Food & drink

China’s milk tea lovers keep on drinking despite findings that show high calories and caffeine

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 2:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 4:09pm

Stay calm and drink on. That’s how some consumers in Shanghai are confronting the latest findings that show a cup of milk tea can contain a meal’s worth of calories or caffeine equivalent to eight cans of Red Bull.

It comes as a relief for businesses that are riding on the growing popularity of freshly brewed tea in China as consumers dig deeper into their pockets for products perceived as healthier than packed ones.

A government backed consumer rights body in Shanghai disclosed on Monday findings of a test on 51 cups of milk tea from 27 brands in the city, warning consumers of high calories or caffeine levels found in some products.

For instance, a cup of creamy tea from Le Le Cha contained calories equivalent to one third of an adult’s suggested daily intake, while a cup from Letangkou, a Hong Kong style lai cha seller, contained the caffeine equivalent to four medium cups of Café Americano or eight cans of Red Bull.

Yet some milk tea aficionados, especially those who love a thick layer of cream on their tea, said they are not discouraged.

“I never assumed the creamy cup would be low fat,” said Brenda Sun, a Shanghai white-collar worker in her 30s who consumes at least two to three cups a week. “I will keep drinking as long as the raw materials are good quality.”

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Jason Yu, general manager of market research firm Kantar Worldpanel in China, said consumers may not cut spending on freshly brewed tea, though they will become more discerning on quality with a growing number of choices in the market.

“Milk tea shops are enjoying strong growth potential in China thanks to improving living standard and evolving lifestyles,” he said. “It’s commonly perceived that freshly made drinks are healthier than packed ones, though it might not necessarily be true in all cases.”

In 2016, two thirds of consumers in China spent money on freshly made drinks, including coffee and milk tea, according to Kantar Worldpanel, which tracked consumers aged 15-49 in 27 major mainland cities.

Consumers are not that price sensitive when it comes to buying freshly made drinks, which cost an average of 15.2 yuan per cup, or four times that of a packed drink sold in supermarkets, the research firm said.

New Zealand-based Fonterra is also benefiting from the rising demand for freshly brewed tea in China, supplying products under its Anchor Food Professionals moniker to more than 20 milk tea brands since 2013.

Looking ahead, the dairy giant said it sees strong business opportunities amid the proliferation of new milk tea shops seeking a competitive edge by using higher quality raw materials.

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