Showing posts with label Drinks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Drinks. Show all posts

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Visit to the Halo Cafe in Guzhen, Zhongshan

Today in Guzhen, a town in Zhongshan I will say more about in later posts, I unexpectedly saw a Halo Cafe.

Halo Cafe in Guzhen, Zhongshan

Since I had just mentioned two other Halo Cafes in a post yesterday, I felt compelled to take a closer look (and write this light post now).

inside Halo Cafe in Guzhen

Their menu lists a variety of drinks:

Halo Cafe takeout menu

Halo Cafe takeout menu

I went with a simple double espresso.

double espresso at Halo Cafe in Guzhen

Some will take issue with the cream (I also don't use sugar). But it looked like a double espresso. It tasted like a double espresso. And unless an incredible placebo effect was at play, it had caffeine. It cost 15 yuan (US $2.25), cheaper than then 20 yuan for a Starbucks double espresso.

According to the barista, Halo Cafe originated in Zhongshan and has spread to some other nearby cities, all in Guangdong province. I still had many unanswered questions, but I chose to leave him in peace. So I will just leave it at this for now. Well, except for one more thing . . .

In the outdoor seating area there was a claw crane game. These are very common in places such as shopping malls. I wouldn't have given it much notice, but this claw crane had an unexpected theme.

4th July crane claw

Happy Independence Day crane claw

I think it is only fair to ask why the American coffeehouse chain Starbucks can't show some similar spirit in China.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Halo Next to Starbucks in Zhongshan

For a change of pace from the "Starbucks Coeeff" store, here is a large Starbucks store with a sign spelling "coffee" correctly:

Starbucks and Halo stores at the Dasin Metro-Mall (大信新都汇) in Zhongshan

What more caught my eye about this Starbucks at the Dasin Metro-Mall (大信新都汇) in Zhongshan was its prominent neighbor — Halo Cafe, which also sells coffee.

Earlier the same day, I had notice another Halo Cafe at the Central Power Plaza (兴中广场) shopping mall.

Halo Cafe at Central Power Plaza (兴中广场) in Zhongshan

Their storefront sign has "coffee" spelled correctly, and there is rooftop seating. So at least the basics seemed in order. There is a Starbucks near this store as well but in another section of the mall.

I don't have more to say about this competitor for Starbucks in Zhongshan other than I haven't found any evidence it is connected to the Halo Cafe in Taipei (review in Chinese), the Halo Cafe in Dublin, the Halo Cafe in Kota Kinabalu, the Halo Cafe in Clinton, South Carolina, or any of the other Halo Cafes around the world I have just found online. Together, all those Halo Cafes offer quite a variety of food though.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Just Another Day in China: Starbucks Opens 2nd Store in Bengbu

For several weeks, the status of the second Starbucks in Bengbu hasn't been clear. This afternoon I had reason to stop by the Intime City (银泰城) shopping center and discovered the store is now finally open — part of Starbucks opening more than a store a day on average in China. I didn't have plans for a caffeine boost, but I decided to check things out and immerse myself in the experience.

Staff excitedly told me it was their first day of operations. They hadn't opened earlier because some supplies and equipment hadn't yet arrived.

As at Starbucks elsewhere in China, many of the staff wore name tags displaying English names. Typically some of the names are more creative and wouldn't be common in western countries. The name used by the young woman who took my order fit in this category.

Starbucks nametag with "Lonely 石"

In short, the coffee tasted just like the coffee at the Starbucks 1000 meters down the street and other Starbucks much farther away. Although at the moment this location doesn't appear in the store finder for Starbucks in China, it seems safe to say the store isn't a fake. It was about one third to one half full of paying customers while I was there. At times there was a line at the counter, but at other times you could roll right up to place an order.

young woman on skateboard at a Starbucks counter

While this Starbucks reflects Bengbu's recent growth to a degree, what's reflected off of the front of the store will say more about Bengbu's future.

under-construction buildings reflecting off of the front of a Starbucks store in Bengbu

Many residential and commercial building projects are currently underway in Bengbu. Many, many, many. They raise serious questions which also apply to other cities in China. More about that later.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bengbu Experiencing Starbucks' Expansion in China

I have been to a number of cities in China where Starbucks can't be found, such as Ganzhou, Mudanjiang, and Shaoguan. Yet Starbucks' growing reach in China has been readily apparent, whether by coming across their first stores in cities such as Hengyang, Kunming, and Xiangtan or knowing they have opened in cities such as Lanzhou, Yanji, and Zhanjiang since I last visited them. Loosely based on these experiences, when I recently arrived in Bengbu I didn't expect to find a Starbucks here. I didn't even bother to check if one existed.

