Starbucks Takes on Hong Kong Tastes (Part 1)

Ten years after Starbucks opened its first outlet in Hong Kong, the US based coffee giant has launched its first two drinks inspired by local taste preferences. You could say that this is a classic example of East meets West, old meets new.

More than one year in the making, both drinks are iced frappuccinos, both will only be available in Hong Kong and Macau (the former Portuguese enclave that is a one hour’s jetfoil ride away), and both will only be on the menu until 20 September.

Which begs a few questions . . . Will they be asked to do an encore? Will they reappear next year? Will they become permanent fixtures on the menu? Or are they just flashes in the pan? That will probably depend on how the market reacts to these two distinctly Hong Kong style tastes.

English Tea with Hong Kong Characteristics

Traditionally, the Chinese drink tea straight up – no sugar, no cream, no slices of lemon. And that continues to be the case at Chinese teahouses throughout Hong Kong.

At Hong Kong’s countless Chinese style Western cafés, however, tepid tea usually arrives just after you sit down – just as iced water does at restaurants in the United States. But the tea that you pay for comes in four varieties: hot milk tea, hot lemon tea, iced milk tea, and iced lemon tea.

Inquiring Minds

As a journalist, I have an inquiring mind, and this is what I wanted to know: if the Chinese learned to add milk and sugar to their tea from the English, what sets Hong Kong style milk tea apart from English style milk tea?

And this is what I learned at the press conference I attended yesterday afternoon to announce Starbucks’ newest menu offerings. First, the English – like the Chinese – usually brew tea in teapots (actually, I already knew that).

But when it comes to the tea served at Hong Kong style Western cafés, the tea is brewed en mass and then stored in large containers (I knew that, too).

Second, the English add fresh milk (or cream) to their tea, and the Chinese add condensed milk – which is both very thick and very sweet (same, same).

Third, the tea itself differs. The English tend to use one type – Earl Grey, Orange Pekoe, English Breakfast, the list goes on . . . People in Hong Kong tend to mix about three different types when making their version of milk tea (you learn something new every day!).

Readers Respond

Writes W. in Hong Kong

Dear Mike, I think your daily blog is absolutely brilliant and is obviously making a big impact. Congratulations! You have found a perfect solution to the jobless problem among journalists, but not all of us could do this.

I just want to correct one thing in your ATW today. The English never, never, never add cream to tea. Always milk , fresh or UHT and these days often skimmed, but never ( horrors!) cream.

9 August 2010

Accidental Travel Writer Responds

I stand corrected! And thank you very much for pointing that out to me!

To Be Continued

Copyright: Michael Taylor Pictured: Starbucks’ Bill Chui (more on him later) Photo Courtesy of Starbucks Hong kong


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