Viral TikTok Korean Comfort Retailer Espresso Pouches Defined

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I first noticed a espresso pouch on my buddy’s Instagram story when he was visiting Korea. I didn’t assume a lot of it at first, however a couple of weeks later after I was visiting Korea with my mother and father, they resurfaced the video for me. “Oh we should go strive that espresso pouch that Dan tried!” exclaimed my dad. And so we did, on our first jet lagged comfort retailer run.

Replicating my buddy’s video precisely, I first positioned the proper counter top freezer (not the one with the ice lotions), slid open the glass door, and extracted a plastic cup stuffed with ice. From the shelf above, I selected a blue and brown “Cantata” pouch with a photograph of iced espresso on the entrance that dripped with condensation. After paying, I popped open the ice cup, peeled open the espresso pouch, and poured the liquid in, which stuffed up proper to the sting of the cup like a wonderfully measured science experiment. After snapping the lid again on and spearing with a straw, I swirled the espresso across the crackling ice and took an enormous refreshing sip.

Since then, I’ve seen numerous variations of this video, and accompanied quite a few pals to one of many GS25 or CU places (widespread Korean comfort shops) on virtually each avenue nook in Seoul to revisit this espresso ritual. The hashtag #koreanconveniencestore has 906 million views on TikTok, half of which function variations on the #koreanicedrink, which itself has 8.3 million views. It nonetheless baffles me although: Why espresso in a pouch? As with many earnest questions I’ve requested myself about Korean meals tradition, I went down the espresso pouch rabbit gap.

Picture by Irene Yoo

Picture by Irene Yoo

What’s a espresso pouch?

The Korean comfort retailer espresso pouch is a plastic Capri Solar-style pouch that’s full of pre-made espresso, meant to be poured over ice. It’s shelf-stable, so it may be saved at room temperature, usually positioned on a shelf exterior of the shop itself to lure in a straightforward seize. The espresso is available in many flavors, starting from unsweetened, easy choices like “Iced Black Espresso” or “Iced Americano” to candy, flavored ones like “Caramel Macchiato” and “Hazelnut.”

The ice is bought individually, obtainable in plastic drink cups full of various kinds of ice. Hole, cylindrical ice cubes or crushed ice are most typical, however on one event I did discover the uncommon, cocktail-style singular ice sphere. Whereas beautiful, it didn’t have the identical impact of cooling the pouch espresso shortly because the crushed and cylindrical ice cubes.

Every pouch is about 1,000 to 1,200 received, or 80 to 95 cents, whereas the ice cups vary from 600 to 1,000 received (47 to 80 cents) relying on the kind of ice. Collectively, the espresso provides as much as 2,000 received on common, slightly below $1.60, making it about half or a 3rd the price of the espresso at close by cafes.

The attract additionally lies within the simplicity of the construct—tear open a pouch, pop a lid—so easy a toddler might do it. I can also’t deny how extraordinarily satisfying it’s when the espresso pour hits proper on the fringe of the cup’s lip. The espresso itself is mostly weak, notably in case your style buds have grow to be used to bracingly bitter connoisseur espresso. However in my expertise, that’s how Koreans like their espresso.

A Historical past of Low cost Espresso

Low cost, fast, and pre-packaged espresso has deep roots in Korea. Whereas espresso has been current in Korea because the Joseon dynasty, it wasn’t usually accessible to the general public till after the Korean Struggle when U.S. army bases and American G.I.s popularized on the spot espresso, the freeze-drying know-how that rose in reputation throughout World Struggle II.

In 1976, Dong Suh Meals launched the primary 3-in-1 on the spot espresso combine to the South Korean market by licensing the American on the spot espresso Maxwell Home to create “Maxim Espresso Combine.” Accessible in pouch or stick type, these little packs featured freeze-dried on the spot espresso crystals, dehydrated creamer, and sugar. This on the spot espresso combine grew the general reputation of espresso in Korea, infiltrating properties, banks, hospital ready rooms, and worker break rooms. It was an extremely low-cost option to imbibe espresso, so its presence in Korean society grew to become additional cemented by varied recessions.

On the identical time, Korean comfort shops had lengthy been stocked with grab-and-go moveable espresso choices. Canned espresso varieties, both within the type of Japanese imports like UCC Espresso or Korean-made copycats, have been stocked because the late twentieth century, adopted by juice box-style cup coffees, full with retractable straws. The espresso pouch supply system had really been round for many years as effectively, in a way—Seoul Milk’s espresso flavored milk was famously bought in a triangle formed pouch (nonetheless my favourite espresso pouch up to now).

So it was only a matter of time earlier than the ritual of on the spot espresso combine would meet the comfort of pre-packaged espresso. In 2005, Korean model Jardin launched Korea’s first pouch espresso known as “Cafereal.” The comfort retailer model CU launched its “delaffe” line of pouch drinks and ice cups in 2012, which was the identical 12 months Lotte Chilsung Beverage launched their profitable canned espresso “Cantata” in pouch type.

Iced Espresso, Accessible 24 Hours a Day

Whereas American espresso outlets open at daybreak to service early commuters, Korean espresso outlets don’t start enterprise till 10 or 11 a.m., since they function much less as takeout spots and extra as assembly or date spots. In distinction, comfort shops are open 24 hours a day, that means they’re usually the one obtainable choice to gasoline up.

The growth within the ice cup will be additionally attributed to Koreans’ growing obsession with chilly drinks. Lately, iced espresso—particularly iced americanos—have exploded in reputation among the many millennial and Gen Z populations (generally known as MZ in Korea), a lot in order that it’s given rise to a preferred saying: “Even when I freeze to loss of life, ah-ah (iced americano).”

As curiosity within the espresso pouch continues to develop amongst Korean locals and international guests, manufacturers proceed to introduce new sorts of iced pouch drinks, starting from tea to one thing known as “Black Lemonade” (I attempted a couple of completely different sorts, and let’s simply say I’d quite keep on with the espresso). Intrepid TikTokers are additionally inventing new mashups, like including a scoop of ice cream or a splash of banana milk for a fast latte hack, or stirring in soju for an alcoholic spin. For me, all espresso is sweet espresso, so I could be sneaking a couple of pouches of Cantata Chilly Brew again in my suitcase subsequent time I go to.

Have you ever seen the Korean espresso pouch pattern? Share your ideas within the feedback under!

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