Tea originates from China, but it was the English who first served it with milk and sugar, a style which later found its way into different parts of Asia in various forms. In the Hong Kong version a juggling act sees the drink poured back and forth between two vessels (from height) at least four times before being mixed with evaporated milk and sugar. In Taiwan, the beverage was reinvented in the 1980s by mixing in new ingredients such as chewy tapioca balls and jelly and infusing it with tastes like taro or chocolate (today the tapioca variety is popularly known as ‘bubble tea’ and has become a global phenomenon).
As we mentioned in WiC444, modern tea outlets have become so popular among younger Chinese that they are often competing head-to-head against branded coffee chains.
This month the craze even prompted Alibaba to open an unmanned teashop in a Shanghai subway station. Apart from adopting more traditional smartphone-based technology such as payment via QR codes, the new milk tea store employs a single robot to make personalised beverages for its customers. Known as ‘Leimeng No.1’, the machine can simultaneously handle requests for additional ingredients and fine-tune the blend based on the customer’s required sugar level and temperature. The robot was built by Germany’s Kuka, a firm that was purchased in 2016 by Foshan-based Midea Group, while the recipes came from Happy Lemon, which is owned by Taipei-listed Yummy Town Holdings.
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