it’s just chocolate milk.) Our scale looks at M = Milk; C = Chocolate; E = Espresso. 0 on the scale is weak; 10 is overpowering.
3. Price per serving. Milk coffee is supposed to be an everyday beverage, not a premium treat.
4. Caffeine punch. 0 for no effect; 10 for jarring.
The products in today’s review are:
Mr. Brown Cappuccino Iced Coffee, from King Car Foods of Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan and Japan have a deep relationship of trade, tourism, and food culture, so it’s not surprising that manufacturers there also caught on to the milk coffee trend. What is perhaps surprising is that it took until 1982 for production to begin; however, the brand began to be exported in 1986 and now reaches to 50 countries. The King Car firm, per their German website, (can’t find one for America...) is involved in “drinks, food, biotechnology, aquaculture, horticulture and chemical production.” Just like Ma and Pa back on the farm.
The brand and character design are a riff on Suntory’s “Boss” coffee
You do see this brand in Japan so the quality control is respectable. Again, like the UCC drink reviewed last time, the can is steel; it’s meant to stand up to containership travel. 
  1. Creaminess - 4: Not unpleasant by any means but not necessarily better than average.
  2. Flavor - If you’ve ever had an older specialty coffee brand like Butter-Nut, this is the taste that comes through. There is a nutty, caramelly, almost burnt undertone going on - but I’m not getting the espresso note as much. E = 5; C = 1; M = 3
  3. Price - at $0.99 per 240 ml can, it’s one of the more-affordable options. (How do they afford the cost of the can?)
  4. Punch - 3: I literally took a nap about an hour after drinking this can.
Recommendation: it’s a product you’ll have a reasonable chance of finding at your Asian grocer, and it’s ‘good enough’ if there are no other convenient choices. But I wouldn’t stock up on the stuff.
Frappuccino - Coffee flavor, from Starbucks of Seattle, Washington
This is the one milk coffee product most Americans will be familiar with; it is available everywhere - groceries, convenience stores, mass markets. They package it in recyclable glass containers that resemble old-fashioned milk bottles; the small size comes 4 to a carton; the larger size is sold individually.
  1. Creaminess - 6: it’s a well-blended drink from first to last sip with good body and without any chalkiness. It’s not particularly rich-tasting, but by no means is it watery.
  2. Flavor - You can certainly taste the milk in this drink, unlike many of the other products reviewed here, but it’s a coffee-based formula first. If you like Starbucks’ house blend, this is what it’s based on; that flavor comes through strongly. A little hint of chocolate delivered by the sugar (but they make other flavors if that’s what you really want.) E = 7; C = 2; M = 6
  3. Price - The 12.5 ounce bottle as shown above runs $2.39 (Target) to $2.69 - $2.99 at convenience stores.
  4. Punch - 5: right down the middle, nothing too extreme but adequate for a morning pick-me-up. They make an energy drink based on this with extra caffeine and vitamins, but I won’t be reviewing that on this site.
Recommendation: You’ve already had it, so you know if you like it or not. The packaging is way too excessive and the distribution chain is way too complicated - so the retail price per serving is far too high. If the UCC Kona Blend milk coffee can be imported and sold for $1.99 per can, you know you’re getting overcharged with this.
DyDo Milk Coffee, imported from Osaka, Japan
This is a brand I came across at a Seven-11 in Hong Kong in November 2010; have not been able to find it in the States or Vancouver. The company specializes in bottled beverages - coffee, tea, water, and nutriceuticals.
  1. Creaminess - 5: like the Frappuccino, very well-blended and no grittiness, although a lighter texture and a bit more watery. More like a milk tea, if you’ve ever had one of those.
  2. Flavor - The milk flavor was present but not strong; the coffee flavor was nice but not nearly enough of it in the drink. E = 5; C = 1; M = 4
  3. Price - came to about $1.25 US - about average for the premium single-serve milk coffee brands available in Hong Kong.
  4. Punch - 4: This was a pleasant morning accompaniment to a hotel-room breakfast of toast and fruit but not meant to be a keep-you-awake drink. Mornings start slowly in Asia, anyway.
Recommendation: if you’re in Japan or Hong Kong you’ll want to compare this to other brands; it was the easiest-to-obtain in Hong Kong; good quality at a reasonable price. DyDo has a Shanghai division so you may be able to get something similar in the PRC. If it ever becomes available in North America, put it on your “do-try” list.

For more product and media reviews about Chinese and East Asian culture, food, and travel - and resources to help you and your children learn more, visit www.weninchina.com/reviews.