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China’s Popular Energy Drinks and Their Potentially Harmful Effects

After a new research found that energy drinks can potentially be harmful to health, Chinese state media warn Chinese netizens to “think twice” before drinking them. China currently has the largest energy drink market in the world.

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Now that a new research found energy drinks to be potentially harmful to health, Chinese state media warn netizens to “think twice” before drinking them. China currently has the largest energy drink market in the world.

A new American study on the health impact of energy drinks points out that the negative effects of drinking one 32-ounce can are worse than drinking other caffeine-heavy drinks.

According to the research, that was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, energy drinks can trigger potentially dangerous changes in blood pressure and heart activity.

Researchers have said that for people who have high blood pressure, heart problems other health issues, it might be better not to drink energy drinks until more is known about their health impact.

News about the study was shared on Chinese social media by state media outlets People’s Daily and CCTV, writing that after drinking energy drinks, people have a 10-milliseconds higher QT interval, which is the time of the heart muscle to ‘recharge’ between beats. When your heart muscle takes longer than normal to ‘recharge’, it can lead to abnormal heart beats.

They also reported on the study’s findings that people who drink energy drinks have an elevated blood pressure for more than six hours after finishing the beverage.

CCTV encouraged people to share the news and warned them to “think twice” before drinking energy drinks.

As in other parts of the world, energy drinks are most popular among young people in China who drink it as a normal beverage. According to Statista, the retail sales value of canned energy drinks in China increased from 9 billion RMB (±1,3 billion US$) in the year 2009 to an estimated 87.5 billion RMB (±12,6 billion US$) in 2019.

In Chinese, energy drinks are called ‘functional beverages’ (功能性饮料), which could also refer to sports or nutrient-enhanced drinks. As explained by Daxue Consulting, sports drinks primarily contain sodium, potassium, and magnesium, whereas nutrient-enhanced drinks usually include an extra supplement of vitamins.

Within ‘functional beverages’, energy drinks are classified differently from sports or nutrient-enhanced drinks as “drinks with other special functions” containing caffeine, taurine, and sugar together with other ingredients such as guarana and B vitamins.

Although the Maidong (脉动) sports drink (or ‘vitamin water’) is China’s most popular ‘functional beverage’, Red Bull (红牛) is the market leader when it comes to the energy drinks category.

Other big players within this category are Hi Tiger (乐虎), Qili (启力), Lipovitan (力保健), and Eastroc Super Drink (东鹏特饮).

On Weibo, many netizens expressed their worries after reading the reports. “I just bought Red Bull yesterday!”, one netizen responded, posting shocked emoticons. “I will stop drinking this from now on,” a typical comment said.

“No wonder I always feel like my heart skips a beat when I drink Red Bull in the morning,” a netizen named yoyowon wrote: “It makes me feel vague and absent-minded.”

“I am happy I never bought this stuff – I always thought it was too expensive anyway,” others wrote.

But some people were also confused, asking if the Maidong drink belongs to the same category as Red Bull. “Maidong is a sports drink,” one person responded: “Functional beverages are not the same as sports beverages.”

Many people wondered about the purpose of energy drinks after reading about the recent study. “Why don’t people just drink coffee instead?”, many asked. “In the end, drinking plain water is simply the best,” one netizen said.

It remains to be seen how and if the recent study will affect the Chinese energy drink market, which has been explosively growing over the past few years. In 2015 alone, the energy drink consumption in China saw a 25% volume growth compared to the year before – four times more than the US.

One male Weibo user does not seem to care about the recent study, posting photos of himself drinking Red Bull: “I flew back to Chengdu last night, and am now off to Chongqing. Drinking some Red Bull – I am unstoppable!”

– By Manya Koetse

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©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Food & Drinks

Yangzhou Man Found Dead after Drinking, Friends Pay 1 Million RMB Settlement

Is Chinese drinking culture to blame for deaths related to alcohol?

Chauncey Jung

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The recent death of a 30-year-old Chinese man at the Jing Hua Metropark Hotel (京华维景酒店) in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, has triggered discussions on Weibo.

