Hello KittyA few months ago you may have watched an Internet video in which a cat meowing the word “Hello” was featured.  The kawaiiness (cuteness in Japanese) of that “Hello Kitty” did not compare to that of the original Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty Sweets in Taipei, Taiwan is said to be the only official Sanrio Hello Kitty teahouse on Earth, which is a bit hard to believe as Hello Kitty has gained enormous popularity internationally in recent years.  My cousin Sean invited me to afternoon tea at this teahouse, where one of his students worked as an apprentice to the pastry chef.  While examining the menu laden with cutely named desserts and drinks, I noticed that the most expensive tea listed was French Hédiard Earl White Tea.  Hédiard, the French delicatessen store, was founded in 1854 by Ferdinand Hédiard, who introduced many exotic products to Parisians.  Tea must have been one of the very first commodities supplied by his store, which remains a must-visit tourist destination.

Hello KittyHello Kitty was born in Japan in the 1970s, a product of not only the company Sanrio, but also the so-called “Cute Culture”.  Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters are especially adored in Asia.  In addition to Hello Kitty Sweets (the teahouse), there are Sanrio Puroland (the indoor theme park), the Hello Kitty airport waiting area, the Hello Kitty plane and flight, and most recently, a Hello Kitty Bed & Breakfast.  I was once told that because Hello Kitty does not have a mouth, it appears happy to its beholders when they themselves are happy, and gloomy when they are gloomy.  The flourishing of the empire is manifested by the presence of a Sanrio Store at so many shopping malls in the United States.  Why is the empire named Sanrio?  San means three in Japanese; rio is river in Spanish. It is named after three great ancient civilizations, namely the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Chinese, originating near rivers.