Tea shops have always been a familiar sight in China but things are changing…..and fast! 10 years ago, men perched on tiny stools around ornate, wooden tables. The shop would be filled with cigarette smoke as they tugged on their tabs and chatted about life. From washing the tea to taking the first, small cup, everything had an order and precision to it. You could purchase big, round cakes of famous leaves such as Oolong or Pu-erh tea from these shops at sometimes incredible prices depending on the condition and quality.
Wander down any Chinese street today though, and you’ll struggle to find these places. A new kind of China tea shop has arrived for a new generation and they are everywhere. From big brands such as “Coco” and “Macau Tea” to smaller independents, it seems like everyone is trying to cash in on the latest craze. As one closes another opens in its place promising a different taste better than the last. On one local walking street in Foshan, there are now 8 of these tea shops out of a possible 10 retail spaces. This pattern is being repeated all over China
They are the main hangout for young people with disposable income so the potential market is huge. Startup costs are minimal and profit margins on the drinks are massive. If you get it right you can make a lot of money very quickly. The problem is that so many entrepreneurs have had the same idea so it is reaching saturation point.
What can you order and how much will it cost?
With so many tea shops around the flavors seem endless. Some places focus on traditional Chinese teas such as Oolong, then add ice, fruits and syrups. Others focus more on milk tea as the base with different toppings. Bubble teas are still popular but have been taken over by a more recent phenomenon – Cheese Tea! This is a cold tea blend with a topping of cream cheese, salt and milk that offers a sweet yet bitter taste. As competition is fierce, the cups seem to be getting bigger and will cost anywhere from £2 – £2.50
Are these new teas healthy?
In general, no. The majority have huge amounts of sugar added from the flavourings and the sheer size of the cups make them very calorific. The traditional blends with green tea, ice and fruit are a much better option if you are watching your weight. You can also ask for no added sugar in your tea when ordering. It can often be better to order warm or hot drinks depending on the establishment as ice may not always be done with purified water.
So, when you arrive in China, be prepared for a staggering choice of soft drinks. Just don’t get too attached to any one shop though, as they may have been replaced by the following week!