Not surprisingly, just as Chinese food is interesting and complicated, so are Chinese drinks. There are several ubiquitous drinks, and then there is a wide range of other possibilities.

1. Water

Chinese people generally drink hot water, rather than cold, and you will often see people carrying around a thermos or jar of hot water. It’s not uncommon in many premises to see a water dispenser with two options, one for hot water, and one for lukewarm water – because nobody wants to drink cold water. Drinking hot water is better for your health, aids digestion, and helps to ward off sickness.

You may be interested in Hot Water in China.

2. Teas

chinese tea Tea

As well as hot water, pretty much everyone drinks tea, and there is an endless variety of teas (and tisanes, or herbal teas) available to drink. Teahouses are great places to sample something new, with lots of possible health benefits. In almost any social situation, at least green tea will be offered – while someone stands by to constantly top up your cup as you drink. And then there are also the more complex tea ceremonies. Some other popular teas to try are black tea, Chrysanthemum tea, Oolong tea, or Jasmin tea. Then there is Wang Lao Ji, or Jia Duo Bao, two brands of the same herbal tea that tastes of mint and honey and has a soothing effect.

Read more about Chinese Tea.

3. Pearl Milk Tea

This drink is particularly popular among the young people. Sometimes called “bubble tea”, and containing jelly-like beads made of tapioca sitting in the bottom of sweetened milk tea, it comes in a variety of colors and fruit flavors, and can be served hot or cold, usually with a thick plastic straw supplied through which the pearls can be sucked up and chewed.

4. Baijiu

chinese alcohol: baijiu Baijiu

Cheap and easy to obtain (even from convenience stores), and flowing freely at banquets and social occasions, this drink is often used in drinking games, toasting and special ceremonies of well-wishing. Although usually served in small glasses, having an alcohol content anywhere from 35 to 60 %, it can quickly lead to a sense of bewilderment and stupor. With a bouquet similar to nail varnish remover, it is a distilled spirit, usually made from sorghum or other grain. And unlike other Chinese beverages, it is not a health choice.

5. Beer

There are a number of beers, which are cheap, popular and refreshing. The most recognized Chinese beer in the world, Tsingtao is sold in 62 countries. A lager with a high malt flavor and a hint of hops, Tsingtao is easy to drink and doesn't leave a bitter aftertaste. Produced in the seaside city of Qingdao, the German-style beer uses spring water from Laoshan in Shandong province, a mountain area known for its water purity. The company imports its hops, yeast and barley from Australia and Canada. Another example is Sinkiang Black Beer, or Xinjiang Black Beer, which is a nut-scented, strong flavored ale, with a hint of brown-sugar like sweetness, similar to an American dark lager.

6. Soy milk

Yellow wheat beans are used to make China's version of the protein shake. Different beans can be combined to make versions of the sweet natural-tasting drink. The drink can be made at home with a milk machine. But fresh, boiled versions can be found at most breakfast stalls, which serve it sweet or savory.

7. Coconut milk

coconut milk Coconut Milk

China's canned coconut milk is made from the meat of the fruit. Milk, water and sugar give it a thicker consistency than regular coconut water.

8. Suanmeitang (sour plum drink)

This cooling and soothing drink is a great match for hot pot and spicy Chinese dishes. The sweet-sour taste helps ease a burning tongue and stomach. It is made of sour plums, hawthorn, liquorice root, rock salt and sweet Osmanthus.

9. Osmanthus wine

a glass of osmanthus wine Osmanthus Wine

This delicious after-dinner drink is similar to French liqueur and can be served chilled or warm. It is described as very sweet, while having the special scent of the flower itself.

10. Wahaha Nutri-Express

Comparable to what liquid Skittles might taste like, this drink is a mix of fruit juice and milk. Its consistency is lighter than yogurt drinks and similar to skim milk -- a little watery. It is a healthy alternative to the milkshake, and is one of China's top selling bottled drinks.

11. Coffee

Chinese people drink less coffee than people in western countries, however the demand is rising for coffee drinks and fresh coffee.

By Ruth Wickham
Chief Editor & Writer