A US company claims they invented dalgona coffee, you can guess how that turned out

dalgona coffee on windowsill with plants
Photo: Aimee Levitt

Remember that fun little dalgona coffee fad we had going for a little while? Remember how we all whipped up instant coffee crystals, sugar, and hot water until it becomes an airy mousse-like end product, which we served on top of ice-cold milk? I thought it was cool, and people seemed to really love it. You could take something that was in your pantry and transform it into something brand new within minutes. Bonus: It was highly Instagrammable.

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This coffee drink was popularized by a South Korean actor, Jung Il-Woo, when he appeared on a show called Stars’ Top Recipe at Fun-Staurant. In his segment, he ordered a coffee drink in Macao made by cafe owner Leong Kam Hon, who demonstrated how to create it. This eventually led to South Koreans giving it a shot at home during the pandemic. It blew up on social media, and Americans who were feeling cooped up started making it, too.

Now an American company called Whipped Drinks is selling $49 dalgona kits. Not only that, Buzzfeed reports that the owner, Katie Angel, is claiming to have invented the concept. By the way, instant coffee costs like $5, and water is free, and you probably have milk and sugar lying around, so no need to spend... $49. (The Whipped Drinks kit does include a battery-operated milk frother, though.)

The Whipped Drinks website reads:

In the Spring of 2020, like so many others, Katie’s entire world turned upside down and she sought an outlet for her creative spirit. With coffee shops closed and grocery store lines around the block, she improvised with premium instant coffee in her home kitchen to make a whipped coffee creation to rival any Los Angeles barista. After months of delicious trial and error, she finally came up with the recipe for Whipped Drinks by blending a perfectly balanced combination of 100% Colombian Arabica coffee, premium cocoa, natural cane sugar, and a dash of sea salt (to keep things interesting).

As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well on social media.

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Another Twitter user added, “So we have white people claiming they invented Dalgona coffee now?”

After the ruckus on social media, Whipped Drinks updated its website to include a nod to its South Korean popularization. It also posted an apology to Instagram: “We are sorry and we acknowledge that this was inspired by Korean culture and we completely stand by the Asian community. We did not intend to make it seem that we invented dalgona. In the spirit of that, a percentage of proceeds from every sale will go to the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, building power with AAPI women and girls.⁠”

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Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

DISCUSSION

fredipusrex
FredipusRex

Ironically, “Dalgona coffee” is itself an appropriation - it’s called “hand whipped coffee” in Macau and is not “inspired by Korean culture” - it simply became insanely popular there due to the mukbang craze and then traveled around the world.

Leong Kam Hon, the Macanese barista who was filmed by Jung Il-Woo, also didn’t invent the drink - he learned it from a “foreign couple.” So the original provenance of this drink is unknown although it’s probably based on Indian beaten coffee (phenti hui).

This doesn’t excuse Katie from Whipped Drinks trying to take credit for it (although it’s unclear if she’s trying to take credit for beaten coffee or her own version of it that includes cocoa).

Beaten coffee - it’s appropriation all the way down.