Ginger cola

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I’m addicted to Coke. Coca Cola that is. I would drink it all day long, if it wasn’t so socially awkward to drink it in the morning. I mostly drink Coke Zero, as they don’t sell Diet Coke around here. Recently I found some ginger flavored Coco Call in a supermarket in Shanghai, and of course I had to explore.

I like ginger a lot, it lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes, and a ginger beer can be very refreshing. I thought ginger cola would be a more refreshing version of regular cola, like for instance Coke with lemon.

Unfortunately the flavor of ginger didn’t come through very strongly. It was there, in a savory medicinal way, but it was very diluted. The trace of ginger that I picked up was nice, but I just wished it could have been more eminent.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Coconut water espresso

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The advertisement for the coconut water espresso at Starbucks in China certainly looked appealing. There was a clear layer of juice on the bottom with a rich coffee floating on top. Unlike many other ads, the coffee actually looked like the picture. That was a promising start.

The first sip was equally promising, as the straw sucks up the sweet coconut water, and then hits the bitter coffee. It made for a nice combination. After a while though, the two layers get muddled up and you are left with what in essence is a sweetened coffee. It tasted great at first, and pretty nice towards the end, so all in all not a bad score.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Yak butter tea

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When you think of Tibetan food, often the first thing that comes to mind is yak butter tea. As Tibetans live at a high altitude, they don’t have access to a lot of natural resources. Most of their diet relies on yak and barley. The food is often quite stodgy and fatty because the locals need to keep their energy levels up to cope with their surroundings.

I recently visited the Tibetan town of Xiahe on the outer stretches of the Tibetan Plateau. Naturally I tried some local dishes, including a mug of yak butter tea. To make yak butter tea a local black tea is mixed with yak butter and a pinch of salt. The result is somewhat of a buttery popcorn flavored drink. I expected it to be very pungent and strong, but in fact it was very subtle and tasted like any regular cow butter.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 6

Luwak Coffee

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Luwak coffee is one of the world’s more expensive delacies with one kilo costing up to $700. It’s also known as cat-poo coffee because of the way it’s made. The fresh coffee berries are eaten by Asian palm civets. After it has been digested farmers pick out the berries and roast them like any normal coffee. After a thorough cleaning, of course.

I’m not a big fan of coffee, but during my recent trip to Bali, I came across a place where you could sample some of their coffee, including luwak coffee. I know this is a tourist place, and the beans here are farmed, and not from the wild, but it was a good opportunity for me to try without a heft investment.

Some people say it’s just a novelty item, and there is no great taste, but I disagree. I really felt the coffee was incredibly smooth, not bitter at all. I didn’t even need to add any cream or sugar, it was great on its own.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 10

Lobster bisque bloody Mary

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A few months ago I went on a weekend trip to Dubai, a shopper’s delight where everything’s made of gold. That last is certainly true for “Gold on 27”, the penthouse bar on the 27th floor of the infamous Burj al Arab hotel. The walls, furniture and decorations are bedecked in gold.

The cocktail list is almost as outrageous as the décor. You can order cocktails with truffle, foie gras or even charcoal. I went for the bloody Mary made with lobster bisque. This classic cocktail is usually made with tomato juice, but the mixologists of the Burj al Arab have replaced this with a house made lobster bisque. As if that wasn’t decadent enough, it’s served with a molecular yogurt sphere.

The cocktail was very well crafted indeed. For that price it better be, but of course you pay for your surroundings too. It had a strong savory taste that definitely reminds of a bloody Mary, while the addition of a seafood broth gives it a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. If I hadn’t known it contained lobster, I probably wouldn’t have guessed.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 7

Sea buckthorn juice

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Sea buckthorn is a fruit that grows in Europe, even in my own country, and yet I had never heard of it until I saw bottles of its juice here in Chinese supermarkets. That’s probably because, at least according to Wikipedia, the fruit is very acidic and unpleasant to eat.

They’re also difficult to harvest due to the abundance of thorns on the plants. You can, however, use the fruits to make juice or jams if you just add enough sugar. That’s how the once sour, almost inedible berry found its way to my kitchen.

The juice still had to touch of sourness, which reminded me of a green apple, but there was also a sweetness that I would swear resembles pineapple. It was nice to find multiple layers of flavor in the juice of only one fruit. That’s something you normally only find in a blend of juices. It’s good for you too, as it’s high in vitamin C.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 9