Thursday, October 8, 2015

Tasting Notes: Mr. Brown's Canned Coffee

Western style was prevailing in Taiwanese society in the 1970s. Fashionable ladies dressed themselves with fluffy while the most popular among gentlemen was to hold a cup of mellow coffee to enjoy the elegance of the black beverage.   

Who is Mr. Brown? Why does his canned coffee taste so good in the middle of a bike ride? Why doesn’t he look more Chinese? Why is he so happy? These are the questions that run through my mind every time I see a tin of Mr. Brown’s “Ready to Drink” Iced Canned Coffee, one of my go-to cycling beverages. Fortunately, I recently discovered, a mischievously translated source of all kinds of fascinating, if not entirely reliable, information about this apparently famous Taiwanese treat. 

The bearded, curly haired, charming Mr. Brown in white suit with his thumb up a very good image. The idea of the design comes from enthusiastic Brazilian (Brazil produces abundantly coffee beans) because people of this nation are hospitable and generous, hearty and enthusiastic. 

Val put me on to Mr. Brown a couple of years ago, and it’s become for me a staple of long rides in places where I know I won’t have access to actual coffee. (Pro Tip: If it’s a hot day, freeze a can ahead of time.)  In Canada, the options for canned coffee are limited, at least compared to the US. For whatever reason, coffee in a tin has just never really caught on here. Starbucks sells only their Refresher series in a can, but it’s not actually coffee. (Alas, their canned Doubleshot Espresso is not available in Canada.)  Tim Hortons, meanwhile, doesn’t make one, as far as I know. But you can get Mr. Brown’s cheap at any Chinese grocery store. 

In view of the blooming canned coffee market in Japanese, KING CAR introduced the highly exotic "Mr. Brown Coffee" into Taiwanese market against all the odds and created a coffee culture on the island.

I know in Japan you can’t swing a Hello Kitty without hitting a vending machine that sells the stuff. A friend who lived in Japan for a while told me a story of riding his bike in a remote rural area one day and encountering, in the middle of nowhere, a vending machine stocked with 10 types of canned coffee, plugged into a power pole. 

To build up the brand with exotic sense, Mr. Brown Coffee made his brand character "Mr. Brown" a bearded, cheerful, passionate and Pavarotti-like man coming from coffee bean producing land – Latin America to introduce coffee to Taiwanese people. 

The Pavarotti (everyone’s favorite Brazilian?!) in Mr. Brown is obvious. But I also detect traces of Bluto, Popeye’s nemesis, perhaps on some kind of muscle relaxant, since he’s not nearly so angry as we’re used to seeing him in the comic strip. Others may recognize shades of Brian Wilson, the black-bearded relief pitcher for the Giants. Or even Jack Black in his crazy beard days.   

He always wears a beard and gentleman hat and enthusiastically thumbs up to recommend canned Brown coffee. 

How does it taste, you ask? To be honest, it’s probably not gonna wow you in a straight up taste test. It tastes enough like creamy, sweetish coffee, but with a hint of slightly burnt nuts. Okay, that doesn’t quite do it justice. 

The trick is to only drink it during or after a long bike ride. Somehow the combination of physical exertion, heat, sweat, metal, caffeine, and, of course, the smiling, bearded, demented mug of Mr. B works a strange gustatory magic. 

Trust me—take Mr Brown on a ride. He will get your enthusiastically thumbs way up.

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