The Art of Baijiu & Tea Integration

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On the Chinese dining tables, it is not uncommon to hear someone saying “I’m not good at drinking, so please excuse me to toast with tea instead”. Thus, the atmosphere reaches a harmony despite different preferences to the two drinks. In fact, baijiu and tea share a close tie, be it in China or around the world.

From the perspective of consumption, both tea and baijiu fall into the category of beverage, only some are at a lower ABV, while others higher. Meitan, a county in Guizhou, China, produces a type of “alcoholic tea beverage” that uses tea and alcohol as its ingredients. Alcoholic drinks and tea are both beverages, perhaps this provides us some insights why alcoholic drinks always keep a good company with teas in many occasions, for they are both beverages.

For the source regions of raw materials, both are surprisingly similar. We found that areas of 600 meters above sea level are often the primary production areas of raw materials for baijiu and tea. The best sorghum, a major baijiu ingredient and tea grow at the slopes of that height. Most of the mountains in Guizhou are at this altitude. That explains why Guizhou’s baijiu and teas became well known in China and the world.

Guizhou is a main production area for soy-sauce aroma baijiu in China. Moutai, for instance, is the leading baijiu in China brewed through the original Chinese solid-state fermentation method, and has become one of the top three distilled spirits worldwide. The soy-sauce aroma baijiu accounts for about one-third of China’s total baijiu output. Sorghum, the major raw material for brewing the soy-sauce aroma baijiu, strong aroma baijiu and light aroma baijiu, is also grown at the 600-meter altitude above sea level.

Guizhou is also the main tea planting area in China. Its organic, healthy tea, dubbed the “clean tea”, such as Meitan Green Tea (Meitan) and Maojian Tea (Duyun) in particular, whose planting area has reached 7 million mu (about 4666.67 square kilometers), allowing Guizhou to be a well-known tea production base in China.

From the perspective of brand building, “ecological green” is the core competitiveness for Guizhou soy-sauce aroma baijiu and Guizhou tea brands. Guizhou’s soy-sauce aroma baijiu is a result reflecting the concept of “the unity between heaven and humanity”, meaning the harmony between man and nature. Here, “heaven” refers to the excellent ecological environment of the Chishui River, where a large number of microorganisms exist.  Without this ecological environment, the naturally formed brewing microorganisms will be different, and it would be impossible to produce high-quality soy-sauce aroma baijiu. Similarly, good tea in Guizhou is also grown in Meitan County (Zunyi) and Duyun City (Qiannan), places without almost any industrial pollutions. Superior teas as such could not be produced without these favorable areas. Therefore, “clean tea” became the name card for Guizhou tea brands, which is also the core competitiveness of Guizhou tea.

From the marketing perspective, the “word-of-mouth marketing” is what keeps pushing Guizhou baijiu and Guizhou teas forward. The essence behind the “word-of-mouth marketing” is the product quality reflected in the real consumer experience, which is the value that consumers are willing to buy.

Both baijiu and tea are consumer goods, and the quality would be directly, authentically and best revealed by “taste”. Modern life leaves consumers relying more in their own feelings rather than advertisements. Baijiu and tea are both fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), which are constantly consumed by consumers, resulting in their “taste dependence” on these products, one would might as well call it a kind of “addiction”. Once such addictions are formed, consumers may keep a consistent reliance on the same baijiu or tea product. For this reason, the “word-of-mouth marketing” is functioning, introducing more new consumers to give a try and become fixed consumers on these products.From the perspective of extended supply chain, “Baijiu and Tea Integration” is an upgrade of industries and a source for new industrial value added. Unique natural and cultural resources are essential in the construction of tourist attractions, and this uniqueness is associated with the baijiu and tea producing regions.

As we might know, the Town of Moutai, where baijiu Moutai is produced, features many famous historical and cultural sites such as one that is called “the Third Ferry”, where the Red Army crossed the Chishui River four times. Meitan, the main tea producing area in Guizhou, has the history of Zhejiang University moving west to run the school for eight years. Duyun’s Mao Jian tea has a similar history. History, culture, natural scenery and the unique taste of a product are the main reasons for China’s current tourism boom. Among them, baijiu, tea and tourism are a most typical integration.

We can conclude that baijiu and tea share a high similarity in raw material sources, product categories, product sales, productions, branding, and consumption. The integration of baijiu and tea is also an industrial integration, a way of rural vitalization and economic development.

Let us experience and empower this integration of baijiu and tea and cheer for it!

—by Dr. Chen Zeming