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Following on from the current flurry of vending machine emails I thought people might be interested to hear the latest in vending machine developments over here in Japan.
As many people know Japan is renowned for people working long hours with unwavering dedication to their company and its leaders. This company culture leads people to work 12 to 15 hour days five or more days a week. The end result of this is that a good 30% of people on the train are asleep at any one time. This is a country in clinical need of caffeine, but with little time to drink it.
The Japanese solution to this? Canned tea and coffee of course! Yes! Walk up to any vending machine in Japan (there are 5 million of them at the last count, one for every 24 people or so!) and you will be presented with a selection of canned hot and cold drinks. Drop in 100 yen, about 60p sterling, and out drops a steaming hot can of "Royal Milk Tea" or "Mountain Roast Coffee" in a can.
'Sacrilege!' some may cry! But when you are standing on the platform at Kita Ickibukruo station waiting for the next train to Shibuya, the freezing winds of Western Russia streaming through your overcoat, the hot can vending machine yards away stops being a object of disgust and transforms into an oasis of comfort and warmth. The products in these machines are usually very sweet and slightly clinical, lacking the character and depth of a good, strong, cup of tea, but when there is little else on offer they do fulfil the need for tea.
So do you think this could ever catch on in the west? If you could be sure of a satisfying drink of tea from a can would you buy it? Or is tea too complex a drink to be mass produced in a factory in the back end of nowhere?
|Nicey replies: It all sounds delightfully cyber-punkesque. Hoorah for the Japanese and their hatstand ideas.
Gratuitous link to Oolong the sadly departed head performance rabbit.
Abbey Crunch Review
|A fond and regular reader of your website, I have always felt that I deeply share your passion for the good-old heart-warmingly simple but most glorious king of biscuits... of course... the abbey crunch. I too share your dissension with McVities (and to some extent the supermarkets and their throat-grip on the biscuit market) for its desicion to... discard... discontinue... and disembody the very hmm of such a delightfully delicious biscuit.|
When I... heard the news I... felt as if i'd lost someone special. Just like that. Never to be seen again. That was until last week when I walked into my local Spar and that familiar royal blue luminescence caught my eye from the biscuit shelves. As I walked closer in disbelief I grew short of breath.
Needless to say I bought all 13 packets.
What's more is that I've been back 3 times this week, buying every packet each time, and still they re-stock.
I'm sure if we spread the news then together, us and spar, side by side, can boost sales and ultimately bring back the crunch!
Rich Tea Review
|Seeing your poll on the merits of Rich Tea shapes, it reminded me that there was at one time a square variety. Marketed by our old friends Burtons in the 80’s, it was one of a range of economy-style “Bakers Selection” products. Unsurprisingly it was never a success, meeting with bemused reactions from retailers and consumers alike. It lasted about 3 years before the plug was pulled and a ‘real’ round version launched instead.|
Waiting for my train on Didcot Parkway station, and a coffee/tea vending machine nearby started beeping. Wandering over, I saw the display panel flashing: "Warning: Hot Flush", and true to its word, a few seconds later came a stream of boiling (well steaming in the cold atmosphere) water, aimed directly at the space where a cup would have been. Is this a sign of intelligence in the vending machine? or a sign of middle age? or a sign that it was trying to dispose of some unspeakable gunk?
||I'd like to tell you all about a nice box of chocolate cream wafers I was given last week by my boss. He'd been sent them by a colleague in Japan (in a box of rock samples, but luckily only a few of the wafers were crushed). They are called 'Chocolate Collon' which sounded so much like the part of the intestine reserved for biscuit digestion that he just couldn't face them.|
I can report that inside the box were 6 individual packets, each containing ten inch-long crispy wafer tubes filled to the brim with creamy chocolatey goodness. The chocolate was more of a praline, but very good nonetheless. They went very well with a short sharp espresso in the morning.
We have a vending machine too (Klix) which does a good tea, a very poor coffee (like rainwater), and the soups would be ok if there was a device for stirring the inch of sludge at the bottom of the cup.
Southampton University (Oceanography Centre)
|Nicey replies: Its a good job the rocks didn't smash them all. We'll have to let Ace biscuit hunter Jonathan Dean know as he is in Japan right now.
Horrah for the Japanese and their unfortunate product names!