The beverage tradition from China is perhaps the most inspiring some of the drinks in the world.
Apart from its long history, typical Chinese drinks are well known through trade routes.
So, are you ready to find out one by one?
Check this out!
1. Black Tea
Black Tea is a type of tea that is more oxidized than other teas. Black tea generally has a stronger taste.
Black tea that is often used is like the original Chinese variety, C. sinensis var. sinensis small leaves.
Black Tea has long been a commodity, especially in China. Black tea in Mandarin is hóngchá which means red tea. The red color which is the origin of its name comes from the color of the leaves which oxidize when processed.
There are several varieties of Black Tea from China, such as Congou from Fujian, Lapsang souchong from the Wuyi mountains in Fujian province, Keemun from Anhui province, Dianhong from Yunnan, Yingdehong from Guangdong province, and Jiu Qu Hong Mei from Zhejiang province.
Black Tea processing includes a fairly long process. After harvesting, the tea leaves are blown first by the wind. Then black tea is processed in one of two ways, namely CTC, that are crushed, shredded, and rolled, and the orthodox method, that is rolling.
Furthermore, the tea leaves are oxidized under the temperature and humidity that have been adjusted in such a way. Then the leaves are dried to withstand the oxidation process and finally, the leaves are selected based on their final shape, such as whole leaves, powder, etc.
Oolong is a popular tea from China that is produced from the traditional semi-oxidation process of Camellia sinensis tea.
The process used in it includes wilting the tea in the hot sun and oxidizing it before the tea is rolled.
There are three theories regarding the origin of Oolong tea. First, according to the theory of “tribute tea” Oolong tea comes directly from the Dragon-Phoenix Tea Cake tribute tea. The term Oolong later replaced the old term when powdered tea became popular, due to its dark color.
Furthermore, there is the theory of “Wuyi“, Oolong tea was first present in the Wuyi Mountains area. This is evident from the poetry of the Qing Dynasty such as the song Wuyi Tea and the Tale of Tea.
Then according to the theory of “Anxi“, Oolong comes from the tea plant in Anxi which was discovered by Sulong.
There are various kinds of Oolong tea variants, including the Fujian, Wuyi Mountains, Anxi, Guangdong, Taiwanese tea variants, and other varieties. Oolong is usually served in a small brewing vessel, such as a gaiwan or Yixing clay pot, with a higher leaf ratio.
Oolong tea has a variety of flavors, it can be sweet and fruity with a honey aroma, or it can be woody and thick with a roasted aroma. The difference in taste depends on the horticulture and production style used in the Oolong tea.
Baijiu or also known as shaojiu is a typical Chinese clear liquor that usually contains between 30-60% alcohol.
Each Baijiu uses a different type of Qū yeast during the fermentation and distillation processes so that it tastes different.
Baijiu develops gradually in line with technological developments. The origin of the Baijiu can be traced back to the Neolithic era in China. Whereas a systematic refining process most likely developed during the Han Dynasty in 202-220 AD.
The appearance of Baijiu itself dates back to the Yuan Moglich Dynasty in 1271 – 1368 AD when refining technology from the Middle East spread to China. The distillation process continued to develop until the Baijiu resembled its modern form during the Ming Dynasty.
The uniqueness of Baijiu lies in the solid-state fermentation and distillation process using Chinese yeast called Qū and grains such as wheat or rice, millet, barley, and others. This allows the saccharification and fermentation processes simultaneously.
Even though it looks clear, Baijiu has varied flavors according to its variants. There are four categories of Baijiu based on aroma and taste, those are Qingxiang or light aroma, Mixiang or rice aroma, Nong xiang or strong aroma and finally Jiang Xiang or rice aroma.
Erguotou is a Chinese liquor or it can also be known as a kind of baijiu with a light aroma made from sorghum.
Erguotou is literally the second pot head which means the second distillery. The average alcohol content is about 50%.
