Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Tea as the hottest latest trend in Bangkok

This really is about tea as a local trend, and food trends in general.  A local tea acquaintance, the owner of the Seven Suns cafe, mentioned hosting a booth at a Matcha Mania event in the Paragon mall, arguably one of the two main malls in Bangkok.  I checked it out and it was well received; crowded, even.

lines at Matcha Mania

Matcha booths and shops are everywhere, edging into bubble tea's market share.  I'm not sure how an event theme really could ramp up the "mania" much but it did seem to.  I might have tried a Seven Suns matcha drink there but I did so not that long ago (which I wrote about here) and I wasn't into waiting in line.  I've been considering trying out hojicha soft serve for a very long time--it's around--but didn't finally get to that either.

menu board at the next booth over; it looked ok

that sausage (with a recipe for it here)

I didn't try any tea at all.  I'm not all that into matcha, except in ice cream, and eating a desert item right before dinner made no sense.  I had walked by a nice looking Northern Thai herb-spiced sausage on the way and bought some of that for dinner on the way out, along with sticky rice.

Other tea and food trends

I'm not a "trend" person.  I'm from a small town in North Western Pennsylvania, where time doesn't bother to cause changes in the normal sense.  I like it that I live in a part of Bangkok where the decades passing also doesn't change things much.  I wear plain clothes and drink plain, hot, traditional teas.  I suppose if one looks at the longest term some of those teas aren't traditional, since the story is that shou was invented in the 70s, and I drink a little of them, and I like tea style variations from places like Vietnam and Indonesia that probably didn't exist a decade or two ago.  But the general point is the same.

Related to transitions back in the States I feel like I might somehow completely become a stranger in my own country at some point, but visiting once in awhile helps offset that.  My wife and I moved to Bangkok from Honolulu a decade ago so that's plenty of time frame for changes to happen.  I was just back in PA over the Christmas holidays, and in Washington, DC, and NYC, with a very short stop in State College, where I first went to school (PSU).  All of those places probably lag a little compared to the West coast for transition pace but it was comforting to see it all about the same as I remembered.  Except NYC; I've only been there a few times, so it's not as familiar.

An online contact just mentioned a "cheese tea" trend that apparently became popular in China way back in May, mixing cream cheese into tea as a beverage, topped with a bit of sugar, salt, or some spicing to give it a twist.  I just saw a notice that I can get it here, but I'd be ok with never following up on that.  Oddly that online contact lives in Poland, and she cited a Polish tea vendor's Youtube video about how to make it yourself, I guess all typical of the world getting smaller.

at that mall; not exactly the same thing

As I was wandering that mall looking for that tea event a friend back in the US asked me by message if I'd tried a lighter form of Japanese cheesecake that is popular now, and my initial reaction was "of course not."  Then I remembered that my wife's cousin's wife is a baker, and she gave us a type of cake I wasn't familiar with over the weekend, so apparently I'd already been eating it for breakfast this week (Japanese cotton cheesecake, per her description).  It was nice.  There is more of running theme here than there might seem.

There is an emphasis on things being trendy in Bangkok.  I suppose it varies by where you go, and Paragon mall is a main place for that sort of thing.  That name seems to mean "exemplar" as much in the sense of exemplifying trends than relating to being an ideal mall.  I suppose it's nice though, to the extent that any is different from the others.

One local magazine covers updating preference shifts as well as any, BK Magazine, as in this post about 7 terrific Bangkok tea houses that are very serious about their cha.  Cha is Thai for tea too, for what that's worth.  The first three they mention are worth a look, which includes Seven Suns.  The two others I'm approving of are the old Chinatown cafe (Double Dogs), and the last a good place to spend $20 for small pot of tea, Peace Oriental.  I visited there once a couple of years ago, and it was ok, but I don't plan to ever go there again.

It's drifting off theme a bit but I'm in a FB foodies group here, even though I'm definitely not a foodie.  I cook; I guess that could count as partial credit.  They discuss restaurants more than novel food items, split between considering higher end places and debating who has the best burgers, pizza, Mexican, etc.  All the Mexican food I've tried here was somewhere between mediocre and awful but it would help to be a foodie, to visit restaurants a few times a week and explore further than I do.

The mall visit got me thinking more about trends, and that cheesecake.  Some looking around turned up ricotta cheese pancakes, and a Japanese tart version of cheesecake, and a place selling a hojicha flavored version of shaved ice.  Shaved ice is popular now, not the version from Hawaii, the fruit syrup flavored range, but the variation from Taiwan instead, more focused on fruit integration and use of condensed milk and other sauces.

It's not the same thing at all but I finally saw an I-Hop here, Thailand's first.  That's right, an International House of Pancakes (which I don't think was really all that international in the past).  It's strange to be mentioning low end breakfast places in the middle of discussing tea, desert trend themes, and foodie culture but it does connect.

not exactly nailing the updated diner theme

The common ground relates to the source of trends not always being so trendy where they are from.  A traditional Chinese tea shop or cafe would be a run of the mill thing in China, but in North-Western PA it would seem very exotic.  Who knows when they'll ever get a Thai restaurant back there but here it's grocery store complex food court fare.  Mexican and Italian food restaurants that go out of business due to lack of interest back in the States could potentially match the best related foods versions Bangkok has to offer.

Pancakes are sort of the same here; a bit exotic.  I was a little shocked and horrified that they didn't have bacon, sausage, or hash browns on that I-Hop menu, and I'm still a little rattled about it.  I was a vegetarian for about 17 years so I can take or leave meat more than most but it's still disrespectful to the theme of American breakfast.  It's downright un-American.  Somehow waffles are common here but french toast and pancakes not so much; I'm not sure how that worked out.  Sausage is common here but  Jimmy Dean-style breakfast links would be as out of place as dim sum or pho back in the Midwest (or som-tum, Thai papaya salad; you get the idea).

If this was going to circle back to tea it probably should have already.  Those recommended cafes work as a transition; the two new ones and one older version sum up what's going on in Bangkok.  TWG is on the list, and Twinings cafe might as well be, and Whittard I just walked by in Paragon.  High end commercial, traditional versions of tea aren't really of interest to me.  The one Japanese tea shop sounded nice, and that was about it.  People probably bought more matcha drinks at those booths in that mall event over the last ten days than traditional pots of tea at all of those other places combined over the same time frame, or maybe a factor of ten more.

I'm behind in trying different flavored ices

It seems odd to conclude that only matcha is even close to being the hottest latest trend in tea in Bangkok.  It'll be funny if "cheese tea" really takes off.

Good oolong or pu'er teas just don't seem to fit the mold of what catches on (or mould, for British people).  As with in the US better tea may just gradually ramp up for years until it finally really catches on, and if that seems to happen suddenly the reasons why will probably only make sense in retrospect.  

No comments:

Post a Comment