China Food

Northwest milk tea tastes like wine



“ 
in the northwest, new tea drinks have another world.
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Wen: Xue Yongwei; Editor: Dong Yuqing

Source: AI finance and Economics (ID: aicjnews)

 
How to describe the milk tea economy in Northwest China? People who live here will say that it is probably “iron man tenderness”.
During the Spring Festival this year, when people scattered in other places began to work hard to return home, the northwest, with a serious brain drain, also reached the busiest time of the year.
Lanzhou, located in the geometric center of Northwest China, has been built for 2000 years. The Yellow River passes through the city from here. With the sound of harmonica on the bank, the ancient city is developing rapidly. Young people in stations and airports pull large and small suitcases, look at the greatly changed urban landscape in the year, open various travel apps and look for vehicles to go home.
The house price here is generally about 10000 yuan / square meter, and only 8 yuan for a bowl of beef noodles. If you don’t have enough, you can add a cooked beef, a dish of side dishes and a tea egg, and a meal will not exceed 20 yuan.
Early in the morning, people have a quick breakfast here, take a bowl of soup and start a full day. How fast is a breakfast? A Cantonese who once traveled to Lanzhou said frankly that he was “scared” – in Guangdong, morning tea can usually be eaten all morning, but in Lanzhou, it can take a few minutes to eliminate a bowl of beef noodles. Other delicacies are the same, but they can’t be broken. After trying the baked cakes in Lanzhou barbecue shop, a food blogger was shocked by the dry and sufficient chili noodles sprinkled in the pastry and repeatedly praised “it’s very straight”.
Upright Lanzhou takes nuclear fuel, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and heavy metal as its pillar industries, but in fact, when you wander in the streets here in broad daylight, you can always see all kinds of trendy stores. Among them, the number of milk tea shops is second only to beef noodles and hand grabbed mutton.
The slow-paced milk tea, a kind of beverage that exists more in southern cities in the public perception, and a typical product symbolizing consumption upgrading, has always existed in Lanzhou and Northwest China. This makes people wonder, what kind of existence is the small and fresh milk tea in Lanzhou with hard core wind?
Who is the king of Northwest milk tea?
When asked which milk tea is the best in the northwest, most local people replied: I really didn’t expect it for a while.
The answer may be hidden in the streets. Walking on a street in the Eastern market of Lanzhou, 30 meters apart, you can meet two honey snow ice cities. This milk tea brand, which originated in Henan, has been in Lanzhou for 18 years and has opened more than 100 local stores.
The honey snow ice city with high quality and low price and high cost performance has conquered Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou as well as Lanzhou. One afternoon before the Spring Festival, a honey snow ice city near Lanzhou Wanda Square was full of people waiting for a large glass of lemonade for four yuan, a red bean latte for six yuan and a pearl milk tea for seven yuan.
On the eve of the Spring Festival, a street outside the honey snow ice city. Figure / financial world weekly
Within 500 meters of this honey Snow Ice City, there are chain milk tea brands such as coco, a little bit, book burning fairy grass and Yifang fruit tea, but there are not many customers, which is far from popular.
Zhangye road is the most prosperous area in the old urban area of Lanzhou, but a person who opened a milk tea shop here told Caijing Tianxia weekly that he invested more than 300000 yuan in the early stage, made a special trip to learn a set of technology in Shenzhen and opened a single store. As a result, the store closed due to losses after more than four months of operation, “I can’t beat the honey snow ice city”.
The tea Baidao from Chengdu can slightly rival the honey snow ice city. A little brother who runs a takeout has an obvious feeling about this. “The largest takeout order is tea Baidao.” Chengdu is 7 hours away from Lanzhou high-speed railway, with similar urban temperament and close personnel exchanges, which makes the brand from Chengdu highly recognized in Lanzhou.
Customers in a Lanzhou tea Baidao milk tea store are lining up to order. Figure / financial world weekly
The more popular new tea drinks choose to enter the CBD of Lanzhou intensively. In the Lanzhou center of Qilihe district on the South Bank of the Yellow River, there are Xi tea in 2019, Naixue tea in 2020 and seven bus in 2022. However, these milk tea brands originated in Guangdong and Fujian did attract everyone’s support because of the online popularity effect when they first opened, but the more they operated later, they began to become acclimatized.
