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Anneli Rufus Headshot

Wiggly Coffee Wows Japan

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I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this. Is it gross -- or is it the yummiest idea since Mystic Mints?

Going on sale today at Japanese Starbucks is the Coffee Jelly Frappuccino. "Jelly" is British for Jell-O. We're talking gelatinous coffee, served in tremulous cubes and as a spread and as a dessert ingredient throughout Asia. It's made just as our moms made those brightly colored molds for potlucks, by dissolving sugar and powdered gelatin in liquid -- in this case coffee -- then chilling it to jiggliness.

According to Japan Today: "This frappuccino, developed in Japan, combines the Coffee Frappuccino with Starbucks' original quality coffee jelly. It debuted last year for a limited time only, but due to its popularity, will join the beverage lineup again this year. For the coffee jelly, Starbucks exclusively uses select Arabica coffee beans.... The iciness of the frozen coffee and the unique texture of the coffee jelly strike a brilliant balance, creating a harmonious blend of the two distinct textures for all to enjoy. Starbucks will be holding an online poll for the customization of the Coffee Jelly Frappuccino.... Starbucks baristas, totaling 20,000 nationwide, will propose several customization ideas for the new Coffee Jelly Frappuccino, which will be posted on the Starbucks website ( from June 15 - June 28. Visitors will be able to vote for one of these ideas to ultimately decide the most popular customization. The result will be posted on the website on July 1 as well as in all Starbucks stores."

Customization, eh? Always culinarily edgy -- which is good in the sense of open-mindedness but bad in the sense of eating endangered species such as bluefin tuna and whales -- Japan is the country that produces such intriguing ice-cream (aisu) flavors as eel, crab, octopus, wasabi, soy sauce, chicken-wing, fermented soybean (natto aisu), horsemeat (basashi aisu) and ... well, whale.

Gelatinous coffee might be just the thing on a scorching summer day. Food innovations have to come from somewhere. A lot of what we now eat willingly would sound horrifying if we really thought about what it is. I mean ... cheese?

Hate Starbucks? Don't live in Japan? (And even if you do -- those wobbly babies are priced at upwards of 460 yen, which translates to nearly US $5 each.) Heck, scavenge your own cheap homemade version using coffee you've brewed yourself. Or super-scavenge it by using free coffee (as dispensed from urns in many banks, offices, and other semi-public places) and free sugar (from packets, also available in said places). Unless you have access to free animal connective tissue, you'll have to pay for the gelatin, but probably not much. (And if you're a vegan or vegetarian, as I am, you'll probably have to get clever with pectin.)

(Because I'm a scavenger, and because I'm the coauthor of The Scavengers' Manifesto, people tend to expect me to be gross. Although I am not personally so gross, -- and although I'm not entirely convinced that gelatinous coffee is gross -- I think it's well worth scoping out some of the grossest things around the world as this can inform us, intrigue us, inspire us to change things, and/or at least freak us out.)