But I still found one.

Starbucks at the Bengbu Wanda Plaza (星巴克 — 蚌埠万达广场)

Prominently situated at the Wanda Plaza (万达广场) shopping center, the store opened about six months ago.

Inside the Starbucks at the Bengbu Wanda Plaza

For those now thinking of making a pilgrimage to Bengbu for mug, a warning: unlike many places elsewhere in China, no city-specifc mugs are available at the moment.

"China" labeled Starbucks mugs

Soon after finding this Starbucks, I saw that another Starbucks will open only 1000 meters away at the Intime City (银泰城) shopping center.

Under construction Starbucks at Intime City (银泰城) in Bengbu

Five days ago I watched workers place the letters for the storefront sign.

workers putting up lettes for a Starbucks storefront sign in Bengbu

Since then, the state of the store hasn't been as clear.

Starbucks at Intime City in Bengbu (星巴克 — 蚌埠银泰城)

The outdoor coverings are gone and there is nothing external to indicate the store isn't open. Sometimes, as in the above photo, the door is even left open. This seems to scream "we're open", but they aren't. I have seen multiple people approach the outside door only to find it locked or to open it and discover a Starbucks with a ladder standing in the middle of the floor, empty shelves, and no baristas at work. This experience doesn't strike me as what Starbucks should want to deliver. When I asked a Starbucks employee at the other store when the Intime City location would open she said she wasn't sure and suggested I wait a bit.

Whatever the story, the already-open Starbucks seems to be doing well and presumably, someday, the other will open as well. It isn't obvious whether this says more about the growth of Bengbu, which like many Chinese cities has undergone much change over recent years, or Starbucks, which also has stores in nearby cities including Hefei, Suqian, and Xuzhou. But both Bengbu and Starbucks appear to be enjoying the arrangement.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017

Baijiu Blue in Ningbo

Last December at the Ningbo Railway Station, I saw yet another example of advertising for Yanghe Distillery's blue-bottled brands of baijiu. As I saw more recently in Changsha, in this case Mengzhilan M6 was featured.

advertising for Mengzhilan M6 baijiu at the Ningbo Railway Station

Just as they often do above aboveground, the advertisements stood out in the underground area at the railway station. Nearby Ningbo (perhaps in Ningbo), I once noticed a man drinking baijiu (and beer as well) on a high-speed train. But since he stored the baijiu in a Tibetan spring water bottle, I don't know whether or not he was drinking the blue.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Baidu Map, a Banana, and Baijiu: From Guiyang to Changsha

Not so long ago in Guiyang, I woke up early one morning and caught a taxi. At the first intersection, the driver took an unexpected turn. Based on the traffic signals, it seemed plausible it was a wise choice, and I said nothing. A couple of blocks later, he signaled to make a turn heading in a direction nearly opposite of where I was headed. It didn't seem likely this choice was in my best interest, so I asked why he wasn't turning a different direction on another road. After some back and forth, I mentioned I had checked the routes on Baidu Map. The best option was rather clear and the most reasonable alternatives didn't involve what he had in mind.

He said "Oh, you checked Baidu Map. Then we will go that way."

It worked out pretty well.

Once I was inside the departure hall of the Guiyang North Railway Station, I wasn't surprised by the small crowd. I was catching an early morning train at 6:52 a.m. after all.

quiet departure hall at the Guiyang North Railway Station

Guiyang North Railway Station departure hall

But I found it notable that the retail space on the upper levels on two sides of the departure hall, a design common in China's larger new railway stations, appeared to be completely vacant and lacking any restaurants or cafes. There wasn't even a Texas Burger. It reminded me of a similar pattern I saw five years ago at the Shenzhen North Railway Station — a place that is more occupied and busier now.