The name Erguotou which means the second distillery shows the level of purity. Erguotou is a strong spirit type and it takes about six months to make it. Erguotou is a type of baijiu that is most often drunk in Beijing.
Erguotou is a type of Baijiu that belongs to the Qingxiang variant. It tastes soft, dry with a smooth and light taste in the mouth. The taste comes from ethyl acetate and ethyl lactate which are produced from the Qū yeast and sorghum fermented in the stone vessel.
Erguotou was introduced in the middle of the Qing Dynasty in Beijing. Therefore, Erguotou has close cultural ties with the capital city of Beijing and its surroundings. Some of the most famous Erguotou brands are Red Star or Hóngxīng and Niu Lan Shan.
Red Star is one of the originators of Erguotou who obtained the first business license from the Chinese communist government. Erguotou prices are generally inexpensive and so are popular with blue-collar workers in Beijing, as well as in northern and northeastern China.
Pu-erh or Pu’er is a type of fermented tea that is traditionally produced in Yunnan province, China.
This fermentation process produces a tea known as hēichá or black tea. Hēichá is a black tea that is different from black tea which is called hóngchá.
Darkened black tea leaves have a long history in mainland China. Originally, darkened tea or hēichá was made from a variety of teas in order to make them cheap. Hēichá is commonly drunk by ethnic groups on China’s southwest border.
The development process for Hēichá began in Yunnan in the 1970s and resulted in various styles of production called wòduī. This process produces a finished product in a matter of months that tastes similar to tea aged 10-15 years.
There are two styles in Pu-erh production: the long traditional process known as shēng or raw and modern accelerated production known as shóu or mature. The two processes were then developed into wòduī.
Pu-erh comes in various forms such as cake, bowl, box, mushroom, dragon pearl, and gold melon. In addition, according to the production process, the Pu-erh on the market is divided into four types, namely maocha or green, raw Pu-erh, ripe, and old raw Pu-erh.
6. Hongkong Milk Tea
Hong Kong milk tea or Hong Kong-style milk tea is a drink made from black tea and milk.
The milk used is like evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk. Hong Kong milk tea is a part of lunch in Hong Kong tea culture which is served hot or cold.
The history of Hong Kong milk tea cannot be separated from British colonization in Hong Kong. The culture of drinking tea in the afternoon mixed with milk and sugar has become popular ever since. A restaurant called Lan Fong Yuen claims that milk tea was invented in 1952.
The main ingredients in making Hong Kong milk tea are several types of black tea such as Ceylon tea in the western or perhaps Pu-erh tea, evaporated milk, and sugar or sweetened condensed milk. The tea is usually put in sackcloth to filter.
The use of this filtered cloth bag makes Hong Kong milk tea unique. These bags are shaped like silk stockings so that the Hong Kong-style milk tea has been nicknamed pantyhose or silk stockings by Hong Kong natives.
Quality Hong Kong milk tea has a fine or soft smoothness. In addition, the good quality of Hong Kong milk tea is the presence of froth on the rim of the cup after drinking it. The taste and texture will be greatly influenced by the milk used.
7. White Tea
White tea usually refers to one of several types of Camellia sinensis tea which generally has a light leaf appearance or is minimally processed.
Although until now there is no generally agreed international definition of tea.
What is now understood to be white tea has actually existed for the last two centuries. White tea, which is often sold, first appeared in English-language publications in 1876. Mostly harvested in China and mainly from the province of Fujian.
The name White tea is based on the silvery-white hairs of the green or black tea plant buds that are plucked before the buds are fully opened. The white tea is then allowed to wilt dry in the sun, unrolled, and not oxidized.
White tea is often sold as Silvery Tip Pekoe which is its traditional name. Now White tea is also known as China White and Fujian White. White teas that are good picked when they are young have lots of fine hairs on the tea part.
White tea is lighter in taste than most green teas or other traditional black teas. The content in White tea is like polyphenols, a set of phytonutrients, and has different amounts of catechins according to the variety and cultivation.
