English tea goes down wonderfully with more Chinese



( China Daily UK )
Updated: 2016-09-29 16:47:46

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do," is an Italian proverb attributed to St Ambrose, which in simple terms means when visiting a country, behave like the locals and adopt their customs.

This often happens by osmosis, particularly if it involves a social activity that is part of a country's genetic DNA, enjoyed by all generations and affordable-that of drinking tea.

In the city of Qingdao, Xiao Jun's routine involved drinking the rusty-colored green tea harvested from the Laoshan Mountains with her grandparents.The tea was taken in small cups to prevent oxidation, and made with water that had been boiled and cooled to 85C.

In 1997, Xiao arrived in the UK to study for a Master's degree in international business at London Metropolitan University.

Nineteen years later, she has adopted a British name, Sharon Wang, and also the UK's way of drinking and celebrating tea-developing a taste for English-blended brands made with boiling water.

Chinese appear to be becoming increasingly attracted to English tea. According to HM Revenue and Customs, in the first five months of this year, UK tea exports to Hong Kong nearly tripled in value compared with two years earlier and doubled to the Chinese mainland.

Wang attributes increased Chinese consumption of English tea to the fact that it is associated with being "quintessentially British, which is what many Chinese love and aspire to".

She says it is also about food security, after a series of food-related scandals in China and concerns about the quality and authenticity of products bought and consumed.

She likes established tea brands in the UK, including PG Tips and Yorkshire Tea, as well as the more upmarket Twinings, which is sold globally.

Her tea-with-milk experience began on the flight to the UK from China. "I saw the tiny plastic carton of milk served with my in-flight meal. I poured it into my cup and drank it, not realizing it was to put into tea."

Her education continued in Putney, London, when she lived with an English family as a student and drank tea with milk served in a mug.

But on special occasions she reverts to drinking from China cups, particularly when served afternoon tea at the world renowned Fera restaurant at Claridges in London.

Afternoon tea has become popular in China through the efforts of trade delegations from the UK, and more recently through China's love for the TV series Downton Abbey.

In June, the British consulate general in Shanghai celebrated Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday by hosting a Guinness World Record-breaking "Largest Cream Tea Party Ever."

Wang now lives in Rochester, Kent, and works for Japanese commodity trading company Mitsui in London.

The writer is a freelancer for China Daily.

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