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.
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 at banquets.