Mijiu is a typical Chinese rice wine made from glutinous rice. In general, the taste is sweet and sour which is quite balanced, similar to Japanese sake or Cheongju in Korea.
The alcohol content in Mijiu ranges from 15% to 20%.
Rice wine was made since around 1000 BC in ancient Chinese civilization. Then the practice began to spread to Japan and other East Asian countries. Now many Mijiu are sold in supermarkets with well-known brands, although some are still homemade.
The manufacture of Mijiu uses glutinous rice, Qū yeast, and water. Mijiu is usually drunk warm like Sake and Cheongju. Mijiu can also be used in dishes such as ginger duck and sesame oil chicken. Mijiu is widely produced in mainland China and Taiwan.
Mijiu can also be processed by refining it into a type of Baijiu which is known as Baijiu rice or mǐ báijiǔ in Pinyin. In addition, unfiltered Mijiu containing whole grains of rice with low alcohol content is referred to as jiǔniàng or láozāo.
The traditional serving of Mijiu is to boil three bottles and evaporate the alcohol in a skillet. This method is believed to help rehabilitate women’s skin. Mijiu can also be served with sticky rice balls like the one in Jiuniang.
Huangjiu which means yellow wine is also one of the typical Chinese rice wines.
Huangjiu is brewed by mixing grains such as rice, glutinous rice, or millet and Qū yeast followed by a fermentation and saccharification process for approximately two weeks.
Huangjiu’s history comes from ancient Chinese civilization that was abandoned until the 19th century until Germany reintroduced distillation techniques in Qingdao. The initial form of Huangjiu is said to have been designed by Du Kang during the reign of Shao Kang of Xia.
Du Kang, the founder of Huangjiu, was later dubbed the Chinese god of wine. Huangjiu is pasteurized, stored, and filtered before being bottled and sold. The pasteurization process removes impurities and stabilizes the aromatic flavor compounds.
Huangjiu is usually drunk warm because the richness of the flavoring compounds will be better obtained when warm. However, during the summer, Huangjiu is more popularly drunk cold or with ice. there is also Huangjiu which is used for cooking called Liaojiu.
There are different varieties of Huangjiu in China depending on the drought, the Qū used, and the production method. The taste tends to dry to very sweet, there are also Huangjiu which are produced using the Tang fan, Liang fan, Jia fan method, and with the fortification method.
10. Chinese Green Tea
Green tea is a type of tea made from the buds of Camellia sinensis which have not undergone the process of withering and oxidation.
Green tea originates from China and is commonly referred to as Chinese green tea. Green tea has now spread to various countries in East Asia.
Tea consumption has legendary origins in China during the reign of Emperor Shennong. A book written by Lu Yu in the years 618 – 907 AD during the Tang Dynasty entitled The Classic of Tea is considered important and is related to the history of green tea.
There are several varieties of green tea or Chinese green tea. Specifically, they can be distinguished based on the Camellia sinensis variety used, growing conditions, cultivation techniques, production processes, and harvest time. Usually, green tea is served brewed.
Different from other green tea manufacturing processes such as in Japan, Chinese green tea is usually processed by roasting it in a dry frying pan. Other processes used today include oven roasting, sun drying, and others.
The most popular Chinese green tea is in the shape of a leaf since at least the Southern Song dynasty. Popular green teas that are widely found in China include Biluochun, Chun Mee, Longjing or Dragon Well, Lu’an melon seed tea, Taiping Houkui, and Xinyang Maojian.
11. Shaoxing Wine
Shaoxing wine is one of the most famous Huangjiu varieties. This traditional Chinese wine is made from fermented rice and as the name suggests comes from the Shaoxing region, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province.
Shaoxing wines have been produced since the dynastic era. Most of its production is stored in the containers of classic Shaoxing wines for quite a long time. Shaoxing wines are named or named after the year they were made, similar to other wines.
