Don't Bother Trying The Viral Onion Coffee This Summer

Once again TikTok brings us a potential underdog of a drink combo. Taking inspiration from Chinese coffee shops, TikTok creators have begun testing out a combination of spring onions mixed into a simple iced latte.

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Hundreds of videos on TikTok show people shoveling heaps of chopped spring onions into an ice-filled cup and stirring it around with their morning caffeine. The scallion coffee may be part of a specific Chinese food trend that isn't very well-known in the U.S.: "dark cuisine." This trend is all about unexpected (and even intentionally unappetizing) food combinations, and green onion coffee certainly fits the bill.

It might be hard to imagine a morning of chopping onions and brewing coffee, but the drink is going viral for a reason (whether good or bad). I'm suspicious of this trend, but I'm always open to being proven wrong, so let's see what these spring onions do to my morning latte (spoiler: It's nothing good).

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Where did the viral onion coffee come from?

Many sources say the viral spring onion latte originated in China, where some food and drink combinations we would consider unconventional stateside are fairly common. The New York Times notes that Chinese culture has a food category called "dark cuisine" or "hei an liao li." The term itself dates back to a 1990s manga series.

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This dark cuisine is meant to challenge the senses and look unappetizing at first glance. While people have not outright labeled this coffee trend as being in this category, it certainly makes sense that it could be related to the dark cuisine phenomenon since it seems intentionally jarring to the senses. However, dark cuisine dishes can get much wilder than simply stirring chopped spring onions into an iced latte. How would you like chicken wings braised in bright blue soda? Or ice cream fried rice? By comparison, spring onion coffee seems relatively tame.

How does the viral onion coffee taste?

Is this unexpectedly trendy beverage worth its hype? The simple answer is no. I can't hide my distaste or even pretend that some part of this combination is redeeming because it just is not. 

I've trusted the coffee-making to the professionals and purchased a simple iced latte from Starbucks; this includes two shots of espresso and 2% milk. My nearest grocery store did not have spring onions, but green onions are an acceptable substitute. In fact, green onions are probably better in this case because they tend to have a milder flavor than spring onions. This is how I'm trying to comfort myself, but in all honesty, it's irrelevant. One sip is an uncomfortable experience because my mind thinks I should chew the onion bits, but then also drink the coffee, and the feeling of the green onion sliding down my throat with a mix of coffee and milk is just horrific. Another full gulp of the latte confirms the onions are out of place; their taste and aroma just ruin any sweetness in the latte.

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Rather than waste a perfectly good latte, I grabbed a spoon and essentially cleaned out the onion from the drink. Unfortunately, the onion's scent and flavor already permeated the coffee. I feel the onion on my breath and it's just not a flavor you want mixed with espresso. This could very well be an acquired taste that my palate isn't ready for, but I also don't feel like ruining multiple morning cups of coffee trying to make it work. For now, spring onions will only serve as garnish for my Buffalo mac and cheese and my lattes will continue to be served sans vegetables.

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