Years ago while traveling through Atlanta in the United States, I woke up early and left my hotel in search of breakfast. Soon I encountered a long line of about 50 people wrapped around a brick building. What could they be waiting for so early? Rounding the corner and confronting a thick, sweet aroma in the air, the answer was clear: donuts and coffee.
Through a long glass window, one could see the donut-making process in action. Swimming through pools of oil, riding conveyor belts, and bathing in waterfalls of glaze, the donuts were the focus of rapt attention. The long line of people can be explained quite simply: donuts and coffee are addictive, at least in America. And although Starbucks outlets abound in Shenzhen, the city has been without a dedicated donut source – until now.
Donut Kingdom first came to my attention several months ago as I was walking through the new Poly Cultural Center in Nanshan. Ir wasn’t open yet but I popped my head in the store to inquire about the Singaporean-based business. To my delight, the manager gave me a free sample and I promised to return to a proper donut feast. That chance came recently as I found myself dying for food and caffeine after an assignment in Nanshan.
My first impression: what a variety of donuts! With names like Rainbow Poem, Sunflower Field, Happy Almond and Mochazooka, I couldn’t decide where to start. I ended up going with one Plain Glazed, one Coco Rice, and one Hidden Treasure. Mr. Floss and Toast Nuts somehow escaped my selection process, although I understand that thin strands of pork meat on a donut might appeal to the Chinese palette.
Usually, biting into a fresh donut is a rapturously satisfying experience. Not this time. To put it simply, the donuts were dry. The sweet, sticky, warm moisture that represents an ideal donut was absent. They weren’t terrible, but they certainly lacked the zest of their American counterparts. This was evident due to a recent visit to a certain famous donut chain in Hong Kong.
To my surprise, a bite into the Hidden Treasure donut revealed actual peanut butter. Add some jelly to mimic the classic sandwich, and they might have a hit. The dryness of Coco Rice donut was barely redeemed by the thin layer of chocolate coating it.
The fact that these donuts are more expensive than their American counterparts does them no favor. But donuts are exotic in China, and 7 kuai a pop won’t do any great damage to one’s wallet.
Washing all of this down was a cup of Caffe Americano. Brewed on the spot, the cup was sizable, rich, and effective in clearing my early morning fog. Donut Kingdom boasts a wide variety of drinks, from the usual coffees and teas to “freezes” and smoothies. Prices are comparable if not cheaper than other coffee houses. The best part: any drink comes with one free donut.
Before leaving, I picked up an Oreo Smoothie (29 kuai) to go, and like the donuts that preceded, it was somehow dry. Before long, too much ice and cookie clogged the straw, rendering the smoothie undrinkable. However the ice eventually melted and it was worth the wait, delivering a rich liquid version of Oreo cookies.
Aside from myself, the spacious and modern Kingdom was empty with the exception of a Chinese couple sipping on their cups of cappuccino. Their complimentary donuts were left on the table untouched, signaling a possible gap in the local market for this foreign delicacy. However, the opening is good news for donut-loving foreigners.
In conclusion, Donut Kingdom can be applauded as the first donut retailer in Shenzhen, but not for providing prize-winning donuts. It’s telling that Ichiban’s 3 kuai donuts, found at kiosks around the city, outshine anything you’ll find here. But if you go for drinks and don’t expect too much of the donuts, you’ll be satisfied.
A1-01 Poly Cultural Center
Wen Xing Liu Road and Hai De Er Road