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Home >> China Travel Tips >> Drinks & Food
Drinks & Food


Nonalcoholic Drinks

Tea is the most commonly served brew in China. Although black (fermented) tea is produced in China, principally in the Huang Shan area is by far the most widely drunk, Indian and Sri Lankan black tea is available only in international supermarkets. Familiar brands of instant coffee are for sale everywhere, but fresh-brewed coffee is still a rarity.

Sugary Chinese soft drinks are cheap and ever-present. Jianlibao is a soft drink made with honey rather than sugar and is a good energy boost, especially if you've venturing up to high-altitudes. Lychee-flavored carbonated drinks are unique to China and seem to be a favorite with foreign travellers. Peanut-milk is a life-saver after the searing of the Western School dishes.

A surprising treat is fresh sweet yoghurt, available in many parts of China. It's typically sold in what looks like small milk bottles and is drunk with a straw rather than eaten with a spoon. Fresh milk is rare, but you can buy imported UHT milk from supermarkets in big cities.

Coca-Cola is now produced locally. Chinese attempts at making similar brews include TianFu Cola, which has a recipe based on the root of herbaceous peony.

Alcoholic Drinks

If tea is the most popular drink in the PRC, then beer must be number two. By any standards the top brands are good. The best known is Tsingtao, made with a mineral water that gives it a sparkling quality. It's essentially a German beer since the town of Qingdao (formerly spelled 'Tsingtao'), where it's made, was once a German concession and the Chinese inherited the brewery. Experts claim that draft Tsingtao tastes much better than the bottled stuff. Local brews are found in all the major cities of China - notable ones include Zhujiang in Guangzhou and Yanjing in Beijing. San Miguel has a brewery in Guangzhou, so you can enjoy this 'imported' beer at Chinese prices.

China has cultivated vines and produced wine for an estimated 4000 years. Chinese wine-producing techniques differ from those of the West. While quality-conscious Western wine producers work on the idea that the lower the yield the higher the quality of the wine produced, Chinese farmers cultivate every possible square centimeter of earth, encouraging their vines to yield heavily. The Chinese also plant peanuts between the rows of vines as a cover crop for half the year; however, the peanuts sap much of the nutrient from the soil and in cooler years the large grape crops fail to ripen sufficiently to produce good wine. Western wine producers try to prevent oxidation in their wines, but oxidation produces a flavor that Chinese tipplers find desirable and go to great lengths to achieve. You will inevitably encounter the sweet-smelling, lethal white grape wine, drunk to fend off cold and boredom on long train journeys. Chinese diners are also keen on wines with different herbs and other infusions, which they drink for their health and for restorative or aphrodisiac qualities.

The word 'wine' gets rather loosely translated - many Chinese 'wines' are in fact spirits. Rice wine is intended mainly for cooking rather than drinking. Tibetans have an interesting brew called Chang, made from barley. Mongolians serve sour-tasting koumiss, made of fermented mare's milk with lots of salt added. Mao tai, a favorite of Chinese drinkers, is a spirit made from sorghum (a type of millet) and used for toasts at banquets.

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