There are several classifications of Shaoxing wine which can be distinguished based on the alcohol and sugar content in them. These include the dry type yuanghingjiu, jiafanjiu, semi-dry grapes, shanniangjiu which are sweet grapes, and xiangxuejiu, the sweet doux grapes.
Shaoxing wine is usually served as a complementary drink or as a snack. In addition, wine is also used in food dishes and various Chinese foods.
The famous Shaoxing wine producers are such as Zhejiang Gu Yue Long Shan Shaoxing Wine Co., Ltd. from Shaoxing. Other popular brands include Di ju tang, Kuai ji Shan, and Tu Shao Jiu. Shaoxing grapes are quite sweet because they contain sugar.
12. Wong Lo Kat
Wong Lo Kat or Wang Laoji in Mandarin pinyin is a typical Chinese herbal tea.
This drink originated in 1828 during the Qing Dynasty in Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces. This drink is made by a doctor by the name of Wong Chat Bong or Wang Zebang.
The Wong family were founders of herbal tea brewing in southern China. the brand is related with Wong Lo Kat drink. The recipe has been passed down for generations to become the herbal Wong Lo Kat tea drink that it is today.
However, after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Wong Lo Kat was acquired by the government. In 1997 Hung To Group through JDB Beverage Co. Ltd. and state-owned Guangzhou Pharmaceutical signed the Wong Lo Kat trade license agreement.
Wong Lo Kat red cans have been named JDB aka Jiaduobao since May 2012. So that currently there are two packages of Wong Lo Kat red cans, which are produced by JDB Beverage Co. Ltd. and belongs to Guangzhou Pharmaceutical.
Wong Lo Kat is sold in cans and cardboard containers. It smells like herbs, but tends to be sweet and somewhat herbal. While the consistency is runny like tea in general, Wong Lo Kat is also quite refreshing even when not served cold.
Tieguanyin is a type of Chinese Oolong tea that originated in the 19th century from the Anxi region in Fujian province.
Tieguanyin comes from tea leaves that are harvested in spring and autumn. The drink is well known for its berry flavor and aroma.
The name Tieguanyin Tea comes from the Goddess of compassion, Guanyin. Goddess Guanyin is also known as Kannon in Japan and Gwan-eum in Korea. Guanyin’s goddess of compassion is the embodiment of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist teachings.
There are two legends that tell the origin of Tieguanyin, namely the Wei and Wang legends. Wei is a poor tea farmer who meets Goddess Guanyin in her dream. Meanwhile, Wang is a scholar who accidentally found tea under a Guanyin stone.
Tieguanyin processing is complicated and requires special skills. The tea processing method starts with picking, drying, cooling, oxidizing, fixing, rolling, drying, and additional processes such as roasting and fragrance.
There are two types of Tieguanyin based on the roasting method and location. The first is Anxi Tieguanyin which is made in Anxi with slight oxidation of taste and the aroma is soft and fresh. Then there is Muzha Tieguanyin from Muzha which is roasted with a stronger taste.
14. Red Bean Ice
Red bean ice, found in Hong Kong, is usually served at restaurants such as Cha Chaan Teng.
Red bean ice is quite a popular summer dessert. The basic ingredients are adzuki beans, rock sugar syrup, and evaporated milk.
Red bean ice has been around since the 1970s. Currently, this ice is usually served with the addition of ice cream on top and is commonly referred to as red bean ice cream. In addition, there are also those that serve red bean ice with the addition of chewy jelly.
To make Red bean ice, soak the kidney beans or adzuki beans overnight. After that, the red beans are transferred to the refrigerator to make it chill. Then it is given crushed ice and evaporated milk on top.
Red bean ice has a deliciously sweet taste, cool and refreshing. To serve Red bean ice you can pour it into a glass. To make it more delicious, you can also add one scoop of vanilla ice or ice cream on top and enjoy it while it’s cold.
As a substitute for evaporated milk, Red bean ice can also use coconut milk for a stronger aroma. Red bean ice is a classic Cantonese drink. As a cool drink, Red bean ice is popular in summer for Hong Kong people.
