18 drinks China can't live without
1. Xinjiang Black Beer
This nut-scented hooch hails from northwest China.
It has a strong flavor with a hint of brown sugar-like sweetness; like an American dark lager.
This ale goes well with any Xinjiang meal, complementing lamb, cumin and other spices.
2. Chivas mixed with green tea
Chinese night owls love drinking this late night/early morning concoction while belting out Hong Kong and Korean pop songs at the karaoke bar.
Fusing Scotch whisky with sweetened, bottled green tea, this cross-cultural mix has a smooth and honeyed taste.
Many glittery nightclubs include it on their drinks lists.
3. Pearl milk tea
One of the most popular soft drinks among young people in Chinese mainland, this Taiwanese import includes jelly or pudding-like bubbles in sweetened milk tea.
It has a slightly bitter aftertaste.
"I really enjoy the bubbles inside," says Li Yanyun, a young teacher in Jiangxi province. "The black bubbles look like pearls. When I drink the pearl milk tea, it reminds me of my childhood."
The chewy "pearls" are actually made of tapioca and have a soft texture.
Bubble tea has recently gone global and is a hit in the US and Europe.
This is China's version of electrolyte water.
From lemon to grapefruit flavors, the vitamin-rich drink has a tangy, sweet and acidic lemonade taste.
Known as the "Iron Goddess of Mercy," tieguanyin falls somewhere between green and black tea taste-wise, but is yellowish in color.
With a fresh floral aroma and a fruity, berry-like sweetness, this premium variety of oolong tea leaves a honey aftertaste.
Tieguanyin can be found throughout China in local teahouses, but it's most notably produced in Anxi, Fujian province.
Harvested in spring and autumn, the tea is sometimes referred to as "curled up leaves of jade."
6. Salt soda water
A refreshing carbonated water that's been around since the 1960s -- mainly in Shanghai -- this was the drink of choice for locals before Coca-Cola knocked on China's door.
Hints of lemon and mint add a kick to the sweet and fizzy water.
7. Jiuniang (fermented sweet rice wine)
This soup-like Chinese dish is actually unfiltered rice wine, but it has a very low alcohol content. Osmanthus flowers bring up the fragrance.
"Most of time, rice wine is made by families," says newspaper editor Qu Zhi, who grew up in the Shandong province. "There are some different brands of rice wine in the supermarket, but rice wine isn't common in restaurants."
8. Soybean milk
Yellow wheat beans are used to make China's version of the protein shake.
Ma Xin, a Weibo coordinator from Qinghai province, describes the popular drink as "very natural and a little sweet."
"When you combine different beans, it creates a different taste," she adds.
The drink is usually made at home with a milk machine. But fresh, boiled versions can be found at most breakfast stalls, which serve it sweet or savory.
9. Chrysanthemum tea
Flowery in scent and taste, chrysanthemum tea is a herbal remedy. Reputed health benefits include cholesterol maintenance and sinus relief.
10. Tsingtao beer
The most recognized Chinese beer in the world, Tsingtao is sold in 62 countries.
A lager with a high malt flavor and a hint of hops, Tsingtao is easy to drink and doesn't leave a bitter aftertaste.
Produced in the seaside city of Qingdao, the German-style beer uses spring water from Laoshan in Shandong province, a mountain area known for its water purity.
The company imports its hops, yeast and barley from Australia and Canada.
11. Coconut milk
China's canned coconut milk is made from the meat of the fruit. Milk, water and sugar give it a thicker consistency than regular coconut water.
12. Cocoa, rock salt and cheese
This sounds-odd-but-tastes-great drink is a testament to Chinese creativity.
China's version of chocolate milk with foam -- some call it a "cheese creamsicle" -- the cocoa, rock salt and cheese are blended into a cup of milk.
The rich chocolaty flavor combines with the saltiness from the cheese to tease the taste buds.
13. Suanmeitang (sour plum drink)
This cooling and soothing drink is a great match for hot pot and spicy Chinese dishes. The sweet-sour taste helps ease a burning tongue and stomach.
Made of sour plums, hawthorn, licorice root, rock salt and sweet osmanthus.
14. Yunnan coffee
A caffeine rush has put Yunnan province on the global coffee map.
Coffee connoisseurs will enjoy AiNi's cinnamon-flavored beans. They're a lighter roast, but throw out a flavorful cinnamon punch with a herbal aroma.
More than 98% of China's coffee comes from the area.
Yunnan even grabbed Starbucks' attention. The US coffee giant signed a joint venture in February 2012 with one of the province's coffee operations, AiNi, the most widely available Yunnan brand. 云南甚至引起了星巴克的关注。星巴克于2012年2月与当地咖啡供应商、云南本地最著名的品牌爱伲咖啡签署了一项合资协议。
15. Osmanthus wine
This delicious after-dinner drink is similar to French liqueur and can be served chilled or warm.
"It's super sweet while having the special scent of the flower itself," says Ou Wenmin, a consultant from Guangzhou.
16. Wahaha Nutri-Express
This drink is a mix of fruit juice and milk. Its consistency is lighter than yogurt drinks and similar to skim milk -- a little watery.
A healthy alternative to the milkshake, it's one of China's top selling bottled drinks.
17. Cooling tea
Although many stalls in southern China sell homemade "cooling tea," or herbal tea, the two dominant brands are Wang Lao Ji and Jia Duo Bao.
Both share the same recipe, which has been passed down from the historic label, Wang Lao Ji, and taste almost identical.
This herbal tea's history dates to the Qing dynasty. With hints of mint and honey, the drink has a soothing effect on the throat and isn't too sweet.
The Russians brought this amber liquid to northern China in the 19th century, and the sweet alcoholic drink has remained an iconic home brew in the region, especially in Xinjiang and Harbin.
Often flavored with herbs, mint, raisins or strawberries, this beer is made from rye or black bread.
The alcohol level is low (around 1%). It tastes a bit like shandy, but with a thicker texture.