“Who will spend 20 or 30 yuan to drink a cup of milk tea? This is not the consumption level of Lanzhou.” A little brother who works as a part-time worker in a local milk tea shop in Lanzhou said that part-time clerks get 15 yuan an hour. The store recruits people for a long time, and the monthly salary of regular employees is only 3000 yuan – which is the salary standard of many migrant workers in Lanzhou.
Chain brands still have their own business difficulties, and the operation of other milk tea stores is more casual. A milk tea shop from Anhui simply closed its doors to thank customers on the 27th day of the lunar calendar, leaving only a natural and unrestrained note, “go home for the Chinese New Year and talk about something.”.
In this emotional City, people who prefer rock and folk songs are more persistent and love those things with distinctive characteristics. Therefore, the important task of defeating honey snow ice city falls on the local milk tea brand.
Lanzhou City, built along the Yellow River, does not develop in a ring like Beijing, Xi’an and Chengdu, but extends in a line like the Hexi Corridor, narrow and long from east to west. However, from Lanzhou Wanda, Wangfujing, Zhengning road and Zhangye road in the east to the West Railway Station cross and Jinniu street in the west, local milk tea is everywhere within 20 kilometers. Some work hard on packaging, print some scenic spots, road signs and road signs, and some add some special snacks to the seasonings, which are loved by everyone.
Next to the northwest specialty restaurant outside a shopping mall, the local most popular “Fangha fundosa” milk tea store is booming. Logo is a bergamot. The word “Fangha” is “put down” in Lanzhou dialect, which seems to be persuading people to take it easy. The store has two floors. The order desk on the first floor is full, and there are still no seats on the second floor. Young people in fashionable clothes sat in the store, chatting about what they had seen in other places and the recent live broadcast.
This milk tea brand also began to appear frequently in the circle of friends of Lanzhou people. For people working in other places, it seems that the first thing to return home is to punch in a new cup of products here in addition to a bowl of beef noodles. Online Red bloggers said that this is the “ceiling of Lanzhou milk tea”, and the brand itself also shouted the slogan of “eating cattle and drinking Kazakhstan”, which intends to make milk tea a new city business card. On its official website, which has not been updated for a long time, there is also an ambitious Description: occupy the head position of the northwest tea market.
When traditional pasta and meat dishes become a thing of the past, local milk tea has become another source of a sense of belonging.
Popular code: wine flavored sweet fermented grains
There are three treasures of local milk tea, highland barley, sweet fermented grains and fermented grains.
In a very popular old Lanzhou milk tea shop in the night market, there are several teapots printed with characteristic patterns on the induction cooker. The milk tea is boiled, and customers can choose to add seasoning. However, the optional condiments are not the pearls, taro balls and coconut fruit that people usually see, but butter, sweet fermented grains, highland barley, barley, red beans, mung beans, purple rice and milk skin. They are free to add as much as you want.
In the store, a foreign customer asked for a cup of milk tea with butter. While talking with the store manager with great interest, he sighed from time to time that “this is really unique”. A friend who spoke a Lanzhou dialect advised him to take a cup back, but he still tried to pack several copies back to his hometown, “try it, I haven’t seen it before”.
Speaking of sweet fermented grains, a famous snack in Northwest China, the overall taste is actually a little similar to that of sweet wine in Hunan, but sweet wine is made of glutinous rice. Sweet fermented grains are made of naked oats or highland barley, which is more chewy and tastes stronger. Many northwest restaurants across the country will keep sweet fermented grains as a dessert. When such a bold and unrestrained seasoning is added to milk tea, it has a lot of flavor.
(Vision China)
Milk skin is a kind of solid concentrated milk material left after milk is cooked. The northwest is rich in milk and does not lack dairy products. Originally, it was OK to call this ingredient milk skin, but according to the language habit of Lanzhou, a “Zi” will be added after the noun. Similarly, there are gray beans and sweet fermented grains.