Soon I was on the high-speed train, which departed on schedule. Like my previous two trips, I was traveling a route for the first time. This route spent less time in tunnels than my previous trip though. And the train traveled at a much higher speed (about 300 km/h) than on the previous two routes (which maxed out at about 200 km/h).

A college student sitting next to me on the train kindly offered a welcomed banana, providing some balance to having had a mangosteen stolen in Guiyang. After discovering I liked spicy foods, she then gave me two small packages of spicy treats. One of them was especially tasty, and I was confident I was not going to go short on my salt intake for the day.

When I later mentioned I was catching a flight out of the Changsha the very next day, she asked whether I couldn't have flown out of Guiyang instead. Indeed, I would have done that had I better predicted things when I purchased the ticket. My schedule during the past month or so hadn't gone exactly as first planned. I spent more time than expected in Hengyang, which meant I had to skip Yongzhou. I then spent more time than expected in Guilin, which meant I had to skip Liuzhou and some other potential locations. I had just spent more time than expected in Guiyang, which meant I had to skip Kaili and Huaihua. In short, I wasn't arriving in Changsha a few days before my flight from a closer city as I had first expected. All of this reflects a tension between spending more time in individual cities versus visiting more cities. Both have their merits.

So after a three hour and twenty-something minute train ride, I had about 24 hours in Changsha. I initially thought I would put together a "day in Changsha" post similar to the one when I was last in Changsha, which also involved a one day stay followed by a flight. But that visit had occurred less than half a year after an earlier visit to Changsha, when I spent much more time there. A quick catchup here made sense. But this visit involved a one and half year gap from the previous one day visit and a nearly two year gap since my last extended stay. Not only was there much more which had changed, I more effectively maxed out my time. By the end of the day I wasn't just exhausted, I felt like all of what I had found deserved more than being put together in a single post.

So instead of a new "day in Changsha" post, for now I will share a single scene from Huangxing Square in Changsha which reminded me of scenes I have shared from Guangzhou and from Shenyang.

Mengzhilan M6, Oppo, and Huawei advertisements displayed at Huaxing Square in Changsha

Yes, on the digital billboard is yet another blissfully blue baijiu advertisement from Yanghe Distillery. But instead of featuring their Tianzhilan baijiu, it features their Mengzhilan M6. which according to Yanghe:
. . . inherits the element of the ancient Yanghe Liquor, and transforms itself gracefully in the new historical period by perfectly interpreting the definition of the treasured Liquor with pure and exquisite technology.
How about that?

Anyway, more soon. I will be in less of a exploratory mode during the next few weeks, so I hope to get slightly caught up on some things. Just need to decide what is next. Perhaps more about Changsha. Perhaps where I headed after Changsha. Perhaps where I was before. Perhaps some other new historical period.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Strong Drink of Hengyang

No responses correctly identified the city captured in photos of a riverside path, a dish of eel, and riverside dancing. I'm not surprised since the city isn't well known and none of the photos captured anything particularly iconic. I had considered sharing just one more photo as a clue — one of a locally produced alcohol.

Bottle of Yanfeng Baijiu (雁峰酒(小调)) for sale in Hengyang

However, this felt like too easy of a clue for those familiar with Chinese, though a quick internet search might be required. Yanfeng Liquor (Xiaodiao)* is a straightforward giveaway, since Yanfeng is a central urban district in Hengyang, Hunan. The 128 ml bottle sells for 15 yuan (about US $2.20), and like the peppers in the eel dish the contents have a good kick. The baijiu is made from a variety of grains and at 46% alcohol goes down a bit more smoothly than many other inexpensive baijius. It is one of the ways I found in Hengyang to have a local experience — one that fortunately didn't leave me with a headache the next day.

This is my fourth visit to Hengyang, something I wouldn't have predicted after my first brief visit over five years ago. As with intervening visits, I have seen much that has changed. I have also seen much that has not. More about both later.

