On my recent trip to Europe, I ordered special vegan meals for the planeride. These were quite good, better, in fact than what my friends were eating. For each piece of food that i couldn't eat on their plates, I had something that had been freshly prepared in its place. The one thing which disturbed me was the tiny package which replaced the usual coffee creamer. "Whitener" it said on the package. Whitener???? What the hell? Does it just make the coffee whiter or is there some sort of flavor adjustment involved, too? The best part of the whole thing were the ingredients: "A blend of dried glucose syrup and vegetable fat." MMM-MMM delicious! I never actually used the damn thing. If anyone would like to have this treat let me know.

Whitener is known as nai3-jing1 "essence of milk" in Chinese. I have seen it under the brand name "Coffee White", though there are many other varieties. It is also widespread in Japan.

It is a much brighter white than any form of real milk or cream that I have seen in the U.S. When you first pour it into coffee it behaves a bit like half-and-half in that a little of it floats on the surface of the coffee while the rest disappears into the black. I don't notice any particular effect on the flavor of the stirred coffee, although by itself coffee whitener is vaguely sweet.

Asking for milk with your coffee in Taiwan almost always gets you whitener. If you ask expressly for fresh milk you will get a little glass of it along with a surprised expression. Although coffee has grown greatly in importance in Taiwan since I first started visiting in 1984, and although Starbucks-style coffee drinks made with foamed milk, such as cappuccino (ka3-bu4-qi2-nuo4 and other names) and latte (na2-tie3 "get some iron"), have invaded even the smaller Taiwanese cities since the mid-'90's, I don't think the sovereign position of whitener as the sole consort of black coffee has been much threatened by fresh milk.

Whit"en*er (?), n.

One who, or that which, whitens; a bleacher; a blancher; a whitewasher.

<-- a bleach.

2. A chemical used as an adjunct to laundering white cloth, which makes white cloth appear whiter. A bluing agent.-->


© Webster 1913.

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