Interestingly, due to this language habit, many Lanzhou people have managed milk since childhood, also known as “milk”, which once became one of the embarrassing moments encountered by Lanzhou children after going to school in other places. A person who grew up in Lanzhou and went to university in Foshan, Guangdong Province, said that every time he blurted out to call milk milk milk, he would gain other people’s strange eyes, “but we really call it milk all the time!”
It was dark and it was still a while before the night market left Zhang, but more than a dozen customers had visited the old Lanzhou milk tea shop in just half an hour. Among them, middle-aged men prefer salty mouth and butter, while middle-aged women prefer sweet mouth and sweet fermented grains. “Whatever has its own characteristics and doesn’t affect the taste of milk tea, add it.” Said the store manager.
Those local milk tea that do not emphasize “traditional milk tea” use some bolder special ingredients. In an octopus burning store, the store mainly focuses on local characteristic milk tea, using milk tea with seasoning. The characteristic ingredients that can be added include northwest specialty soft pear, pulp water and seed melon.
While small shops on the street are still busy adding seasonings, people with a keen sense of business have begun to invent original milk tea and attack in the direction of new tea drinks. The Fangha milk tea mentioned above is called “the founder of sweet fermented grains milk tea”. Since 2010, sweet fermented grains have been added to milk tea, and other elements have been added on this basis.
Compared with adding seasoning to traditional milk tea, sweet fermented grains milk tea is closer to an innovative product in a new tea drink, using new production methods and standardized production processes. In 2016, Fangha established a new company and began to accelerate marketing. This basic “sweet fermented grains milk tea” also came out of the circle and began to be imitated.
On the cup body, some online hot words or Lanzhou dialect will be printed. It can be seen that the main customer group is young people. Super large cup of milk tea is twice the size of ordinary milk tea on the market. Some highland barley and sweet fermented grains can be added as seasoning. The meal has a spoon and a straw. As far as a girl’s appetite is concerned, she is full after half a cup. This component really matches the vast northwest style.
Later, this milk tea shop developed a series of milk tea, including grey bean milk tea, fermented milk tea and slurry tea. Without exception, they are all famous snacks in the northwest. If we must explore the methodology that Lanzhou milk tea is popular locally and even outside the province, perhaps it is to find the most distinctive snacks in the northwest and integrate them into milk tea.
Sweet milk tea conquers salty milk tea
However, even if “Fangha” makes Lanzhou milk tea a representative work, there is still serious differentiation in the northwest milk tea industry.
A Lanzhou local girl who firmly supports salty milk tea has to punch in every time to “put ha” the new product of milk tea, but her highest praise for milk tea is still: “well, this is not sweet.” She has lived in Lanzhou for more than 20 years. When she was a child, her grandmother often made milk tea for her, which was always salty.
Before the Chinese new year, she tried a new product, which not only drew lessons from the milk cover of Taiwan milk tea, but also sprinkled Gansu specialty apricot skin, roses, milk tea bottom and “reserved project” sweet fermented grains. Because the mixed sour taste outweighs the sweet taste, this new product is highly praised by people who are not sugar tolerant. Looking at these main condiments added to the characteristic milk tea, they are almost not sweet and will not enhance the sweet and greasy feeling of milk tea.
The history of milk tea is actually longer than people think. In fact, as early as the Northern Wei Dynasty, there was a method of eating milk with tea for northern nationalities. In the Tang Dynasty, milk tea was once popular in Chang’an. At that time, it was mainly salty milk tea. Since the Song Dynasty, the society respected elegance, and milk tea retreated behind the scenes. In the modern sense, sweet milk tea originated from Hong Kong style milk tea in the 17th century. Hong Kong style milk tea is influenced by Europe’s favorite sweet tea, and sugar is also added.
After the salty milk tea faded out from the Central Plains, the northwest retained the tradition of salty milk tea, especially the Mongolian people. The habit of drinking salty milk tea in the morning still exists, and some families even drink it three times a day.
No one has specially studied the history of milk tea in Lanzhou, but in this city where ethnic minorities gather, it is close to Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous County in the north and Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in the south. Lanyinguan dialect, the dialect here, belongs to the Sino Tibetan language family. Many netizens think that Lanzhou milk tea should be salty, which may also be affected by the dietary customs of ethnic minorities.