*The official name listed on the back of the bottle is 雁峰酒(小调). I don't know whether "xiaodiao" is intended to refer to the minor key in music or the genre of folk music, though I lean towards the latter.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Homemade Mijiu in Xiapu

Last night in Xiapu, I stopped by a small independent convenience store to pick up some bottled water. I have been there several times and am familiar with the people who run the store. While chatting I asked if they sold any locally produced alcohol. I am a fan of trying any local foods or drinks wherever I go. They showed me one bottle of baijiu which costs only 3 yuan. Even a smaller (though stronger) bottle of imitation BOMB erguotou costs more than that.

After I looked at the bottle skeptically for a few moments, they suddenly announced they had something else for me and I wouldn't be paying for it. The woman said they were treating me to her parent's homemade mijiu, a type of Chinese rice wine. Soon glasses were poured for all three of us. This was definitely not something I would (or could) refuse. I was reminded of when just over a year ago I was similarly treated to homemade mijiu in Xiamen, also in Fujian province.

man pouring mijiu from a large plastic jug into a plastic cup held by a woman at a store in Xiapu, China
Now that is a jug of mijiu

They gave me a seat, and the glasses never stayed empty long. The mijiu tasted stronger than usual but went down smoothly. At one point the woman said she had to get something and insisted I didn't leave. Not long afterwards, she returned with a bag which made me think of duck heads. But there weren't any duck heads inside . . .

Soon we were all eating rather spicy duck feet. And the special drink continued to flow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza: A Few Observations of Stores, Food, and Fun

Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza Shopping Mall
The Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza Shopping Mall

Several years ago I posted about the Kaifu Wanda Plaza in Changsha, Hunan. Since then I have seen a number of Wanda Plazas in other cites across China. Most recently, I visited the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang. The 144th Wanda Plaza in China opened a few months ago and includes a shopping mall, apartments, and office space. I won't be doing a comprehensive overview, but I will share some of my impressions during a brief visit to the shopping mall.

When I looked at the mall map, the most curious thing was an "Apple" store. I doubted Mudanjiang had an Apple Store and was not the least bit surprised when I discovered it referred to an Apple authorized reseller.

Authorized Apple reseller store in the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Well, the store claims it is an authorized reseller. At the moment I don't see any mention of it in Apple's online search tool for authorized resellers in China.

Elsewhere in the mall, I saw an Adidas Kids store.

adidas kids store in the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

The online Adidas reseller tool isn't working for me, so I can't comment more on that topic. I didn't see an Adidas-imitating Adisco shoes store in the mall though.

I also did not see any entertainment like the Toyota promotion I saw at the Kaifu Wanda Plaza. But I did see a promotion which featured some children in a fun competition.

children competing in a game on a stage inside the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

I have seen Zoo Coffee, a Korean animal-themed coffeehouse chain, at other Wanda Plazas. None here, but Zebra coffee is available.

Zebra coffee shop at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

There are many options for food, including three familiar Western chains: Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, and Burger King.

Dairy Queen at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Pizza Hut at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Burger King at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Pizza Hut and Burger King have prime locations at one of the main entrances. The Burger King is notable in part because Mudanjiang does not have a single McDonald's. This may be the first time I was in a Chinese city with a Burger King but not a McDonald's.

The third floor of the mall is full of other restaurants. Several offer buffets, including one with something of an Alps theme.

Alps Pizza Buffet at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

There is also, as usual for a mall, a Sichuan option.

Sichuan-style restaurant at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Several restaurants, such as Pig Boeuf, sport a trendy style which has seemingly grown popular in parts of China.

Pig Boeuf at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Pig Boeuf had a nice family standing out front.

humanoid pig family statues at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Apparently these humanoid pigs are meant to encourage people to eat pork. If they have the opposite effect, a nearby vegetarian restaurant might be a good option.

vegetarian restaurant at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

I wouldn't call Mudanjiang a vegetarian-friendly place, so seeing this restaurant at the Wanda Plaza was a bit of a surprise. When I looked inside I saw that unlike other restaurants it had zero customers. Instead, employees including two chefs were sitting at a table looking extremely bored. Too bad.

Finally, to close out this odd set of observations from the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza on a happier note, I will share my favorite: a man and presumably his daughter taking a ride through the mall on an electric dinosaur kiddie car.

father and daughter riding an electric dinosaur kiddie car at the Mudanjiang Wanda Plaza

Now that is a great way to mall.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Barbecue and Baijiu in Taiyuan

It was late, and I hadn't yet had dinner. So I went out and headed to a late-night barbecue place in Taiyuan. Due to the recent rains they didn't have any vegetable options. I am unclear about the connection, but "tomorrow" they said.