On Friday, May 19, the man was discovered in his hotel room bathtub by his friends. The following day, Yangzhou Police officially confirmed the man’s death, China News reports.

The man, who was from the nearby Gaoyou County, allegedly died of a heart attack after drinking during a formal dinner with friends at the hotel.

Local media later reported that the friends present during the night reached a 1 million yuan (±US$157,000) settlement with the man’s family. The cost of the settlement will be shared among the friends who were drinking that night.

In February of this year, two similar stories made headlines in China. In one case, a young migrant worker died after excessive drinking at a company lunch and dinner in southern China.

The man, according to SCMP, drank the equivalent of 600ml of baijiu (白酒), a popular spirit that contains around 50% alcohol.

The other case involved a man who died when he was left by his friends at a hotel in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, after heavily drinking at a banquet.

Surveillance cameras in Jinhua captured how the man was unable to stand or walk after drinking with his friends.

Those friends also paid a compensation together of 610,000 yuan (US$96,000) to the man’s family.

Earlier this month, organisers of an alcohol drinking contest in Henan province were also ordered to pay a compensation of over US$70,000 after one participant died due to excessive alcohol intake in July of last year.

 

“We’d better bring our medical records before drinking with friends.”

 

The most recent 1 million yuan settlement became a heated topic on Weibo, where one commenter stated that perhaps it is time to sign a legal waiver with all friends who drink together before they become legally responsible for potential settlement costs.

Another commenter suggested that alcohol manufacturers should be responsible for such deaths. The majority of the commenters, however, blamed Chinese drinking culture (中国酒桌文化) for these incidents.

In the Chinese traditional drinking culture, people are usually encouraged to drink as much as they can, or to exceed their limits; the goal sometimes is to literally “take someone to the ground by drinking.”

When someone proposes a toast, everyone at the table is required to finish their glasses, sometimes at a very high pace.

Since Chinese drinking culture usually involves drinks with a high alcohol percentage, such as the aforementioned baijiu, heavy drinkers have a higher risk of alcohol poisoning.

Despite some claiming that the ‘long, traditional’ drinking culture is meant to strengthen people’s relations, critics argue that China’s coercive drinking culture is a toxic practice that is harmful to people’s health.

The pressure to drink sometimes goes beyond friendly relations, as those who decline a drink can be verbally attacked or looked down on by others participating in the event.

Especially during formal business dinners, the amount of alcohol one can drink is taken as a sign of their strength of character or abilities; those who can consume the most are regarded as the best candidates and may receive financial benefits or better business relations with others because of it.

“It would be better for us to bring medical records with us before we started drinking with friends,” one Weibo netizen jokingly comments.

“It’s good they have to pay compensation [to the family],” another person writes: “This might put an end to the Chinese drinking culture where people are basically forced to drink alcohol.”

By Chauncey Jung

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Food & Drinks

China’s Bubble Tea Boom: Top 10 of Popular Milk Tea Shops in the PRC

China’s bubble tea (aka pearl milk tea) market is booming: these are the top 10 popular milk tea shops in the PRC.

Ryan Gandolfo

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With an ancient historical tradition of drinking tea, Chinese consumers are now turning to a different cup of tea; the iced and creamy bubble tea is a national favorite that’s also crossing borders and becoming more popular outside of Taiwan and mainland China. What’s on Weibo provides an introduction to the bubble tea craze and a top 10 of milk tea shops in mainland China.

April 30 has recently been named National Bubble Tea Day by the US-based milk tea chain Kung Fu Tea, which aims to introduce bubble tea and its culture to consumers all around the world.

The launch of this brand-new ‘National Bubble Tea Day’ and the general growing presence of milk tea shops in various countries shows the attraction of bubble tea – both in and outside China.

More Milk Tea than Coffee

Pearl milk tea or bubble tea, also known as ‘boba’ (bōbà nǎichá 波霸奶茶/ zhēnzhū nǎichá 珍珠奶茶), was first invented in Taiwan in 1988 – and has since become an important part of Taiwanese food culture. Over the past decade, the bubble tea craze has also blown over to mainland China.

