London Fogs: Your taste of home is not everyone's taste of home

My learned enjoyment of London Fogs is rooted in my eagerness to feel like I’m part of a community.

Whenever I take a sip of the drink, it reminds me of my first time trying it at a coffee shop on Granville Island. I didn’t like it at first. But when my cousin told me that every Vancouverite loved them, I forced it down my throat and squeezed out a smile.

I was eager to act like everyone else. I wasn't originally from Vancouver and was tired of being alienated throughout high school because of it. I stripped my identity of any sign of Hong Kong, discarded my mother tongue and built a sense of belonging in Vancouver.

Over the past 10 years, I have acquired a taste for London Fogs. However, it is no longer because I wanted to fit in, but because it has slowly become part of my identity — a mosaic made of some pieces from the East, and some from the West.

When I began the master’s of journalism program at UBC, I was curious to find out what other people in my class thought of this drink which reflected an area of conflict within my identity, so I had them try it.

After taking a sip of a lukewarm London Fog from a Tim Hortons cup, Austin Johnson smiled. Having grown up in BC, it’s a flavour combination he’s well acquainted with.

“It reminds me of cozy fall days with my wife, because she drinks a lot of Earl Grey,” he said. ”This smells like my apartment right now.”

Like Johnson, many might associate the taste of London Fogs with an image of a leisurely fall day. It could remind them of familiarity and comfort, especially since this city is the home of London Fog.

But does this taste bring the same warm and fuzzy feeling to everyone?

My classmates Megavarshini Somasundaram and Chaimae Chouiekh both thought that it had a medicinal taste, particularly like that of cough syrup.

Surprised by their unanimous response, I had to talk to even more people — Jasmine Zhang took a sip of the drink and swirled it around her mouth as if she was a wine connoisseur. After a moment of pondering, she said “it reminds [her] of the taste of hand soap.”

My other classmate, Aline Camargo, refused to finish it. “It’s not my kind of drink,” she said. “It should be a candy. I wish I could eat it [instead].”

Ashiqin Ariffin, who tried and liked the London Fog ice cream flavour from Rain or Shine, felt differently about the drink itself. They forced out a smile after taking a sip, explaining that “It’s not that I don’t like it. I just think it [takes] an acquired taste to like it.”

Husein Haveliwala and Joe Wei both enjoyed the floral notes of the beverage.

Yet another classmate, Zohreh Falah, who landed in Canada just a few months ago, took a second to think about the new flavour and replied, “It reminds me of nothing.”

Why does the same drink remind some of a sunny day, but others of a pharmacy or sheer nothingness?

In philosophy, the existence of large differences in feelings and experiences is known as “qualia.” Our perception and senses can be shaped by our personal experiences and cultural background.

Many of my classmates hesitated before responding to me, because the taste of London Fog was new to them. Sometimes it is difficult to perfectly articulate the taste, because unlike visuals, flavour is hard to communicate. It is hard to describe it in any language because everyone’s experiences are different — similar to the feeling of home.

I have been moving around the globe my whole life, struggling to conform to one identity. I forced myself to assimilate into Canadian culture when I was a teenager, and condemned the features that made me different from the people around me.

Through this experiment, I didn’t want to make my classmates feel like they had to discard their unique interpretation of this piece of Western culture, rather encourage them to celebrate these opinions. After all, our differences are what make us special.