And throughout the country’s milk tea, tea from Jiangmen, Guangdong, China’s tea from Guangdong, Shenzhen, coco and a little from Taiwan, China. Guangdong Province was the first to introduce Hong Kong style and desktop milk tea and carry forward fruit tea. A tea consumption report released by Alipay in spring 2021 showed that in the TOP10 provinces where tea consumption was consumed, the South accounted for eight seats, while the northern part only had Shandong and Henan. The consumption of milk tea in Guangdong is the first in China, and the per capita drinks 2.5 cups more milk tea per week than that in Northeast China.
(Vision China)
The main consumption force is in the south, and the head brand is in the south. This realistic situation also provides a natural barrier for the breaking circle of salty milk tea. Therefore, most of the local milk tea brands in Northwest China can only use sweet milk tea. When asked about the store manager of the traditional milk tea in the above-mentioned night market, what flavor of milk tea is generally recommended, the store manager will first observe the customers, and then recommend a sweet milk tea, “the Northwest has heavy seasoning, which outsiders are not used to drinking.”  
In terms of production, the new tea is different from the prepared tea. The tea should be freshly extracted, the milk cover should be fresh milk, and more importantly, the beauty must be able to play. The local milk tea brand learns the profound meaning of it. Using blue, purple and Pink Cream with fine powder is the “Danxia landform”, and making a golden milk cover is the “Mingsha mountain”. Besides a mouthful of sweetness, milk tea has also become a cultural and creative product, and more and more consumers begin to bear another brand premium.
However, the conquest of sweet milk tea over salty milk tea is only the shallowest manifestation of modern commerce conquering traditional tastes. According to the deep commercial development path of new tea drinks, we should also lay richer sales channels, pay attention to marketing investment, build brand culture, and finally open stores all over the country.
Fangha, born in 2010, is almost the same age as Xicha and coco. The milk tea brand from Lanzhou has opened nine Direct stores in Lanzhou for more than nine years and six franchise stores in other cities in Gansu and Shanghai for more than two years. This speed is not fast, but the fierce competition of new tea seems to be forcing brands to speed up shop opening. “Strive to exceed 100 stores by the end of 2024”, Fang ha mentioned in the latest brand introduction.
The commercial bottleneck faced by local milk tea is obvious. Although the differentiation breakthrough has been completed with the help of local characteristics, once the region is changed, the once rare advantage will disappear, and the customer’s sense of expectation will be weakened.
Tea tasting, meeting friends and lucky draw are popular in Xi’an. As a local milk tea brand in Xi’an, it has found the ancient capital characteristics of Xi’an’s “style of Han and Tang Dynasties”. The name and packaging of each cup of milk tea are very antique. Since its birth in 2016, chahuanong has opened more than 100 stores in more than five years across the country. But now, in addition to Shaanxi, its influence in other places is still limited.
The cost of outward expansion is huge. Tea Yan Yuese relies on the “Changsha model” of “ten steps and one store” in Changsha. Because the distribution is too dense, the new stores divide the passenger flow of the old stores, and the income of a single store is diluted. Coupled with the direct marketing mode of tea Yan Yuese, the operation and management cost is high. A few months ago, chayan Yuese announced her withdrawal after staying in Shenzhen for five months. Later, she announced that she would close 87 stores in Changsha.
When talking about why tea Yan Yuese didn’t leave Hunan, founder Lv Liang said frankly that “going out will really ‘die'”, because it is a great test of quality control, organizational ability and supply chain ability.
At present, looking at the local milk tea in Northwest China, it is not dominant in brand and scale. However, when the milk tea brand in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen has reached saturation, the second and third tier cities are indeed a new outbreak point.
Milk tea without technical barriers depends on whether it can boil new features. In the eternal dispute between saltiness and sweetness, people are also waiting for the new tea black horse from the northwest.
Reprint authorization and media business cooperation: Amy (wechat: 13701559246); Join the community: Cherry (micro signal: 15240428449). Foodaily fbic & Expo 2022] foodaily daily food joined hands with the world’s top business and industrial partners to build fbic222 global food and beverage Innovation Conference & the first foodaily Expo “new food era – brand ecology” in Shanghai from May 31 to June 2, 2022. We invite you to witness it together. (click the picture to see the detailed introduction). Related reading
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