Oil tea, a taste of cultural heritage in South China

(China Daily)

Updated: 2020-10-24

NANNING-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 oil tea is deemed its calling card.

Known by many 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 item of Guangxi.

In 2019, a Guinness World Record was set after 2,019 people made oil tea simultaneously.

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

Several steps are involved in the preparation of the tea, including washing, roasting, pounding and steeping, among which pounding is the most vital.

"Pounding will make oil tea much more aromatic. We usually drink the tea from a bowl adding salt, fried rice and peanuts," Lu said.

Ou Xinjie, the owner of an oil tea restaurant, said sales of oil tea are improving and more than 1,000 people drink tea in his restaurant every day. "We are going to make oil tea bags and sell via e-commerce," Ou said.

In 2019, the sales revenue of the local oil tea industry reached 520 million yuan ($77.13 million), with more than 3,400 jobs created.

Oil tea has helped in the promotion of the local cultural tourism industry as well.

The recently held 10th Oil Tea Cultural Festival in Gongcheng saw more than 100 oil tea banquets held and oil tea-related dances were also performed.

"This is my first time to drink oil tea. 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 oil tea inheritor, I'm happy to display oil tea culture to more visitors," Lan Runping said. "I would like to welcome more people to Gongcheng for a cup of oil tea."