Drinks & Food
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
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.
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
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