For those unfamiliar with the drink; most pearl milk tea products contain an iced tea base and milk, with chewy tapioca pearls and sugar. Although this is a standard recipe, China’s many bubble milk tea shops and chains now have a growing selection of fruit flavored bubble tea or chocolate flavored bubble tea beside their original flavored bubble tea.

Since milk tea came to the mainland market in 1996, it has beaten coffee as a drink in terms of popularity. According to China marketing platform lbzuo.com (鹿豹座), Chinese now consume five times more milk tea than coffee. After the arrival of pearl milk tea to mainland China, coffee has taken a backseat, meaning that milk tea, in 15 years, beat what coffee in China did in 130 years. Bubble tea consumption continues to rise at a high rate each year.

Early on, pearl milk tea products were primarily targeted at young, female students between the ages of 15 and 25. Over recent years, however, the demographics have expanded as more men and working professionals are joining the craze.

The alternative to Starbucks

What makes pearl milk tea such a tantalizing drink to so many? Some say it is the combinations of having a drink and chewy snack in one, others claim the flavors are unrivaled, especially when compared to coffee; while western countries are immersed in the coffee lifestyle, China is more invested in milk tea. 

This also has to do with China’s ancient tea culture. Although coffee has gradually become more popular in mainland China since the arrival of large chains such as Starbucks, some experts, such as tea entrepreneur Jiang Jiadao, say it is not about the coffee itself, but about new realities of modern life, where people want to pick up a quick drink or sit down somewhere with a friend in between meetings.

Long lines in front of a milk tea shop.

“It’s not because they love the coffee,” Jiang told SCMP: “The popularity of Starbucks doesn’t have anything to do with changing tastes for coffee instead of tea, or more love of Western culture. I think we love the lifestyle it stands for. If we can offer a similar lifestyle and experience over tea, this would work.”

And it seems to be working. People do not just love the drink’s taste and texture, bubble tea has also become more popular in China – especially amongst the younger generations – because they love the style and image of China’s new trendy tea house brands.

As reported by Caixin Global, Chinese bubble tea makers recently have been further building on their cool bubble tea image by merging with bookstores, popular clothing brands, or restaurant chains.

Mango Cheese Milk Tea

To attract more customers in a growingly competitive industry, milk tea brands now also add popular new flavors, snacks, and sweets to their menu. Recently, the so-called ‘dirty [chocolate] bread’ or ‘zang zang bao’ went viral as it was placed on the menu of various milk tea shops, conquering the hearts of Beijing’s milk tea lovers.

The ‘dirty bread’ is a popular snack sold by milk tea shops.

Some milk tea stores are also staying ahead of their competition by releasing products that grab people’s attention. The chain Happy Tea, for example, released their ‘Mango Cheese Tea’ after they found that many Chinese social media users search for both ‘mangos’ and ‘cheese’.

On Chinese social media, the bubble tea trend is clear from the many photos posted of the drink every single minute. “After a long day of work, all I need is my bubble tea,” are among the things written along with colorful and appealing pearl milk tea pics.

Drinking Bubble Tea is something to show to social media followers; a trendy drink, a lifestyle.

Some netizens express the sheer joy pearl milk tea can bring to people, with various celebrity idols now also endorsing China’s major milk tea shops, such as Yi Dian Dian (1點點).

Netizen @CLSD writes: “Tonight on my way home from work I made a detour at Yi Dian Dian. As I waited in line a while, I could see everyone’s smiles as they walked out with their milk tea. People who enjoy milk tea are so lovely. It’s indescribable. My favorite singer is also a milk tea enthusiast…”

Others express their new-found love for the drink, writing: “I’m done for. I just started liking milk tea…”

Recently, long queues outside of milk tea shops have become a daily occurrence in major cities throughout China.* The craze for milk tea has been aided by strategic placement of stores nearby schools and office buildings. More often you can see milk tea brought into restaurants, schools, and offices. In contrast to coffee, milk tea is consumed virtually any time of the day.

