Once considered an age-old custom and popular with the elderly Chinese, tea drinking at tea houses has now gained new converts among the younger generation of Chinese consumers.
Apart from the highly popular milk tea segment, the younger consumers are picking on this old custom and enjoy the classic tea drinks from Longjing tea to oolong beauty tea, brewed with tea leaves on site, at traditional tea houses while at the same time take advantage of the traditional tea setting to post their experiences on social media platforms.
As to whether this trend is going to be long term or just a social media fad is yet to be known. The major setback is the high prices of tea with each package often costing from Rmb 150 to 400 (US$21.70 – US$58), which might eventually turn off many of these younger consumers.
According to online data agency, Qichacha, there were 20,000 teahouse-related companies established in the first half of 2022. Social media has led to the growth in popularity for such teahouses. By the end of December 2022, social media platform Xiaohongshu featured over 100,000 posts about weilu zhucha (traditional custom of boiling tea around group of people). On short video platform Douyin (China’s version of TikTok), users viewed videos on ‘weilu zhucha’ for more than 3.6 billion times.
Meanwhile, the listing of China’s tea culture in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in November last year has also been widely covered by Chinese media and has been given an indirect publicity boost. Chinese consumers including youngsters are starting to appreciate back their ancient tea culture and history, as part of the growing nationalism in the country.
In addition, many younger consumers are also turning to the traditional drink for health reasons. In July 2022, a survey by 30 media platforms including Weibo showed that 30% of young respondents drink tea for health preservation, followed by good taste (28%), and to quench thirst (19%). Some considers drinking tea as part of growing up which led to a gradual shift from carbonated drinks to non-carbonated healthier alternatives.