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Oil tea, a taste of intangible cultural heritage in south China

Oil tea, a taste of intangible cultural heritage in south China

Gongcheng ‘oil tea’: 'coffee' with chopped green onion

Known as Chinese coffee in Guangxi, oil tea is deemed the “name card” of the region, from which tourists can experience its intangible cultural heritage.

Dressed in traditional Yao ethnic costume, 56-year-old Lu Zhonglan pounds oil tea leaves in a pot with a wooden hammer while singing a folk song.

Lu hails from Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, where it is deemed the “name card” of the region.

Also known as Chinese coffee in Guangxi, the unique variety of tea has gained popularity among Yao people as it can improve digestion, among other health benefits.

In 2008, Gongcheng oil tea was listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Guangxi. Meanwhile, it set a Guinness World Record in 2019 after 2,019 people made the drink simultaneously.

“A cup of oil tea marks the start of our day, and we have it every day,” said Lu, adding that it is an important cultural symbol of the county and it is the essence of the local Yao food culture.

Several steps are involved in the preparation of this special tea, including washing, frying, pounding and boiling, among which pounding is the essence.

“Pounding will make it much more aromatic. We usually drink the tea in a bowl adding salt, fried rice and peanuts,” said Lu.

Ou Xinjie, the owner of an oil tea restaurant, said the sales are improving and more than 1,000 people come to drink the it in his restaurant every day.

“We are going to make tea bags and sell them through e-commerce sites,” said Ou.

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In 2019, the sales revenue of the local the industry reached 520 million yuan, with more than 3,400 jobs created.

Oil tea has promoted the local cultural tourism industry as well. The recently held 10th Oil Tea Cultural Festival in Gongcheng saw more than 100 banquets while drink-related dances were also performed during the event.

“This is my first time to drink it. Though it tasted a little bitter initially, I got used to it after drinking a few times. I love the ingredients,” said Wang Yuan, a tourist from Sichuan Province.

“Oil tea is our county’s claim to fame. As an inheritor, I’m happy to display it to more visitors. I would like to welcome more people to Gongcheng for a cup of it,” said Lan Runping.

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