As I waited for my meat kebabs, the cook took a drink of a clear liquid from a thin plastic cup. When I see people drinking water I sometimes joke that I think they are drinking baijiu, a rather strong Chinese alcohol. But as I made the usual joke, I realized that the cook was probably really drinking baijiu.

He smiled and spoke to his assistant. A jug of baijiu appeared, and soon I held a plastic cup with a healthy amount of baijiu.

And so, we drank.

barbecue cook drinking baijiu in Taiyuan

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Undoubtedly Trashy: Goats Eating in Jieyang

I thought I might be on my way to a goat-free day, but, of course, this afternoon I came across some goats yet again in Jieyang. A older man had just bought some fresh goat milk and appeared amused when I photographed the goats. We spoke briefly and thinking about the ambiguity of the Chinese character 羊 (yáng) regarding sheep, goats, and other Caprinae I inquired about the name of these fine animals. Not to my surprise, he went with 羊 (yáng) on its own.

What most caught my attention about these particular goats wasn't their number (only two) or their mode of transportation (walking with their human). I earlier mentioned that while buyers like the man I met today could be assured of the source and freshness of their goat milk, there were still unanswered questions which could be of concern such as those pertaining to the goats' diets. So I watched silently as one of the goats munched on . . . something.

goat eating trash on the ground in Jieyang, China

And with that food for thought, I think it can be said not only has the recent goats-on-wheels series come to a close for the time being but now the broader goat series as well.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Undoubtedly Authentic: More Mobile Fresh Milk in Guangdong

Chaozhou and Jieyang, bordering cities in eastern Guangdong province, share much in common. So after recently seeing fresh goat milk for sale in Chaozhou, I wasn't entirely surprised to see a similar arrangement yesterday at a street intersection in Jieyang.

motorbike tricycle cart with a goat

Like the milk seller in Chaozhou, the tricycle cart carried three goats (in the above photo two of the goats are off the cart mostly out of view). Unlike the milk seller in Chaozhou, the tricycle cart had a motorcycle front end.

Nearby, another seller offered offered milk from a more common source.

motorbike tricycle-cart with a cow

While there, I was fortunate enough to witness a milking for a customer's order.
man milking a cow on a motorbike tricycle cart

Having grown up in an area with many farms, I have seen plenty of cows before. I haven't seen many on motorized tricycle carts in the middle of urban areas though.

With concerns about fake products and past milk scandals on the minds of many in China, even inspiring cross-border trips for milk products, it is easy to think of reasons why this option would appeal to some people. Questions remain pertaining to the milk's quality, including ones about the animal's diet, but there is no doubt about its source, its freshness, or whether anything was added after it left the animal.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Last Goats During This Year of the Yang

Not only did I see three goats yesterday, three goats saw me.

three goats

And a girl petted one of them.

girl petting one of three goats on a tricycle cart

They weren't part of a mobile petting zoo though. Instead, the man who had biked them there was selling fresh goat milk.

tricycle cart with three goats and sign indicating goat milk is for sale

It seemed to be an auspicious sign to see goats on the second to last day of the Chinese lunar new year. There was much debate over which animal was represented by 羊 (yáng) — the Chinese word for the year's zodiac symbol. It can refer to a range of animals related to sheep and goats, and additional characters are sometimes used to remove any ambiguity. In this case, though, the seller apparently felt that 羊 would be understood as "goat", not so surprising since we were in Chaozhou — a city in southern China. Of course, if there was any doubt, the nearby goats cleared things up.

Although I had questions about the whether the milk was safe, I figured I couldn't pass up the opportunity to end the year in such a fitting fashion. So I told the man I was interested in making a purchase. After discussing the amount of milk I wanted, he asked what I intended to do with it. After I told him I planned to simply drink it as is, he explained that wouldn't be a great idea.

The man with the goats had spoken. And he had passed up a sale in order not to bring me any harm. I thanked him and left milkless but appreciative I didn't end the year on an unpleasant note.