15. Soybean Milk
Soybean milk or soy milk is a drink that is also popular in China. This plant-based drink made from soybeans is indeed made with a taste and consistency similar to milk. So that it can be used to replace milk.
Soybean milk in China is commonly known as Doujiang which means peanut broth. Doujiang is produced as a byproduct of tofu production. Meanwhile, products containing a mixture of milk and soy are more commonly referred to as Dounai.
Soybeans come from northeastern China and have been domesticated since the 11th century BC. The origin of Doujiang itself originated in the middle of the collapse of the Yuan Mongol dynasty with the name Doufujiang. Its popularity then increased further during the reign of the Qing dynasty.
Doujiang or Soybean milk typical of China and began to be sold by street vendors in the 18th century. Then around the 19th century, the drink began to be sold in shops as a breakfast menu. Doujiang then began to be industrialized in 1929.
The quality and taste of Soybean milk or Doujiang variants according to the soybean cultivation used in its production. In China, the superior qualities are smooth in the mouth and thick, pale white color, and appearance resembling milk cream.
16. Chinese Beer
Chinese beer is mostly a type of pale lager and includes other signature styles, such as the Tsingtao dark beer.
In Chinese, generally Chinese beer is called Zhongguo pi jiu. Usually made from rice, sorghum, barley, and sometimes from rye.
Another uniqueness of Chinese beer is that it uses bitter melon instead of hops. Meanwhile, beer production and consumption in China has existed for about nine thousand years or since 7000 BC. Beer in ancient Chinese culture was often used in rituals.
During the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties, the beer used for this ritual process was often referred to as Lao Li. However, after the Han Dynasty, Chinese beer began to fade and was replaced by Huangjiu. Chinese beer then began to appear again in the 19th century AD.
The emergence of beer in the 19th century began when Poland established a brewery in Harbin, which was followed by German and Czechoslovak companies. On the other hand, Craft beer has also started to appear in metropolitan areas such as Beijing, Shanghai, and also the city of Guangzhou.
Some well-known Chinese beer brands are Snow beer, Tsingtao beer, Yanjing beer, Harbin beer, and so on. Snow Beer produced by the company CR Snow is the bestseller and holds about 21.7% share of the beer market.
Yuenyeung is a coffee drink with tea that is popular in Hong Kong. Yuenyeung is made from a mixture of three parts coffee and seven parts of Hong Kong-style milk tea, usually served hot or cold. Yuenyeung takes its name from the mandarin duck, Yuanyang.
Mandarin ducks are a symbol of conjugal love in Chinese culture. Initially, Yuen Yeung was sold at Dai Pai Dongs or open-air food vendors and Cha Chaan Tengs aka cafes in Hong Kong. But now these drinks are available in various types of restaurants.
There are various claims regarding the origin of Yeung Yeung’s drink. Some claim that tea with coffee is a Dutch method of serving. However a restaurant in Hong Kong, Lan Fong Yuen said that Yeung Yeung was discovered in 1952.
Yuenyeung is made from a mixture of coffee with Hong Kong-style milk tea, such as black tea and condensed milk, and sugar. There is also a caffeine-free Yuen Yeung variant called Children Yuen Yeung which is made from a mixture of Horlicks and Ovaltine.
Yuen Yeung’s popularity has even inspired Starbucks menus in Hong Kong and Macau. In 2010, Starbucks outlets in Macau and Hong Kong promoted frappuccino drinks with the menu name Yuen Yeung Frappuccino Blended Cream.
Suanmeitang or sour plum is a traditional Chinese drink made from smoked plums, rock sugar, and other ingredients such as osmanthus. Because it uses plums, Suanmeitang has a slightly salty, slightly sour taste, but still sweet.
This sour plum drink has been around in several forms for over 1000 years. At least since the Song Dynasty in 960 – 1279 AD, there was also a variant called white Suanmeitang during the Yuan Dynasty around 1271 – 1368 AD.
