Where else in this fair city can one find Hello Kitty rice cookers, green tea cream puffs and sushi-shaped erasers but at Uwajimaya? Since the 1940s, the Asian supermarket has plied Seattle with all manner of exotic goods of questionable utility. I ventured into Uwajimaya's drink aisle in hopes of finding beverages that were both obscure and enjoyable. Though my success in the latter category was debatable, my success in the former was undeniable.
5. Vita Coco Coconut Water With Pineapple
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It's easy to see what the creators of this drink were aiming for: Imagine reclining in a deck chair and sipping a refreshing glass of tropical essence, the creamy coconut accented by the pineapple's sweet tang. Unfortunately, it was decidedly not deck chair weather when I tried this drink last weekend, and the taste was decidedly not refreshing. The most tropical aspect of Vita Coco ($1.89) was the flavor it carried of milk that had been sitting in the sun too long. Though I caught a summery tinge of pineapple, I also detected a hint of aluminum foil.
This drink's globalized nature intrigued me. It billsitself as Guatemalan coffee, but most of the writing on the can is in Japanese. The rainbow on the front suggested a harmonious medley of cultures and flavors. While there was nothing particularly unharmonious about Boss Coffee ($2.39), there was also nothing that made it stand out. It tasted thin and sweet, kind of like a Frappuccino, but less milky. It also lacked a Frappuccino's bite, and its caffeine content seemed low. Any cultural integration that goes smoothly is a victory for humanity, I guess, but don't expect Boss to outpace Starbucks on the world market.
3. Grass Jelly Drink With Lychee
The first few drops of Grass Jelly Drink ($0.69) that poured out of the can were a reassuring light brown. Then there was a gurgle and a plop, and a mass of dark, gelatinous cubes came splashing out, turning the glass an inkier shade. "Grass jelly" may be a misnomer. According to Wikipedia, this Asian dessert comes from boiling aged mint stalks with starch. However, there was nothing minty or grassy about the jelly in this drink--it most resembled tapioca, in that it was chewy and flavorless. The liquid portion of Grass Jelly Drink tasted like a mix of grape and cherry cough syrups, except marginally less sickly sweet.
2. Krazy Kritters Apey Grapey
Apey Grapey ($1.19) gets full marks for packaging. Other drinks from Orca Beverage, the Mukilteo company that brought the world this vitamin-fortified juice in a monkey-shaped container, include Roarin Orange Lion, Apple Gator, and Dino Blue Raspberry (I guess the creators thought wordplay AND dinosaurs would be too much awesome for one drink to handle). Subtlety is not Apey Grapey's strong suit, though--it tastes like diabetes in a bottle. If you left a bunch of grape Skittles in water overnight, this drink is probably what you'd get. Though Apey Grapey isn't carbonated, it's still slightly fizzy, possibly from those vitamins.
1. Soo Jeong Gwa Sweet Cinnamon Punch
Soo Jeong Gwa ($0.89) is the one drink on this list I would gladly try again. It tasted like a liquid Cinnabon, though its consistency was much thinner than Cinnabon frosting. The intensity of Soo Jeong Gwa's spice was on par with apple cider. But though it was sweet, it didn't leave my teeth gritty with sugar the way cider sometimes does. It might not be the ideal drink for summer, but served heated in a mug on a chilly winter night, it would be invigorating and delicious.