A Hot Tale of Cool Teas

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Just recently the lunar calendar passed into the period of “Grain Rain”((谷雨, guyu) in China.  This is a time of increasing temperature and high humidity, which is ideal for growing grains.  The temperature also means that humans begin to swelter, and it is time to drink herbal “cooling teas” (涼茶, liangcha).

Cooling teas are now engaged in their own seasonal battle – one might say it is ambush marketing with Chinese solar calendar characteristics.

The preeminent cooling tea is likely 王老吉Wanglaoji, which originated in the Qing dynasty, nearly two hundred years ago. The owner of that mark in China is a state owned Chinese enterprise in Guangdong.  However, the formula, which has been handed down for generations, is arguably in the hands of another brand, Jiaduobao 加多宝 which used to be a licensee of Wanglaoji.  Jiaduobao also apparently has the support of the descendant of the founder.  Not only the name, and formula but also the distinctive red can has arguably been imitated.

Which one, then, is the most authentic?

Passengers entering and exiting Beijing last week through the old airport terminal saw the two companies going head to head, both claiming that they were “authentic.”   The scene was replayed with marketing reps of the streets of Beijing, offering discounts and giveaways…

In the pictures above from the Beijing airport, Jiaduobao is pictured on the left, Wanglaoji on the right, both claiming authenticity.

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