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Screenshot of actor Kim Woo-bin drinking non-alcoholic beer
Hiya! 유행[Yuhaeng]’s 민지[Minji] here on this lovely day with some lovelier news from Korea. 🤗 Random question, but do you happen to be enjoying a drink while reading this newsletter? Water? Juice? Coffee? And how often do you drink this beverage? Why did you choose it? Because you’re thirsty? For your health? Or maybe it’s a little unhealthy treat you like to indulge in occasionally? You might counter with a question of your own: why so nosy? To that I answer, ‘Sorry, my bad…’🤭 I’m a person who has a drink in hand at all times, so naturally, I’m really interested in this kind of stuff! Before I knew it, all these questions started spewing from my mind (rip my keyboard).
Nowadays, Korean beverages are actually ‘Free!’
The general trend at the moment seems to be to zero out a crucial ingredient in popular drinks: coffee without caffeine, carbonated drinks🥤 without sugar, beer without alcohol. It’s no exaggeration to say that these drinks rank top three in a list of Korea’s favorite beverages. They’re all great sources of energy when enjoyed in the right amounts, but overindulging in them can negatively impact our health and lead to addiction. I’m not really a big fan of alcohol, but absolutely love coffee and carbonated drinks to the point where I’m always drinking more than what’s recommended. But now, things are starting to look up.
illy and KANU are two decaf instant coffee brands I’m enjoying at the moment. Since I’m drinking decaf anyway, I find myself regularly seeking out the cheaper and more reliable decaf instant coffee.
Thanks to this, I’ve ‘become free’ as well!
Even just a few years ago, there weren’t many zero calorie carbonated drinks outside diet cola. The present is a whole different story, with many different sorts of zero calorie beverages having been released recently. Sure, carbonated water’s great and all, but a drink that retains its original sweetness and flavor? Count me in! With larger franchises at the forefront, more and more cafés have begun offering decaf coffee. And in real life as well, it’s quite normal to see people ordering decaf coffee at cafés in the afternoons. Much the same thing is happening in the alcohol industry – there is a growing list of non-alcoholic beers to choose from. Beer has a weighter kind of charm that carbonated drinks lack, so even though I’m not a great drinker, I still indulge in a glass now and then. But thanks to non-alcoholic beer, I’m now able to drink with less restraint.
This is one of my favorite non-alcoholic beers at the moment, called hite. ‘논알콜(Alcohol-free)’ beer can be separated into two categories: ‘비알콜(very low alcohol),’ which contains less than 1% alcohol, and ‘무알콜(non-alcohol).’ As for me, I’m decidedly in the non-alcohol camp! Non-alcoholic beer is not fermented, so people often say it tastes pretty similar to a carbonated drink with a dash of ‘beer flavor.’
It seems ‘subtraction’ will be higher up on the hip meter than ‘addition’ for the time being
In the past, we used to focus on adding complex flavor profiles and aromas to our beverages, and people responded in kind. But now, after having experienced countless ‘additions,’ it’s difficult to find new flavors to add to the list. Rather, ‘subtraction’ has become the new unconventional. We’re past the era of publicizing beverages – carbonated drinks, coffee, beer – with phrases like ‘never seen before’ or ‘unlike other beverages.’ Now, the appeal lies in things that are lighter, simpler, and less intense.
As expected, I’m recently finding myself looking forward to zero calorie versions of my old favorite drinks rather than new flavors. The picture above shows the zero calorie version of 밀키스[Milkis], my fave carbonated drink after coke.🥰 (It actually hasn’t even been a month since it’s been released!) If Milkis isn’t readily available to you, you can enjoy a similar flavor profile by mixing milk and Sprite in a 4:3 ratio.
Remember ‘오운완(done with today’s workout)?’
As we covered in issue 5 of 유행[Yuhaeng], health is a major topic of interest among today’s 20~30-year-old Koreans, more so than any other generation before it. So it’s reasonable to say that the popularity of ‘free beverages’ is directly related to this interest in health and diet. For a generation which places such importance on health, quality of life, and securing personal time, ‘light’ beverages can mean many things. I expect things to be the same across the world, but to be sure, I had a short conversation with Alexa, a friend from the US.
Minji: So, what do you think? Are ‘Free’ beverages popular in the US as well? I bet they’re much more commonplace than here in Korea.