The Most Popular Milk Tea Shops in China

Here is a top 10 of the most popular milk tea brands in China, of which many already have or will expand outside of Taiwan or mainland China. This list is compiled based on various sources, including Chinese online marketing magazines and Chinese food bloggers (e.g. 91yinpin.com, mroyal.cn, sina.com, sohu.com):

 

● #1 Yi Dian Dian (1點點 or 一点点奶茶)

Yi Dian Dian started in Taipei in 2010. The chain specializes in Taiwanese style milk tea, fruit tea, as well as desserts. Currently, Yi Dian Dian has over 600 stores in China and the Philippines. The company is expanding operations into countries such as England, Thailand, and Japan. Their main clientele is young students and professionals.

 

● #2 HEYTEA(喜茶)

HEYTEA, formerly called Royal Tea (皇茶), was founded in 2012 by the Guangdong-born Yunchen Nie (聂云宸), who aspired to launch a Starbucks-style brand in the tea market. It has worked; the company now has 80 outlets in 13 cities. HEYTEA is the innovator behind “cheese tea” (奶盖茶, sweet creamy tea). Since this creation, they have concentrated on finding and incorporating high quality tea into their line of products. In 2016, they received a 100 million yuan outside investment.

 

● #3 Coco (coco都可奶茶)

Coco first opened in Taipei in 1997. Over the last 20 years, they have opened over 2000 stores worldwide with locations in the US, UK, Thailand, and Korea among others. Coco offers customers a variety of beverages that meet a wide range of taste preferences. They also perform regular health and safety checks as well as fresh ingredients to put consumer worries at ease.

 

● #4 Gong Cha(薡御贡茶)

The milk tea shop with the most international exposure, Gong Cha started in Taiwan. Since 2006, this premium milk tea shop has become one of the largest in the world with more than 1,500 locations from Hong Kong to South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, USA, Singapore, and other countries.

 

● #5 Yunyang Royal (云仰皇茶)

This brand has also been dubbed the “Hermes of the milk tea industry” because of its exquisite quality and higher price. It is a relatively new player in the milk tea market, only founded in 2016 in Dongguan, and has introduced a range of interesting flavors, including cheese rose Oolong, cheese cream cocoa, or milk salt mountain green tea.

 


 

● #6 China Fruit Time(鲜果时间)

This shop was founded in Beijing in 2007, mainly focused on the take-out beverage market. It was an immediate success, with the franchise chain opening 40 new stores within a year after its founding. The brand mainly focuses on being “fresh, stylish, and healthy” and now has shops all over mainland China.

 

● #7 Utepia(乌茶邦)

Utepia, Wu Cha Bang in Chinese, is a stylish milk tea franchise that is very new and based on the idea of being the “celebrity milk tea” – a very strong brand identity that is all about targeting young generations with a love for classy, traditional products. Although the company is new, some media predict 2018 will be the breakthrough year for this brand.

 

● #8 Happy Lemon(快乐柠檬)

Happy Lemon was founded in Shanghai in 2006, although its owner (Albert Wu) has been active in the tea business since the early 1990s in Taipei. The main company behind this brand, Yummy Town Holdings Corporation, also owns RBT Tea Cafe (仙踪林) and other brands, which have stores in many countries including mainland South Korea, Japan, Britain, the United States, Australia and Canada.

 

● #9 Dakasi(大卡司)

Dakasi is another milk tea shop with Taiwanese roots since 1990, which arrived in mainland China in 1999, where it set up its headquarters in Guangdong. It is a somewhat simple and classic milk tea brand that is especially loved by younger generations.

 

● #10 Attakai Kokoro Tea Shop(恋暖の初茶)

Although it has a Japanese name, this franchise tea shop is actually Chinese and just focuses on the fashionable Japanese style and quality ingredients, which the brand claims all come from Japan, Taiwan, and the US. It distinguishes itself from other brands by offering high-quality products at a relatively low price.

By Ryan Gandolfo and Manya Koetse


Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2017

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