However, the Suanmeitang recipe that has survived to this day is thought to have come from the request of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty during the early 18th century AD. Suanmeitang’s popularity occurred when a citizen of Hebei produced it under the Xinyuanzhai brand.
Suanmeitang is commercially available in China and other parts of the world usually in the Chinese community. It is often drunk cold in the summer. Apart from being famous during the summer, Suanmeitang is also believed to be beneficial for the health of the body.
19. Pearl Milk Tea
Pearl milk tea, also known as bubble milk tea, or boba, is a drink invented in Taiwan in the 1980s. Pearl milk tea contains chewy tapioca balls called boba or pearls or other toppings.
There are two stories that both claim about the origin of Pearl milk tea. The first was from The Hanlin Tea Room in Tainan which was discovered in 1986. The owner of the teahouse was inspired to use the white tapioca balls he saw at the Ya Mun Liao market.
The second is the story of the Chun Shui Tang teahouse in Taichung with its founder Liu Han-Chieh. He started serving cold Chinese tea after observing that coffee is served cold in Japan. Then the product development manager created Bubble tea.
Pearl milk tea is well-known in East Asia including China and is currently expanding to Southeast Asia and throughout the world. The main ingredients used in its manufacture are tapioca flour to make bubbles, milk, creamer, brewed tea, sugar, and added flavor.
Pearl milk tea is divided into two categories, namely tea without milk and milk tea. Both varieties come with a choice of teas in the form of black tea, green tea, or Oolong tea. In addition, it is also available in various flavors, both fruity and non-fruity flavors.
20. Chrysanthemum Tea
Chrysanthemum tea is a drink with an infusion method made from chrysanthemums from the Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum Indicum species.
This Chrysanthemum tea drink has a translucent pale yellow to the bright color and floral aroma.
To prepare Chrysanthemum tea, the chrysanthemum flowers are usually dried before being soaked in hot water. The temperature used is around 90 – 95 degrees Celsius. Then, in addition, rock sugar, sugar cane, or wolfberry fruit are often added.
In Chinese tradition, chrysanthemum tea is served in a teapot, cup, or glass. Then after drinking, usually hot water is added again to the chrysanthemum in the container until it is repeated. Chrysanthemum tea was first drunk during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD).
There are several variants of chrysanthemum tea, ranging in color from white to pale or bright yellow. Like Huangshan-gongju, Hangbaiju from Tongxiang near Hangzhou, Chuju from the Chuzhou district in Anhui, and Boju from the Bozhou district in Anhui.
Most of the chrysanthemum tea is served to guests who come to the house. However, many restaurants, outlets, and grocery stores in East Asia, especially China, are now available as a drink, either in cans, dips, or whole.
21. Osmanthus wine
Osmanthus wine, also known as Cassia wine, and Chen Chiew Cake are Chinese alcoholic drinks. The drink is produced from Baiju which has weak alcohol content, sweetened, and it is flavored with osmanthus flowers.
Despite its name, the Cassia tree which is common in China is not actually used in the seasoning of Cassia wines. The name Cassia itself is a reference to Osmanthus which can exist in Chinese literature and poetry which is usually translated as Cassia.
Osmanthus is a plant that is sometimes associated with cinnamon, but its flowers give it a taste more akin to apricot and peach. Cassia wine is commonly associated with Xi’an and Guizhou, but is now produced throughout China including Beijing.
In addition, Osmanthus wine is also considered a medicinal wine in traditional Chinese medicine and it is believed to be able to treat various ailments. Osmanthus wine is made by distillation, but the resulting alcohol content is not more than 20 percent.
Osmanthus wine is now becoming an optional traditional drink that is commonly used as a “reunion wine” that is drunk in mid-autumn or the Moon Cake Festival. Apart from that, Cassia wine is also often used as a traditional birthday gift.
Those are some traditional drinks from China that have their own uniqueness. Some contain alcohol, some are not, some are unique and historic.
Trying one of these drinks is a must when visiting China.