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Tea or Soda?

In Taiwan, Oolong tea more than just a beverage - it is deeply integrated with the local culture. Brewing oolong tea is a ritual practiced by millions of Taiwanese every day, and a gift of high mountain oolong tea bestows honor on both recipient and donor.

Despite the high standing of the traditional oolong tea ceremony, it is not the only way to enjoy this beverage. Ready-to-drink tea beverages are available in the 7-11's of the nation, and they are becoming even more popular than sodas - accounting for almost half of convenience store beverage sales.

And the market for premium bottled unsweetened oolongs is taking an increasingly large slice of tea beverage sales.

Until recently the biggest seller in bottled teas was sweetened green tea. But last year the sales of oolong tea drinks increased by 40 percent from the previous year. Unsweetened teas are currently outselling sweetened ones.

This may be due to consumers becoming more health-conscious, or it may represent an off-shoot of traditional tea culture. People who don't have time to brew traditional oolong tea may be finding an alternative in bottled tea.

Premium Bottled Tea

Most bottled beverages cost about NT$15 (45 US cents), but premium bottled oolong sells for as much as NT$25. Sales for these teas are increasing, despite the higher cost. Premium bottled oolong teas are usually made from Taiwanese tea leaves rather than inferior oolong tea from other countries. The Taiwanese leaves produce a superior beverage that consumers seem willing to pay extra for.

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