Time to sober up – the Chinese way

On average, the Chinese are not heavy drinkers. However, when they do drink during a business dinner or other occasions to forge good guanxi with others, they don’t honour that image. They not only drink a lot, but drink fast, throwing down one glass after another rather than sipping and enjoying their drink.

Combine this with a much lower ability to digest alcohol than the average Caucasian and you end up with a lot of problems. When Chinese are hung over, they are not only suffering from headaches, but their entire body feels awful. While Westerners regard an (occasional) hangover as something that will pass by sooner or later, Chinese, also under the influence of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), perceive it as a disease, a condition that needs tending to. And that creates a lucrative market for sobering up products.

Individual herbs

A number of TCM herbs are said to help relieve various ailments caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. The better-known ones include arrowroot, polysaccharides from razor shells, oligopeptides from maize, probiotics, etc. However, taking these products individually is not very attractive in terms of flavour or taste.

Products

Therefore, Chinese food technologists have designed a existing products enriched with one or more of these TCM ingredients, which can be marketed as help avoiding or alleviating the ills of excessive drinking. In this blog, I am introducing a three of the more popular ones.

Tianxing by Mengniu

Tianxing literally means ‘waking up gently’, which all of wish for after an alcoholic night with our mates or business relations. Tianxing is yoghurt enriched with arrowroot. Arrowroot contains glycine that helps the body to break down alcohol quickly. Please note that this is the general TCM explanation. So don’t hold me to it. Anyway, Mengniu is one of China’s top yoghurt producers, so if it does not cure your head, it still makes a healthy snack after drinking.

One Quarter Before Drinking by Bright

Shanghai Bright cannot afford to lag behind in this market with a sobering up yoghurt of its own. This product contains curcuma and goji. These are well-known super ingredients, so if does not do any good for your hangover, it still makes a healthy food.

Sobering Up Honey by Fengxiang

Beijing Fengxiang Beverage Co., Ltd. is producing this sobering up drink containing:

Honey, arrowroot, hawthorn, lemon, prunes, mulberry, orange peel, mint, liquorice and lotus leaves

This drink contains so many good ingredients, that it is bound to make you feel great, whenever you drink it. As Fengxiang is a honey processor, honey seems to be the primary ingredient, after water, of course.

Mogul

The latest adding to this list was launched in the spring of 2020. It has been developed by Fuxi Yingmen (Sichuan), a trader in alcoholic beverages and is marketed under the brand name Laoban (Mogul). Its ingredients include:

Arrowroot, goji, ginseng, hericium erinaceus (a fungus), polygonatum sibiricum, astragalus propinquus, etc.

 

Does this post strike you as at least a little sarcastic? Perhaps you’re right. Sober up foods, drinks and supplements have been produced in East Asia for a long time already. I have once tried Japanese pills, containing oyster extract, that claimed to prevent alcohol entering your blood stream. Believe, me, they didn’t do the job. However, as several new products have been launched recently, this is worth a post. Moreover, the products introduced above are at least tasty beverages, so who cares if they do what they promise to do, it is an extra bonus to what is already a pleasure for the taste buds. It is always to good hydrate while drinking alcohol, right?

The best advice I can give, although I myself am not always able to heed it, is don’t drink too much, especially not of the Chinese baijiu.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.

Goji berries – China’s red gold

Chinese superfruit

Following my post on shaji, I am writing one on another superfruit: goji berries. Goji berries are native to Asia, though some species of the plant can be found growing in North America. Goji berries belong to the nightshade family, which means that they are related to potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant. They have a long history of use in China. According to an early legend regarding the goji berry and its value, a doctor more than 2000 years ago visited a village that consisted mostly of centenarians. After observing them for a time, the doctor noticed that the residents who lived the longest also had homes closest to the wells were goji berry trees grew. As the fruits ripened, they would fall off into the water and their nutrients would be infused into it. Villagers who lived near the wells would drink the water and benefit from its nutrients. There are multiple variations of this legend. Documentation of the benefits of goji berries begins with a book written the mythical doctor Shen Nong in the year 250 BC, the oldest book on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Another important Chinese book written by Li Shizhen in the 16th century also includes important information on the subject of the goji berry.

Nutrition

Goji berries are known primarily for their nutritional value and health benefits. Some of the factors that make them famous for boosting health are:

  • Amino acids: goji berries provide 8 essential amino acids that your body cannot synthesize.
  • Zeaxanthin: goji contain a high concentration of an antioxidant called zeaxanthin, good for preventing certain eye diseases. According to various studies, a diet that contains goji berries can increase a person’s zeaxanthin levels by as much as 26%.
  • Vitamins: goji berries can provide you almost twice the vitamin A that you need in a day. It also has about a third of the daily recommended vitamin C.
  • Minerals: goji berries are rich in some important minerals including iron and potassium.

Geographic spread

Goji berries grow in a large area northwest China, but Ningxia is by far the largest producer. The following table shows the regional breakdown on the output of 2017 (dried berries).

Region output (mt)
Ningxia 108,500
Gansu 105,800
Qinghai 95,000
Xinjiang 66,600
Others 34,700

Steady growth

As goji berries have been such a valuable earner of hard currency, the Chinese goji production has grown steadily during the past years, as is shown in the following table.

Year output (mt)
2018 451,000
2017 410,600
2016 360,900
2015 293,200
2014 229,600

Export

Although the demand on the world market is huge, the domestic demand is also substantial. After all, goji berries are a TCM, so have been used for ages. In fact, Western consumers got to know goji from China, like ginseng. The following table shows the export volumes of the same years as the production figures above.

Year export (mt)
2018 12,000
2017 12,600
2016 12,700
2015 9,800
2014 12,300

Goji as (health) food ingredient

Goji berries are no longer exclusively used in Chinese medicine. They have become an ingredient in a growing range of health foods and beverage. I will list a few in this section to give an impression of how goji is used by Chinese food technologists.

Herbal tea

This herbal tea by Laojin Mofang consists of dried longan slices, dates and goji berries. It is a refreshing beverage that lasts a long time, as you can add boiling water a number of times.

Halal goji drink

Qiye Qing turns goji berries into a cloudy orange-colored bottled beverage. The ad uses the alternative name for goji: wolfberries. The drink is certified halal. The manager, Mr. He Jun, believes this move is a great opportunity to cash in on the Middle Eastern and Central Asian markets. The picture shows an ad of this beverage. See my post on Halal food for more details.

Goji as snack

With the increased interested in healthier food, dried goji berries have become an interesting snack. Check out this small helping of goji by Qilixiang.

I may add more products in the future.

Eurasia Consult Food knows the Chinese food industry since 1985. Follow us on Twitter.

Eurasia Consult Consulting can help you embed your business in Chinese society.

Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation.