Drinking Baijiu – Chinese Customs & Traditions

Drinking Baijiu - Chinese Customs & Traditions

There’s a popular adage that suggests, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This is sound advice in all walks of life, and it also applies to when in Beijing – or indeed, any territory in China. Tradition and custom are hugely important to the citizens of this country, and a huge part of Chinese culture is the consumption of baijiu.

Baijiu is something of a mystery to many western individuals. Pound-for-pound it’s the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world, but it’s rarely consumed outside of its native country. Baijiu is not just another drink, however. While most nations will offer a wide selection of different choices in bars and residential drinks cabinets, many Chinese establishments will operate a baijiu-or-bust policy.

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What is Qu? The Fermentation Starter For Baijiu!

What is Qu? The Fermentation Starter For Baijiu

If you’re going to make baijiu, you’ll need a number of different things. The base ingredients are obviously essential, such as grains and water. Perhaps most importantly, however, you’ll need qu, or jaiqu. This is what is used to make baijiu taste a little sweeter, as well as aiding with the fermentation process.

Qu starts life as a range of grains, which are compiled together before adding a number of additional components. It’s essentially a starter agent for the fermentation of alcohol. There are two types of qu, known colloquially as ‘big qu’ and ‘small qu’.

As the condition of the earth is essential to creation of qu, every territory in China will produce a different type. The ambient climate and condition of the soil will have an impact. This is why every brand of baijiu has a different taste and aroma, depending on where it was made.

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How To Make Baijiu! How Is Chinese Baijiu Made?

How Is Baijiu Made?

For so popular a drink, very little is known about the production process of baijiu. How is this celebrated Chinese liquor created, and how long does it take?

The process of creating baijiu can be broken down into several pivotal steps. Once this is complete, the drink is ready to be bottled and enjoyed throughout the Chinese nation – and beyond!

Let’s take a look at each step of the baijiu creation process, from idea to consumption.

What is baijiu?

The first thing that you need to understand is that baijiu is not just a single beverage. It’s a family of drinks (the word baijiu translates into the English language as ‘white alcohol’), with a variety of different brands, flavors and scents.

Ordering a baijiu in China is like entering a western bar and asking for a glass of wine. You’re going to need to get a little more specific to enjoy everything that baijiu has to offer. There are a number of different options open to you.

The core differences in different brands of baijiu stem from the production process, and the ingredients used to make the beverage. Naturally, selecting and gathering these ingredients is the first – and arguably most pivotal – step in creating baijiu.

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Ganbei! Through The Ages: Gānbēi (干杯) Means “dry cup”, Or To Drink A Toast

GanbeiWINE has been called the “Water of Life”. In China, it could also be called the “Water of History” because stories about wine can be found in almost every period of China’s long history.

Nowadays, China is still a country which has a big consumption of alcohol. A few years ago, statistics revealed that the annual output of baijiu, a drink with a high alcoholic content, had reached 10 billion liters consumed annually.

Historically, alcohol pre-dates the formation of the Chinese character and it was around 4,000 BC that ancient China saw its first period of making alcohol. Read more on Baijiu History.

The ancestors of today’s Chinese people made alcohol from corn and they believed the drink had magic powers.

At that time, alcohol was not for ordinary people but was a monopoly of the monarchy. Kings set up special bureaux to take charge of the production and distribution of alcohol and it was a luxury drink reserved for the king and the aristocrats.

Stories from earliest times also associate alcohol with tyrants. A famous one is entitled “The Wine Pool and the Meat Forest”. Zhou, the last king of the Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 BC), was well-known as a tyrant. He was also addicted to alcohol.

He ordered people to make a big pool and had it filled with wine. He then ordered meat to be hung high like a forest and watched naked men and women chase after one another for his amusement.

Modern research has shown that people in early China kept their wine in bronze vessels which made the wine poisonous because the tin in the alloy would dissolve in the drink. So many drinkers were unaware they were poisoning themselves and this was a factor in bringing about the end of the last hard-drinking ruler of the Shang Dynasty.

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Baijiu Beer Heading To China

Baijiu Beer Heading To China

A UK beer producer has won orders to ship 12,000 of its bottled beer infused with baijiu to Hong Kong and Shanghai. The baijiu beer company brews real ale combined with China’s favorite tipple baijiu.

The company will ship its first order in January after securing the order with support of both the DIT and The Craft Beer Alliance who have also helped other UK brewers break into the Chinese market.

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