Strange Tastes in #Korea

It seems that South Korea is the testing bed for a lot of companies.  Baskin Robbins is a prime example.  Every year there is always new flavours that they introduce.  Now, let’s add some weird tastes to ice cream and who knows, maybe it’ll be a hit and they’ll sell it on their regular menu?  I just kinda shake my head and wonder where they come up these things.

Exhibit A:   Green Tea Tiramisu

Yup, you read that right.

I’m not really a big fan of Tiramisu.  Its ‘ok’ as far as desserts go but it will never be better than a good old-fashioned fresh-baked Apple Pie, imnsho.  My wife tasted it, she didn’t’ like it.  I might try and taste it next time but not this time.  I will say that I have tried green tea gelato and was surprised at the creaminess of it.  It wasn’t horrible, maybe even a little pleasant but I felt that if I ate a whole bowl of it, I wouldn’t feel well after as compared to some nice chocolate ice cream.

I won’t even go into details on the broccoli & carrot or the tomato & cheese donuts that Dunkin Donuts had last year…..definitely did NOT try those.


Coffee in Korea

Being in Korea is it hard to not be able to walk a block or two to grab a Timmies. I at least was able to bring my Tim Mug to Korea with me. Many might ask why I wouldn’t bring some of the canned Timmies. Despite how well a coffee brewer might be, it never tastes the same. Tim’s sells a nice looking stainless steel ‘Tim Branded’ brewer, if seemingly overpriced. A recent understanding is that Tim’s coffee has it’s unique flavour due to the high-temps it is exposed too during the brewing stage and allegedly that is one of the reasons why Tim’s charges $125 for a brewer when you can easily buy one for $30 at a local Wal-Mart.

This being the case, there is no way I could brew a decent cup of Tims while I am here without buying the coffee, the coffee brewer and a power converter to run the brewer. As much as I love my Tims, I can live without such an outrageous expense just to have coffee.

Fortunately, Koreans love coffee too. I’ve already mentioned Starbucks as being the ‘Tims of Korea’ as I can almost give directions in the downtown core by Starbucks (unlike Tims in Hamilton where I can give you directions by Tims anywhere in the city….). This Starbucks is also 3 levels. There are also a plethora of ‘Starbucks environment’ copy-cat places as well.

Holly’s Coffee is nice but extremely strong, both in coffee and only slightly in price. Maybe I hadn’t had enough to eat when I tried it but later that night, my stomach was slightly upset. Perhaps it was the humongous cup of it or a combination thereof. The atmosphere is pleasant, they have 2 floors and Wi-Fi is free. I wasn’t able to successfully connect to Wi-Fi with my netbook. I’ve noticed this on a few occasions so it may be some sort of weird Wi-Fi compatibility with my netbook and certain routers, or it maybe a crappy router they have.

Cafe Bene's interior.
Caffe Bene’s interior.

You also have Caffe Bene. Another place with only mildly over-priced coffee. I like the atmosphere here significantly more than Starbucks or Holly’s. They have bench seats along one wall with a comfortable cushion that runs the length. Wi-Fi is free and you can plug your portable device into a socket (as you can in any of these places). There is a 3rd floor but that is reserved for Smokers. (Side note: smoking is very common but slowly being phased out of public places. All western fast-food joints are non-smoking that I’ve seen thus far as well as public transit).

Dunkin Donuts is another popular place and I’d say they would be next under Starbucks if you were counting popularity by brand. They have prices as you would expect as well as typical donut stock. They are about as close to a Tim Hortons as you can get here. I haven’t bought a coffee there yet, preferring some of the more fancy ones from either Starbucks or Cafe Bene.

And then there are a quite a few other ones that are either individual cafes or smaller chains.

Now, if those weren’t popular enough, Korea has something that would most likely be a hit for Tim Hortons (or any of the other coffee specialty guys). You can buy a can of hot coffee from any corner store….in a can.

The corner stores have these little heated cabinets and a wide variety of coffees in typically two sizes. The ones pictured above are the smaller size. Starbucks is available as well as any other types from plain black to espresso with milk. The price for these shots are about $1 and are perfect for a ‘quick hit’ if you will. The cans are quite hot actually so holding them can be a bit of a challenge.

For home, we have packets of pre-mixed coffee. These are pretty damn cool actually. I only have to add just a wee bit of sugar and a little bit of milk (more to cool it down than actual milk flavouring). This is, by far, the cheapest form of coffee. We bought a special box of 180 packets.

Another side note about Korean packaging. Plastic packaging is meant to be torn and not ‘open’. For example, you would open a bag of potato chips and not tear off the top. Most packaging here you have to tear off a part to ‘open’ it. I have tried different packages and found it actually quite difficult to actually open as I normally would. Can be quite frustrating as you think to yourself “I’m not _that_ weak….sheesh.” but it’s just the way they do things here.

Regardless of choices, I am looking forward to Tim Hortons when I make my first trip back home Smile