How Japanese promoted Oolong tea

I quickly translate (using some software) part of this interesting article about how Japanese promoted Oolong tea.

It is extremely difficult for Taiwan’s native products to become famous only by word of mouth. Even today’s world-renowned oolong tea is regarded as an unknown fragrant tea in the initial stage of export. In addition to various publications and tourism itineraries, property fairs in the form of “exhibition” during the Japanese rule period was the key.

Since May 1910, in order to celebrate the alliance between Japan and Britain, the Japan-Britain Expo has been held in London, UK, to introduce the characteristics of the two countries and exhibit the famous Japanese-British products for six months. Faced with the old colonial empire of Britain, Japan was unwilling to show its weakness. Special pavilions were arranged to exhibit colonial specialties such as Taiwan and Korea.

The Governor’s Office of Taiwan attaches great importance to this exposition. The exhibition is rich in contents, including models of tea gardens and tea pickers, models of Taiwan Island and aborigines, and special products such as camphor, rice, tea and sugar. In order to show caution, the exhibition model Commission was made by famous Japanese teachers. In order to make it vivid, the Paiwan people in Pingtung even went to England to become part of the exhibition. Taiwan’s exhibition is considered to be “among the products of our colonies, there are also outstanding ones”.

Among them, Taiwan’s Oolong Tea attracts the attention of British people who have tea drinking habits. The tea shops attached to the Taiwan Pavilion have 2,000 people on weekdays and more than 3,000 people on holidays. Especially during afternoon tea time, there is hardly any place to stand.

The reason why Taiwanese tea shops are so busy is related to the details of the main actors. I heard that the tea rooms are decorated with flowers woven from bamboo sticks, and there are Taiwanese tea advertisements with pictures of beautiful women hanging between the walls. Each glass window is covered with bead curtains, which has an oriental flavor. Therefore, it is the best business in many tea rooms of the Expo. Oolong tea from Taiwan became popular.

In fact, Taiwan Oolong Tea has long been sold to the UK, but it is only regarded as fragrant tea without brand value, or as Chinese tea. Even the Oolong Tea advertisements produced by Taiwan is also marked with the words “China tea”. However, owing to the success of tea shops in the Expo, the name of Oolong Tea has been established, and Taiwan Oolong Tea has been listed as a necessary product in the catalogues of tea merchants.

The reason why Taiwan Oolong Tea can enter the UK is that the consumer behavior analysis, product positioning, marketing, advertising and other factors are indispensable. For example, through painting advertisements and postcards, the Oolong Tea is combined with the image of Taiwan to create a brand image. Postcards alone are printed more than 800,000 copies a year. There are also ways to reach new customers by subsidizing tea shops in exhibitions or by offering trial drinks in hotels around the country.

In terms of the strategy of mass marketing, we should have a better understanding of the British people’s preference for strong Indian tea, especially the housekeeping women, who prefer to brew frequently and still have brown tea. However, Oolong tea is too light to compete with it, so its “aroma” must be emphasized to win. At the same time, owing to the fact that Oolong tea is more expensive than Indian tea and more middle-class consumers, the sale of Oolong tea should avoid competition with Indian tea price reduction, and focus on the middle and upper classes of quality. All of the above, as well as advertising means, and also as product positioning, we can see that the success of a celebrity is indispensable to business factors.



Amazing how modern that article seems. Same considerations, one hundred years ago.

1 Like

There is a museum on this right in Taipei city.

I saw these boxes before:


The 日東 brand was established by the Mitsui (三井) corporation in Taiwan back in 1927.

While the Japanese pronunciation of 日東 is Nittoh, and doesn’t sound like anything, the Taigi pronunciation is Lit-tong, which sounds extremely like Lipton.

Later on, the official translation of Lipton would be 立頓, which is a so-so phonetic translation in Mandarin. However, in Taigi pronunciation is Li̍p-tùn, which is almost dead on.

I wonder if they chose the name 日東 on purpose to sound similar to Lipton.

1 Like