A Tea Addict's Journal

Lipton teabags

January 12, 2007 · 4 Comments

Some of you know that I am a PhD student doing research in China this year, and today, in Shanghai, we had a dissertation group meeting today, with a few fellow PhD students talking about their respective projects.  That, of course, is not interesting subject for this blog.

What is interesting is the tea I drank.  Lipton Yellow Label tea.

A thought occurred to me today — what makes it so that Lipton, a company that sells what really is an inferior product, can penetrate the country where tea is originally made and still made with such sophistication?

I posed this question to the group, and got everybody wondering.  After all, there are cases where something that is abhorred earlier would take over a market after it’s been accepted, but usually, that something is foreign, unknown.  Tea, on the other hand, is not such a thing.  Chinese drink tea all the time.  I suppose bad tea in a bag is unknown, foreign, just as coke or pepsi or sushi might be, but still…. it’s like introducing some weird burger to Americans and taking the States by storm.  Mos Burger (google it) is weird, is good, but is not popular outside of Hawaii.

So, I guess the question is — how did Lipton do it?

I suppose the fact that it’s in a bag helps.  The perceived image of drinking something foreign (foreign must be good!) helps.  But the tea itself is horrible… it’s a little sour, flat, not aromatic, goes well only with milk (I was imaginging it having milk in it the whole time I was drinking my bag).  Why do people like it?  It’s not even that cheap.

Categories: Old Xanga posts · Teas
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4 responses so far ↓

  • xcasper54x // January 12, 2007 at 10:41 pm | Reply

    I’m curious, what are you researching? You mention working on a PhD sometimes, but I don’t remember ever reading what you are getting your PhD in.

  • h_ster // January 13, 2007 at 12:13 am | Reply

    MarshalN- you cannot give the taste bud’s of the masses too much credit, neither can you scoff at the marketing power of an international giant like Unilever which owns Lipton. People do not always want the sophistication of quality Chinese teas; even with the current pu-erh explosion, pu-erh is still a tiny tiny hair of a fraction of all tea consumption. Still, probably not too many people eat instant ramen in Italy, or Oscar Meyer hotdogs in Germany.

  • MarshalN // January 13, 2007 at 12:15 pm | Reply

    Casper:  Chinese history

    h_ster: Yes, Oscar Meyer is the sort of thing I have in mind…. and honestly, I can’t think of any other examples of such thing, Unilever or not.

  • stevendodd // January 14, 2007 at 3:47 am | Reply

    Sliced white bread? Blegh, utter crap. Though I still buy sliced whole wheat bread. Slightly less horrible.

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