A Taiwan coffee chain is enjoying sweet results after launching "salt coffee", which produces a unique but not entirely salty taste.
Since launching salt coffee on Dec 11, the 85 Degree Bakery Cafe, Taiwan's largest coffee chain, has changed coffee drinkers' habits and customers are increasingly ordering it rather than black or sugared coffee.
"Public reaction surprised us. Nowadays an outlet in north Taiwan can sell 700 cups of salt coffee per day and a store in south Taiwan can sell 700 cups, which is 20 to 30 percent more than the daily sale of our brand coffee, American coffee," Cathy Chung, spokeswoman for 85 Degree Bakery Cafe, says.
Chung says her company hit upon the idea of launching salt coffee because the trend of using sea-salt as a health ingredient in food or as cosmetics is sweeping Taiwan.
"Sea salt, which is also called ocean salt, is not refined and has more minerals than table salt. Besides giving the salty flavor, it opens the taste buds of your tongue, so you get a unique flavor from our salt coffee," she says.
The 85 Degree Bakery Cafe adds a small amount of sea salt to the creamy foam and chilled cream to a cup of steaming coffee. Many customers screamed with delight when they tried their first cup of salt coffee.
"It gives you three tastes. First, you get the slightly salty taste from the cold cream foam, second, the mixed taste of the salty cream foam and hot coffee, third, the aroma of coffee," says Ho Hsiu-ling, a university student, at the 85 Degree Cafe outlet on Xinyi Road in Taipei.
"It is amazing. I ordered it out of curiosity and expected it to be salty, but the taste is not entirely salty. It is salty and sweet and is more fragrant then sugared coffee."
But Li Ping-mou, a computer engineer, says he prefers iced salt coffee "because the salty-sweet taste is sharper."
Taiwanese traditionally rub salt into fruits to make them taste sweeter and this may explain the latest craving for salt coffee.
After creating salt coffee, the outlet plans to launch "cheese coffee" and "fruity coffee" - by adding cheese and mashed fruit to the coffee.
Founded in 2004, 85 Degree Bakery Cafe beat Starbucks to become Taiwan's largest coffee chain in 2005. It now has 55 outlets in China, four in Australia and one in the United States.