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Young people increasingly find that tradition is their cup of tea

Updated: 2024-05-02 08:14 ( China Daily )
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Theatre Tea's new store in Beijing offers a genuine experience. PHOTO/CHINA DAILY

In a burst of springtime flavor, new-style Chinese tea chain, Molly Tea, has attracted beverage enthusiasts with its latest creation, Yongchun Foshou. Made from the renowned oolong tea of the same name from Yongchun county, Quanzhou, Fujian province, this new offering has quickly become a hit. Yet, it is merely a highlight in a series of new brands that have taken the tea market by storm.

Data from the food delivery platform Eleme reveals a significant surge in demand: "Longjing (dragon-well green tea) milk tea" orders have quintupled since the start of April compared to March, while deliveries of milk teas crafted with bases of rock tea (a type of oolong) and biluochun (a type of green tea) have skyrocketed, recording increases of 100 times and 34 times respectively over the past year.

Young consumers are really getting into new Chinese-style (xinzhongshi) tea drinks and desserts. Even though young people have been enjoying milk tea and fruit tea, their interest in traditional Chinese tea keeps growing.

A recent report from the China Tea Marketing Association stated that as young people aged 18 to 30 gradually became the main drinkers of the beverage, such trends as guochao ("National tide" or "China chic"), wherein younger consumers prefer products made innovatively with Chinese elements, such as with aspects of intangible cultural heritage, are gaining traction. Modern Chinese teahouses have emerged as a fresh socializing spot for the youth, signaling an upgrade of the drink's consumption.

Wang Qing, president of the China Tea Marketing Association, says that as consumers favor more high-quality drinks, traditional premium teas are becoming the top choice, which is also boosting the consumption and innovation.

Last year, Theatre Tea, a modern chain with five stores in Beijing and Shanghai that was established in 2015, launched a new facility in the capital that differs from others with modern design ideas from inner decor to products — it combines retail and tea-drinking in a new Chinese style.

Sun Xuling, co-founder of Theatre Tea, shared that after years of market exploration, they felt it was time to offer consumers a more genuine tea experience.

"We've been experimenting with various modern interpretations of tea, from cocktails to desserts like cakes. Now, we highlight more of the essence of tea," she explains.

To enhance the tea culture experience, the new store showcases samples and explains the differences between various types.

"We also collaborated with a studio specializing in soil research at Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture to create bricks that were mixed with tea powder or tea leaves with clay for the construction of our teahouse, mixing them without any additives or firing," Sun adds.

The store has three tea masters who engage with customers, brewing tea and sharing knowledge. "We've noticed a growing number of enthusiasts who even bring their own tea for our masters to brew," she says.

The new store also offers tea-making workshops, which are popular among young consumers. The latest course focused on making rose tea, pairing petals with black tea. Participants are guided through the process, with tea and snacks provided.

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