Sometimes we wonder if coffee drinkers in Southeast Asia are among the most bored people on the planet. Fad-obsessed Japanese consumers may have attention spans rivaling those of fruit flies, but Southeast Asian consumers often prove just how bored out of their skulls they can be with the same old product — coffee being a prime example.

Take Indonesia’s overpriced gag novelty known as kopi luwak. Or Vietnam’s repeat brewing of the largest cup of coffee in the world with some of the world’s worst coffee. Now today’s The Age (Melbourne, Australia) reports on the Taiwanese fad of “salty coffee”: Taiwan goes crazy for ‘salty coffee’ – Breaking News – World – Breaking News.

According to the 85°C Bakery Cafe — Taiwan’s largest coffee chain — Salt Coffee has outsold basic black coffee by some 20-to-30 percent since its launch on December 11. The article attributes some of its popularity to a current trend of “using sea-salt as a health ingredient in food or as cosmetics” that is sweeping Taiwan.

Besides being called “the Starbucks of Taiwan,” the 85°C Bakery Cafe chain also has one outlet in the U.S. — located in Irvine, CA. Given how we noted that most of the residents of Taipei, or at least those shuffling about in public around the night markets, looked like bored teenagers from Orange County, Irvine is a shrewd choice. (Though unlike Orange County, Taiwan struck us as a better place to live than to visit.)

So can Westerners trust the opinions of Taiwanese consumer tastes? Taiwan may be among the rare Southeast Asian nations that get the concept of a decent dessert, but it also exhibits an odd fetish for snake blood. And noting that the article reads like a press release in some parts — e.g., “Many customers screamed with delight when they tried their first cup of Salt Coffee” — we can’t be sure whom to trust.

UPDATE: June 8, 2010
Is it still a “craze” if, after almost two years of obscurity later, people are still wondering if it’s a craze or not?: Sea Salt Latte: Is 85C The Next Coffee Craze? : NPR.