Friday, February 15, 2008

Ta Fong Aerated Water Company

Interestingly one of my favourite drinks during Chinese New Year was Cream Soda made by Ta Fong Aerated Water Company.

This is heavy memory indeed! And my heart just wants to burst to share this memory with any one who would want to listen or read!

The company, Ta Fong, belonged to one of my maternal uncles, Lau Pang Kwong, and had the address of 26 Central Road,Sibu. From half a shop lot, thousands of wooden crates of 72 black bottles each of different aerated water were produced monthly. Girls who worked there were cheerful and helpful. They were very friendly towards the kids who came around to have a look at the production line. I remember the huge black tubes of gas which would be used to pump the gaseous contents into the black and brown bottles. And a group of girls would paste the labels onto the bottles at the end of the assembly line.

The accountant of the company was Mr. Lau Kwok Chiong,another uncle of mine. He also had a remarkable family of smart children, very soft spoken and polite like him. They used to live in Kung Ping Road (now Brooke Drive) where I grew up. Mrs. Lau, our aunty was a good relative who comforted the children when they were scared and shared cheers during festive seasons. Needless to say, they had lots of Cream Soda and Sarsi for us on Chinese New Year Day. Lau Ai King became a caring nurse with a wonderful heart.

Remembering them, meeting them, only bring back wonderful memories of a Sibu childhood.

The flavours were cherry, sarsi,cream soda, banana and orange.

Each Chinese New Year before the advent of Fraser and Neave,7-UP and Coca Cola our parents would buy one whole crate of "mixed flavours" areated water from Ta Fong. Each big crate had 72 bottles. Later Ngo Kiong came into the market to compete with Ta Fong, but being relatives, we continued to buy Ta Fong. I liked another brand, Green Mountain. But perhaps because it was produced in Binatang (later Bintangor) the economics of production did not encourage a large profit so the company folded up. And there went out of our history a very delightful drink .

We kids would be given our share of the drinks, about six bottles each to be fair and we would hide our share here and there. We would try to drink as little as possible of our share, so that after the new year season, we could take out our bottles and drink slowly. I suppose it was very satisfying to be able "to have" a drink and say to a sibling, "I still have one bottle and you can have a little share of it."

It was a real life lesson on future orientation of needs and wants. My mother would say, " Bitter first, sweet later". Perhaps it was also our lesson in life on hoarding. Some of us became real life hoarders, hoarding everything because "these material things could be of importance in later life". Sometimes we do not even realise that we are hoarding junks. Ten sessions of spring cleaning cannot clear our junk. But I do love my junk.

We delighted in drinking them because our tongues would turn into the colour of the flavour. Of course at that time we did not know the dangers of artificial colouring in our food. Sometimes our mother would come and check our tongue. And yucks the tongues were all orange. Sometimes we laughed at each other because we had such purple tongues!! If we had too much of the banana flavour, our tongues would be ghostly green. And we would run after each other, saying, "Ghost, run away, ghost is coming after you!" And there would be shrieks of laughter in the house.

Sometime ago I did some research on how we could obtain our own Cream Soda Recipe as of course, the Ta Fong would not be able to spill their secrets.

According an American source, interestingly,this pharmacist's effervescent soda recipe for use in soda fountains is taken from the book "Young's Demonstrative Translation of Scientific Secrets" by Daniel Young, published by Rowsell & Ellis, Toronto, in 1861.

It would require:
Loaf sugar 10 lb, water 3 gills, mix, and warm gradually, so as not to burn; good rich cream 2 quarts, extract vanilla 1-1/2 oz, extract nutmeg 1/4 oz, and tartaric acid 4 oz; just bring to a boiling heat; for if you cook it any length of time it will crystallize. Use 4 or 5 spoonfuls of this syrup instead of 3, as in other syrups; put 1/3 teaspoonful of soda to a glass, if used without fountain. For charged fountains, no acid is used.

One of the flavours that I did not like was Sarsaparrilla. Wow, we did not know that it was some kind of wonder drug then. Sarsaparrilla is indeed the root of a woody vine native to South and Central America and the Caribbean contains the diuretic compounds (saponins) and can help lower high blood pressure, as well as play a role in urinary tract health. It helps prevent dangerous fluid build-up, such as that associated with congestive heart failure.

How did the world, and in particular, Sibu, get into the making of carbonated drinks? In fact there is a lot of history behind it. In the 1770s, scientists had already made important progress in replicating naturally carbonated mineral waters. Englishman Joseph Priestley impregnated distilled water with carbon dioxide. Another Englishman, John Mervin Nooth, improved Priestley's design and sold his apparatus for commercial use in pharmacies. Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman invented a generating apparatus that made carbonated water from chalk by the use of sulfuric acid. Bergman's apparatus allowed imitation mineral water to be produced in large amounts.

Added to this series of scientific discoveries, the bottling industry blossomed by leaps and bounds. Over 1,500 U.S. patents, by the 19th century, were filed for either a cork, cap, or lid for the carbonated drink bottle tops during the early days of the bottling industry. Carbonated drink bottles are under a lot of pressure from the gas. Inventors were trying to find the best way to prevent the carbon dioxide or bubbles from escaping. In 1892, the "Crown Cork Bottle Seal" was patented by William Painter, a Baltimore machine shop operator. It was the first very successful method of keeping the bubbles in the bottle.

So in the 1950's, Sibu had already benefitted from western inventions and a small bottling plant as well as aerated water making company was established to cater for the restaurant business and home use.

Today, we can still buy some of these bottled aerated water from some local supermarkets and in fact they are still in good demand as many children continue to like the sweetness of the formulae. Perhaps my children like these drinks because they have heard so much from older friends and relatives about them.

Get a drink and try to get your tongue coloured. Stick out your tongue in jest!! Be young once again!

4 memories:

Yan said...

cy, how could you remember so many things? You must have an elephant mind!

Even when my son said that if you choose to remember, you will remember, I still find that my little mind can't hold so many beautiful memories.

Yes, I remember the bottled aerated water for CNY! Thanks for the memories!

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Hi, Nice to hear from you in this wet kind of morning when all rubber tappers would enjoy a good day off, sitting at home and listening to the rain pelting down.

I am not sure about my memory power. But these stories are just part of me - like my ten fingers.

I have a good memory for what people say to me, minus a few words or two.

I am sure you are full of great memories too.

Thanks for the compliments. Makes may day. (Clint Eastwood)

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Make my day....(Clint Eastwood)

Sorry for the typo...finger clicking fast syndrom.

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