Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Java Jive

I love coffee, I love tea, but my preferred caffeine delivery system is a 20-oz bottle of Diet Dr Pepper.

Alas, not only do they not have Dr Pepper in Korea in any form, low calorie sodas are pretty hard to come by--virtually only found in national brand convenience stores like Family Mart and Buy the Way. Diet Coke is occasionally available as Coke Light, but most often you will find Coke Zero.

Well, surely you can just have a cup of coffee, then, I hear you say. Alas, Dear Reader, this too is hard to come by. I mean, a properly brewed cup of black coffee is hard to come by. A product called "Coffee Mix" is practically ubiquitous, though its exact relationship to coffee is shrouded in mystery.

Korea Times image of a 'coffee mix' sachet These thoughts are precipitated by an article in today's Korea Times detailing the Korean addiction to this concoction, which I initially found to be undrinkable. As with so many things, though, the passage of time softens the edges, and nowadays I meander down to Cheong-gi's studio on my first break, put two sachets of mocha mix in my mug and settle in for a smoke. Never think twice about it.

Well, okay, sometimes I think twice about it, or even three times, but I drink it anyway. The stuff comes in a foil tube which contains some instant coffee, some artificial creamer and some sugar. Each sachet is enough for about four ounces of water. You can also get it from vending machines (unironically branded "Teatime") for W200 (about 15 cents). Back to the article:
"It's housewives' job to do grocery shopping in most families. These consumers try to be frugal and tend not to spend much when purchasing product items like coffee, which are inessential," [said an office worker named Song]. "They can buy the cheap bulk instant coffee and I think this probably explains why sales records of the instant coffee brands are relatively good amid the economic downturn."

Ah, it's cheap. Frankly, I don't buy this argument, as Koreans are as sophisticated as any consumers--and they consume big-time. Besides, this is the stuff they buy even when times are good. No, it's weak, it's over sweet and it's simply what they like!

As for me, I don't have room for a coffeemaker in my flat, so I just keep a jar of Taster's Choice instant (no fake cream or sugar mixed in) and boil water in a saucepan, as needed. I do mix it, though ... with Kahlua, vodka, and a dribble of milk. I think I'll do that now, and listen to a certain song. This is a pretty decent a capella version by some folks at Hawaii Pacific University:


Anonymous said...

Bottled in Korea..

Tuttle said...

Thanks, that's very interesting. Perhaps I should amend my statement "... I cannot find Dr Pepper in Korea ..."

SuperDrew said...

You got served by Mr Anonymous!

That being said, I really believe that Korean people like sweet things more than we westerners. I personally don't like sugar on everything, and Julie and I would always have petty spats about adding sugar to things while we would cook. Who knows...

driftingfocus said...

The coffee thing is like the spam thing. The reason they love their instant coffee is that there is a residual emotional tie to it left over from the war. American and UN forces would give locals their instant coffee packets and cans of spam as presents, and so they became very valued. The attitude toward these items, and others, has stuck around to present day.

Anonymous said...

They sell cans of Dr Pepper at Best Store.. you're welcome kind sir.