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    China Business
     May 11, 2007
Page 1 of 2
After the Coke craze, it's tea time in China
By Olivia Chung

HONG KONG - Chinese youngsters born since the 1980s have grown up under the influence of foreign brand names such as McDonald's, KFC, Coca-Cola, Nike and Adidas. However, many of them, after growing up, now seem to prefer congee, buns, domestic sportswear brand Anta, and Wanglaoji, a brand of traditional herbal tea.

According to traditional Chinese medical theory, this kind of herbal tea, or liangcha, is known for being able to remove the

"spiritual heat and dampness" from one's body to retain a healthy balance of the "basic elements and fluids" in the body.

As more and more young people became fond of drinking liangcha, sales of the herbal tea hit 4 million tons last year, overtaking Coca-Cola as No 1 soft drink in China by sales volume. Industry insiders are confident that annual sales could even grow to 25 million tons by 2010, beating Coca-Cola's global sales.

Liu Yuexia, from Lintan county in Yunfu city, Guangdong province, can tell you by heart which celebrities have been the image ambassadors for Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola in advertisements. But when it comes to soft drinks, cola is definitely not her favorite.

"My parents and grandparents told me long ago that [Western] soft drinks are not good for our body and have high calories, so I seldom drink cola," the 15-year-old student said. "Drinking liangcha could help remove the [spiritual] heat and dampness in my body, so when I have pimples on my forehead and cheeks, I immediately drink the herbal tea to speed up the elimination process."

Several years ago, some manufacturers, such as Wanglaoji, began to produce the traditional herbal tea on modern production lines in cans or soft packs for the convenience of customers. Liu said she now can have liangcha any time in any place. Previously, people would have to buy herbs in herbal shops and boil them in water at home, or buy liangcha at a herbal-tea shop.

Liangcha's history can be traced back to 1813 when Guangzhou was hit hard by an epidemic. To get away from the city, a man named Wang Zebang took his family to a mountain, where he met a Taoist priest who gave him a special recipe to cure the disease. Wang then searched the herbal ingredients and prepared the tea, which proved effective for illnesses.

Wang then opened the first liangcha shop called Wanglaoji (Wong Lo Kat in Cantonese) in Guangzhou, and he also made the recipe public.

Over time, the receipt for liangcha has been altered with the emergence of various herbal-tea brands that have been passed down from one generation to another.

Still, these traditional herbal teas are popular, said Agnes Wong, administration manager at Wong Lo Kat Trade Development Co, which manufactures its own range of herbal teas in Hong Kong and overseas.

"I remember liangcha being described as a sunset industry in the 1980s, when people rushed to taste foreign soft drinks and food like Coca-Cola and McDonald's. I was once interviewed by the media to comment on it; I said that view was wrong.

"This is because the ingredients of liangcha really work to protect against climatic influences and relieve aliments caused by the stressful lifestyle, and they work with no side-effects. Besides, the orders from overseas my company receive have never decreased," the descendant of Wang Zebang said.

Wong said the herbal-tea business on the mainland and in Hong Kong, including those for ready-to-take and instant powder, has never been as good as it is today.

Since 1989, herbal-tea chain stores such as Hong Fook Tong, Hui Lau Shan, Hoi Tin Tong and HealthWorks have flourished in Hong Kong, offering various kinds of tea, with some selling snacks and desserts also. Across the border, Guangzhou's Wanglaoji and Wong Chun Loong are the most famous brands. Others include 

Continued 1 2 

KFC marches to a different drumstick in China (Dec 20, '05)

McDonald's adapting to Chinese tastes (Nov 19, '05)


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