Photo Credit: VCG

Brand Mashups Sweep the Chinese Internet

Kweichow Moutai and Luckin Coffee have captured netizens imagination with a viral “baijiu” and coffee concoction

Many young Chinese “wage slaves (打工人 dǎgōng rén),” never anticipated the day when they would boldly carry bags of baijiu to the office, beginning their work by indulging in a prestigious brand of alcohol.

On the micro-blogging platform Weibo, netizens have documented their exhilarating Monday mornings drinking liquor, referring to the party atmosphere as a “temporary team-building activity (临时团建项目 línshí tuánjiàn xiàngmù)” for their companies.

On September 4, Kweichow Moutai, one of China’s best-known baijiu producers, and coffee chain Luckin Coffee launched a collaboration product known as the “Fragrant Sauce Latte (酱香拿铁 jiàngxiāng nátiě),” named for the fact Moutai connoisseurs often liken the drink’s taste and aroma to that of soy sauce. The drink, which comes in packaging closely resembling that normally used for bottles of the fiery, transparent liquor Moutai, is now viral with Chinese youth—Luckin claims it sold over 5.42 million cups on the day it released the drink. “The taste is hard to describe, but one thing’s for sure, the atmosphere is just right (口味不好说,反正气氛是到位了 Kǒuwèi bù hǎo shuō, fǎnzhèng qìfēn shì dàowèi le),” as one netizen put it on Weibo.

Moutai is normally much too expensive for most young workers. A 500-milliliter bottle of renowned Kweichow Feitian Moutai, which features in the internet celebrity latte, sells for around 2,000 yuan. The mashup latte, however, costs just 38 yuan. Netizens commented on Weibo: “Luckin knows I cannot afford a bottle of Moutai, so they’ve started selling it to me one drop at a time (瑞幸知道我买不起一瓶茅台,开始一滴一滴的卖给我了 Ruìxìng zhīdào wǒ mǎibuqǐ yì píng máotái, kāishǐ yì dī yì dī de màigěi wǒ le).”

Despite the fact that the product’s alcohol content does not exceed 0.5 percent proof, the sharp taste of baijiu is unmistakable. Rather than life being like a box of chocolates, netizens now claim: “Life is like a latte, half the time you’re wide awake and half the time you’re tipsy (生活就像一杯拿铁,一半清醒一半微醺 Shēnghuó jiù xiàng yì bēi nátiě, yíbàn qīngxǐng yíbàn wēixūn).”

Coffee, long considered a tool for overworked white-collar employees to “extend life (续命 xùmìng)” and enhance productivity during busy workdays, has now been combined with alcohol—the drink of choice for relieving workplace stress in the evenings. Formerly, young Chinese joked they employed a routine known as “coffee in the morning, alcohol in the evening (早C晚A zǎo C wǎn A).” Now netizens have found that “‘coffee in the morning and alcohol in the evening’ mysteriously blends together in the Fragrant Sauce Latte (早C晚A在酱香拿铁身上诡异地融合到了一起 Zǎo C wǎn A zài jiàngxiāng nátiě shēn shang guǐyì de rónghé dàole yìqǐ).”

According to Luckin Coffee, the company made 100 million yuan from sales of the drink in just one day, leading some to comment: “Congratulations to Luckin for marrying into a wealthy family (恭喜瑞幸嫁入豪门 Gōngxǐ Ruìxìng jiàrù háomén)! ”

Baijiu has for years been mainly consumed by older generations of Chinese men, who enjoy the drink at social gatherings, banquets, or business meals. But this isn’t the first attempt by Kweichow Moutai to attract younger consumers.

Baijiu-flavored ice cream went viral on its release in May 2022, but the coffee has been even more welcomed by young consumers. Some joke that the drink may represent the “first sip of Moutai for young people and the first cup of Luckin Coffee for middle-aged and elderly individuals (这是年轻人的第一杯茅台酒,中老年人的第一杯瑞幸咖啡 Zhè shì niánqīngrén de dì yī bēi Máotái jiǔ, zhōng lǎoniánrén de dì yī bēi Ruìxìng kāfēi).”

Buoyed by the success of the promotion, Moutai announced on its Weibo account on September 14: “I won’t hide anymore. I’m officially announcing my relationship with Dove chocolate (不藏了,我和德芙官宣了 Bù cáng le, wǒ hé Défú guānxuān le),” heralding the arrival of the liqueur-filled chocolates, a joint product of Moutai and the American chocolate brand owned by Mars.

The chocolate received a similar rush of order to the coffee. On Weibo, one netizen commented: “The fervor to snatch Moutai chocolates can even be compared to the recent rush to grab train tickets for the National Day holiday (抢茅台巧克力的热烈堪比近期抢国庆节火车票 Qiǎng Máotái qiǎokèlì de rèliè kānbǐ jìnqī qiǎng Guóqìngjié huǒchēpiào).”

With Moutai seemingly on a partnership spree, some netizens playfully labeled the company “playboy (渣男 zhānán)” or “sea king (海王 hǎiwáng),” a term for unfaithful men.

But with so many collaborations these days, some struggle to keep up. As one netizen wrote recently: “There are too many joint productions; I can’t keep up to buy them. (联名太多了,我买不动了。 Liánmíng tài duō le, wǒ mǎibudòng le.)”


author Zhang Wenjie (张文捷)

Zhang Wenjie is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese. She loves to share the lifestyles, voices, and concerns of China’s Gen Z. She is also fond of collecting and displaying the flourishing slang expressions in the Chinese language.

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