Alexa: I want to talk about the three beverages – zero calorie carbonated drinks, decaffeinated coffee, non-alcoholic drinks – separately. First, I agree that zero calorie carbonated drinks and decaf coffee have been common beverages in the US for a comparatively longer time, but there are a couple key differences in the way they’re perceived. Drinking carbonated beverages is more of a ‘choice’: I like them but want to be mindful of my health and diet, so I ‘choose’ to drink zero calorie options. Coffee is a beverage that has more societal implications. Going to a café with friends, attending meetings – these are essential social activities we must take part in. So decaf beverages are often the sole ‘option’ for those who either can’t or don’t want to ingest caffeine. I’d expect the situation to be much the same for those who drink non-alcoholic beer. However, I will say that I’m not as familiar with non-alcoholic beer as I am with zero calorie carbonated drinks and decaf coffee. A quick internet search also leads me to believe non-alcoholic beer is not yet as commonplace in the US as a whole. But seeing global trends of consumption, I think it’s only a matter of time before non-alcoholic beer becomes a staple of your nearest store.
I’m curious to hear what new drinks are trending in your area. Let me know by clicking the ‘Send a reply’ button below! See you in the next newsletter!
The title of today’s newsletter is a lyric from NCT 127’s 無限的我 (무한적아;Limitless). The line was a popular meme in Korea’s online communities because it begs the question ‘what’s the point of repeating something so obvious?’ while still possessing a sort of charm that makes it feel strangely meaningful. ‘Look at how embarrassed we are, so embarrassed,’ ‘look at me drinking coke, I’m drinking coke’ are some ways to apply the meme.
From today onwards, ‘#Hipster’ will be a corner where I’ll feature my friends as they enjoy Korean culture in real-time! I’m sure you know that if you want to learn about and enjoy a nation’s culture, you’ll have to browse through some hashtags!
let’s meet Rama, a Jordanian expat who’s dabbled in so many interesting things in Korea.
#유학생활(life studying abroad)
Minji: Hi! Nice to meet you! First off, I want to learn more about you as a person. Can you talk a little bit about your background?
Rama: Hi 민지[Minji]! My name is 라마[Rama], and I was born and raised in Amman, Jordan’s capital. Ever since I was little, I’ve been interested in Far Eastern culture because these countries are very far from my country and we do not really know much about these societies. Because I believe that in order to know a culture more you should learn about it up close, I decided to move to one of these countries. I was at the same time interested in getting my master’s degree, so I decided to do that abroad as well in order to get a chance to learn as much as I can. I applied to study abroad in Korea as my first choice because I know that there are many good universities here, and most give students the chance to learn the Korean language and culture through many different activities. I moved to Korea in 2020 to get my master’s degree and have been studying pharmacy at Yonsei University ever since.
Minji: You have several informative posts about the cultural overlap🤝 between Arab/Middle Eastern culture and Korean culture. Visiting places like the Bukchon Hanok Village and the historically significant Gyeongju, was there something particular about Korean traditional culture that reminded you of Arab culture?
Rama: When I moved to Korea in 2020, I wanted to learn about Korean history by visiting various historical sites. Even though Korea’s unique, amazing, and beautiful architecture seems completely different from Arab architecture, I realized there are actually many similar traditions and mannerisms between the two cultures. For example, like Korea, it’s also an Arab tradition to take off your shoes before entering the home.
Ⓒ Rama’s 인스타그램
The Rose concert
Minji: You’re also participating in many fun activities present-day Korea has to offer (K-POP concerts🧑, museum visits, trips to other provinces). What’s one experience or place you visited that made you think ‘this could only happen in Korea?’ Did this event change your original perception of Korea, or was it generally in line with how Korea is known in popular culture?
Rama: Korea is known for its vibrant cultural scene. But overall, you cannot fully capture the ‘Korean vibe’ unless you live in Korea yourself. Of course, I did go to several K-POP concerts, but attending other artists’ concerts made me open my eyes to the fact that the Korean music industry is much bigger and more branched out than just K-POP. I also loved visiting both modern and historical museums to learn how Korean art has changed over the years. There’s no doubt it has changed a lot to fit modern times, but it still manages to keep its ‘Korean identity’ intact.
Rama, who’s managed to carve out her own space in a faraway land… thanks to you, I now see ‘Korea’ in a new light. If you’d like to learn more about her experiences, visit Rama’s 인스타그램!
Alright folks, that’s it for today.
Today’s hashtags were
#유학생활(life studying abroad)
I’ll be back with more hot and trendy tags next time!
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think of today’s 유행?
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or wish 유행 could be improved in some way,
please send us a reply.
Just writing something like
‘Minji was here’ is fine too!🤣
We’ve created a Slack community in order to communicate more closely with you, our subscriber friends! What’s more hip than talking with friends also interested in Korean trends? After you read the Notice in the ‘How to use’ channel, leave a hello! I, along with the entire 유행[yuhaeng] crew, will welcome you with open arms!
See you every other Monday!