Tear gas is among the new flavors at a Hong Kong ice cream shop. The main ingredient is black peppercorns, a reminder of the pungent, peppery rounds fired by police on the streets of the semi-autonomous Chinese city during months of demonstrations last year, per the AP. "It tastes like tear gas," said one customer who experienced tear gas at a protest. "It feels difficult to breathe at first, and it's really pungent and irritating. It makes me want to drink a lot of water immediately." The flavor is a sign of support for the pro-democracy movement, which is seeking to regain its momentum during the coronavirus pandemic, said the shop's 31-year-old owner, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid repercussions from the pro-Beijing government. "We would like to make a flavor that reminds people that they still have to persist in the protest movement and [not] lose their passion," he said.
He tried different ingredients, including wasabi and mustard, in an effort to replicate the taste of tear gas. Black pepper, he said, came closest with its throat-irritating effects. "We roast and then grind whole black peppercorns and make them into gelato," he said. "It's a bit hot, but we emphasize its aftertaste, which is a sensation of irritation in the throat." At about $5 a serving, the ice cream has been a hit. Prior to social distancing regulations, the shop's owner said he was selling 20 to 30 scoops per day. The ice cream shop also provides a space for people to express their views about the pro-democracy movement. More than 16,000 rounds of tear gas were fired during the protests, per Hong Kong authorities. The protests have mostly died away as the city fights the virus, but there are widespread expectations that larger actions may emerge during the summer.
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