The pro-democracy demonstrations that filled the streets of Hong Kong last year have decreased in both number and intensity, because even the shared anger of the protests was temporarily stopped by stay-at-home orders and the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, however, demonstrators again filled a luxury shopping mall after 15 high-profile activists were arrested and accused of coordinating three massive protests last fall.
Although the city isn’t echoing with the sound of defiance right now, the owner of one ice cream shop in Hong Kong has come up with an ingenious way of keeping the semi-autonomous city’s recent protests alive in people’s memories by introducing a pungent, throat irritating ice-cream flavor reminiscent of tear gas.
The shop owner, who preferred to remain anonymous because he fears he could face consequences from the pro-Beijing government, told reporters that he created the new “tear gas” ice cream flavor as a reminder “of the pungent, peppery rounds fired by police on the streets of the semi-autonomous Chinese city during months of demonstrations last year“.
After trying several ingredients and combinations, including wasabi or mustard, has opted black pepper, both because of its pungent smell and the way it can irritate the throat, just like actual tear gas, and black pepper came the closest to recreating the experience of being sprayed in the face with a chemical weapon.
“We would like to make a flavor that reminds people that they still have to persist in the protest movement and don’t lose their passion” he said. “We roast and then grind whole black peppercorns and make them into gelato, the Italian style. It’s a bit hot, but we emphasize its aftertaste, which is a sensation of irritation in the throat. It just feels like breathing in tear gas.”
At the (tearfull) price of $5 a scoop, the tear gas ice cream has been a hit, with the shop selling 20-30 scoops per day, before the social distancing measures were introduced.
Interestingly, some who have tried it said that the ice cream actually reminded them of the sensation of inhaling tear gas during last year’s protests against Hong Kong’s China-backed government.
“It tastes like tear gas. It feels difficult to breathe at first, and it’s really pungent and irritating. It makes me want to drink a lot of water immediately,” one customer who also attended the protests said. “I think it’s a flashback that reminds me of how painful I felt in the movement, and that I shouldn’t forget.”
In an interview with the New York Times, the owner said that he added the “tear gas gelato” to the menu when he started making his limited-edition holiday flavors, among more traditional others, like chocolate and rum, gingersnap, and Christmas pudding. At the time, he vowed to continue serving “tear gas” by the scoop for as long as the police kept firing tear gas at protesters.
Protests have died down in Hong Kong since the coronavirus pandemic hit the island city, but people are unlikely to forget. A little bit as the sad echoes of the 1894 plague epidemic…