White Rabbit milk tea was a knockout hit in China this year.

Top Chinese food trends of 2019: White Rabbit milk tea, hot pot toothpaste, and fruit-shaped pastries

Dec 17, 2019

From fake fruit desserts to carbonated coffee, these were the most buzzed-about food trends in China this year.

Every year, we round up some of the most impactful and, shall we say, eccentric food trends in China.

Last year saw a wave of instant hot pot, boba on everything, and brown sugar milk tea. This year is a mix of the old—White Rabbit and hot pot made a comeback—and new (fake fruits are in).

White Rabbit ice cream was a momentary hit in 2019.
White Rabbit ice cream was a momentary hit in 2019. / Photo: Wanderlust Creamery

Shock-factor and photogenic foods remained evergreen (we see you, boba pizza), but here are some other things that stood out in 2019. This list was inspired by things we saw on our travels and buzz from the Chinese internet.

1. Fruit-shaped pastries

A phenomenon started by a French pastry chef in 2017 came to China this year—and people went crazy for it.

Cédric Grolet became famous for his book of hyper-realistic fruit-shaped pastries. Think lemon cakes made with poached lemons, lemon curds, white chocolate, yuzu ganache, and sugar spray. Or a glossy red apple that’s really chocolate, mint cream, and juniper berry.

When the Shanghai bakery C’est Patisserie started selling his line of desserts this year, it spawned copycats all over the country, including this woman who made her own fake fruits using Chinese buns.

Chili-shaped earrings from hot pot chain Haidilao.
Chili-shaped earrings from hot pot chain Haidilao. / Photo: Haidilao

2. Hot pot accessories

Hot pot will probably never stop trending.

The concept continued its worldwide domination this year as Xiaolongkan, one of China’s largest hot pot chains, announced it would bring its famous spicy provisions to New York in 2020.

The chain also released a limited-edition hot pot-flavored toothpaste this year—which sold out days after its launch.

Photo: Xiaolongkan

The toothpaste came in cheeky flavors like mild, medium, and unholy spicy. 

Not to be outdone, its main competitor in China, Haidilao, followed suit with a line of hot pot-inspired merch, including earrings shaped like mushrooms, lotus root, and chili peppers.

Luosifen, a rice noodle dish made with spicy snail-flavored soup.
Luosifen, a rice noodle dish made with spicy snail-flavored soup. / Photo: Shutterstock

3. Luosifen 螺蛳粉

These rice noodles, flavored with river snails, are a traditional snack from the town of Liuzhou in Guangxi.

Luosifen has a distinct odor that makes it an acquired taste for many, but it became popular this year after instant noodle makers started selling it in dehydrated form.

There are now more than 9,000 online stores and 5,000 retailers selling instant luosifen.

It’s so trendy that the government even submitted “Chinese snail noodles” for Unesco recognition.

Tan Bing 炭仌 carbonated coffee.
Tan Bing 炭仌 carbonated coffee. / Photo: Nongfu Spring

4. Carbonated coffee

Fizzy sweet coffee is having a moment in China.

This buzzy drink, which kind of tastes like really strong cola, has been a top seller at high-end coffee shops in China’s big cities.

Instant coffee still remains the most popular way of drinking coffee across most of the country, but there’s a growing appetite for the caffeinated beverage, and big bottlers are taking note.

Chinese beverage giant Nongfu Springs moved into carbonated coffee in May with a brand of sparkling coffee called Tan Bing 炭仌. (仌 is an older rendering of the character 冰, which means ice.)

Schweppes, which is owned by the Coca-Cola Company, also introduced a coffee-flavored fizzy drink in China this summer.

Crayfish lip gloss.
Crayfish lip gloss. / Photo: Zhiyouquan

5. Spicy cosmetics

Food-flavored lip gloss continues to make headlines. Last year, it was White Rabbit, a classic milk candy from Shanghai, that launched its own candy-flavored lip balm.

This year, other companies jumped on the food-themed cosmetics bandwagon. Now there’s crayfish lip gloss, spicy Korean chicken ramen lip balm, and spicy duck lipstick—though unlike the White Rabbit lip balm, these products don’t actually taste like the foods they’re based on; they just match the color.

Sure, it’s all very gimmicky, but given that all of these products nearly sell out, it’s a gimmick that works. Just ask the Forbidden City in Beijing.


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6. More White Rabbit things

White Rabbit continued to milk its brand power this year.

First, there was White Rabbit ice cream, released by a Los Angeles scoop shop (apparently without official authorization from the White Rabbit company in Shanghai).

The line for White Rabbit milk tea in Shanghai in June.
The line for White Rabbit milk tea in Shanghai in June. / Photo: Daniel Ren/SCMP

Then there was White Rabbit milk tea (officially sanctioned by the company), which was so popular that it drew hour-long lines in Shanghai and even led to scalpers reselling the $3 tea online for up to $70.

Food trendsThe Chinese internetYear in Review 2019