Taiwanese flag on menu of New Zealand sandwich cafe prompts flood of 1-star reviews

taiwan sandwich
Image: Cosmo Coffee
  • Cosmo Coffee in Auckland, New Zealand, received a string of negative one-star online reviews for its display of a Taiwanese flag next to a sandwich item on its menu.
  • The cafe is known for displaying flag icons next to different sandwiches — such as an American flag for the Reuben sandwich and a Vietnamese flag for bánh mì, among others.
  • One negative review said the Taiwanese flag made them “uncomfortable” and the cafe should learn about “the one-China policy.”
  • Cafe owner Jason Park said it was never their intention to offend anyone and the flag has been on the menu for a while as a way to respect Auckland’s multiculturalism.
  • Netizens as well as Taiwanese officials expressed support for the cafe and chided the notion of pro-PRC people cracking down on the “freedom of a sandwich.”

Cosmo Coffee, a cafe in Auckland, New Zealand, was grilled with a flood of negative one-star reviews after denoting a sandwich item on their menu with a Taiwanese flag. 

A standout trait of the restaurant is its menu of different food items displayed with a flag of the dish’s country of origin. Their Reuben, a sandwich with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese, is paired with an American flag, while their bánh mì has a Vietnamese flag next to it. Their Taiwanese sandwich is from the Taiwanese brand Hung Rui Chen (洪瑞珍) and is composed of white bread, cheese, ham and a Taiwan mayo sauce.     

The inclusion of the Taiwanese flag, however, drew ire online, according to Radio New Zealand. In a now-deleted review that the cafe requested Google remove because of its political nature, a user complained the flag made them “uncomfortable” and recommended the cafe learn about “the one-China principle.” Other one-star reviews followed shortly after but with no actual comments. 

First of all, our cafe serves a variety of culturally inspired menus,” cafe owner Jason Park said in response to the negative reviews. “Our decision was made to satisfy our multicultural customer range in Auckland. During our process of finding menu ideas, we came across the Taiwan Sandwich. Small flags were added to the menu in purpose to help identify each sandwich. We simply Googled Taiwan and added the flag that was shown. This did not have any relation to the perspective of ‘one China.’

“Receiving multiple one-star ratings on our Google review due to using the Taiwan flag had us in shock, as we did not have any attempt to offend any of our customers.” 

Taiwanese officials responded to the controversy. Kendra Yung-Shao Chen, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Auckland, told Radio New Zealand: “The PRC government has never ruled Taiwan for a single day and definitely has no right to claim or to represent Taiwan or dwarf the name and flag of Taiwan.” 

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted: “China has infiltrated our open societies & even started cracking down on the freedom of a sandwich… Exposing & criticizing is the only way to deal with this scourge.” 

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