China's First Fast Food Restaurant

Despite the blistering heat, Chinese bubble tea lovers lined up for the opening of a new Nanjing milk tea shop as early as 4 am. By 11 am, police discouraged people from coming to the area and the shop had to close its doors. The hype surrounding the opening shows the popularity of bubble tea and domestic brands in China.

The opening of a Modern China Tea Shop branch in Nanjing was much-anticipated, but it only lasted for about thirty minutes. So many people had come to the bubble tea shop’s opening at the Jingfeng Center (景枫中心) that the situation was out of control and the shop had to close its doors again.

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The Modern China Tea Shop, known as Chayan Yuese (茶颜悦色) in China, was established in 2013 and is headquartered in Changsha. They call themselves a “creative milk tea store,” meaning they mostly sell desserts and milk tea or bubble tea, which has become very popular among mainland Chinese consumers over the past few years.

MILKTEA

Pearl milk tea or bubble tea was first invented in Taiwan in 1988. Most pearl milk tea products contain an iced tea base and milk, with chewy tapioca pearls and sugar. Although this is a standard recipe, China’s many bubble milk tea shops and chains now also have a growing selection of fruit-flavored bubble tea or chocolate-flavored bubble tea. Since milk tea came to the mainland market in 1996, it has beaten coffee as a drink in terms of popularity (read more here).

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Through its logo and marketing style, Chayan Yuese or Modern China Tea Shop positions itself as an authentic mainland Chinese business, stressing Chinese traditional style and history. In an era of ‘China Chic‘, this clearly resonates with consumers.

Earlier this week, the popular Modern China Tea Shop announced its upcoming Nanjing debut on social media. Many people already came to the mall in the early morning hours, starting at 4 am, to be among the first customers waiting in front of the shop, but the line got so out of hand that the entire area inside and outside the mall became blocked.

Chinese media outlet The Paper writes that local police issued a notice on Thursday morning to discourage more people from coming to the area since there were already too many people at the scene.

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Due to the crowds and the blistering heat, Nanjing police sent out a team of officers to the tea shop to maintain order.

Meanwhile, some sellers were offering their services on WeChat or platforms such as Xianyu to stand in line and buy milk tea for others. The hype was so big that they could charge 200 yuan (nearly $30) to get their customers one cup of tea. Modern China Tea Shop later said they did not support such practices.

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The shop was officially scheduled to be open from 9 am to 10 pm, but at 9.30 am, the doors had closed again, with a notice saying the store was “sold out” and would be closed for the day.

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On social media, some commenters were confused about the long queues. “The only way I’d queue up like this is to get my nucleic acid test,” one commenter wrote, while others also wondered why people would be willing to gather in crowds like this in the Covid era. “Don’t you have to work?” some wrote.

The unusual situation also raised suspicions about Chayan Yuese hiring people to stand in line to increase the hype surrounding their opening, with some sources alleging that the store did in fact recruit people to stand in line for a payment of $10.

“I would only stand in line for a drink at 4 am if it’s an elixir of immortality,” one Weibo user wrote.

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

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