China: Let's talk uppers and downers


1. Tea, of course. Always green tea, served by default with almost every meal. Usually really weak - kinda like flavored hot water.

2. Buckwheat tea. I think this isn’t actually an upper, but sometimes you get it instead of green tea. Mildly sweet, bright yellow.

3. Butter tea. This tastes not so much like tea as… I don’t know, like tea with butter in it. It’s quite nice, nicer than you might think. But hard to drink a lot of. I suffered my first big food failure today when I went to a restaurant, very hungry, pointed at a random thing on the menu like you do, and got a big pot of butter tea. Welp.

4. Coffee. They grow coffee in Yunnan! Most of it is pulverized into Nescafe-style instant milk-and-sugared slop. I have found one good roaster, though, Xiangcheng Coffee, in Shangri-la. (maybe they are based in Xiangcheng, a city a few hours north of here? I don’t know; I just know this guy at Xiangcheng coffee Shangri-la is my good coffee hookup here.) It’s not world-class best of the best, but I would definitely be satisfied if I got it in a SF coffee shop.
And they sell it in these little disposable DIY-drip-coffee bags. They’re awesome while traveling.

5. Frickin' Red Bull. Stuff’s everywhere.

6. I mean, and then I just bought a thing that turned out to be flavored brown sugar cubes. Like 1" cubes. I don’t know what you do with it, but that’d get ya hyped, I suppose.


1. Beer. There is the standard bland watery beer (popular here is a brand called Dali) and then there is one craft brewery around here called Shangrila Beer, run by a German brewmaster who moved here. (there’s another one called Bad Monkey I think but I didn’t try them.) Shangrila Beer is solid; could definitely set up shop in the US and they’d do great. But here at 10,000 feet, in a place without much beer history! Neat.
All the beer lists something like “>=2.5% ABV” or “>=3.3% ABV”… which makes me think they’re all real weak? Or else that’s just boilerplate and they can be whatever percent they want as long as they’re above 2.5 or 3.3? Can’t comment on how drunk they get you. Sleep all night, party never!

2. Wine. I just had a blueberry wine. It tasted like blueberry juice. That is all I can say about wine here.

3. Liquor: the main thing is Baijiou, “white liquor”, which I’ve heard is largely as vile as it sounds. You can buy it in a little sealed dixie-cup-sized glass for like 50 cents, and it’s about 2 shots' worth. (Or in bigger bottles, whatever.) I bought a bottle for $1 but haven’t had an occasion to open it yet. (seriously - it’s got a beer-style bottle cap, but contains about 8oz of 84-proof liquor. I guess they assume you’re drinking with friends, or just completely shameless?) Sometimes they infuse it with Maca, a root that grows around here. I tried that and it’s pretty good. (n.b. I think weird liquors are good.)

4. Weed: on one of the hikes, one of the trailside snack stands was selling just straight up bags of marijuana. I mean, smelled like it anyway. Didn’t try any, but I guess it grows here too :P The lady selling it was advertising “get energy for the steep part of the hike!” Err… I don’t think that drug does what you think it does.

blog 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010