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Tea Leaves

Some like it hot: why China cold-shoulders ice water

Japanese-style thirst quencher has little appeal for Chinese drinkers

As someone who has lived in both Japan and China, I am often asked about the differences between the two peoples. There are many. The Chinese are direct and talkative, while the Japanese have perfected the art of subtlety and silence. But what stands out to me is a relatively simple difference: While Japanese tend to prefer their water with ice, in China the drinking water is invariably hot.

On a recent visit to Beijing from Tokyo, I would fetch up at restaurants sweaty from sightseeing and desperate for an ice-cold thirst quencher. But requests for water descended into a minefield of temperature terminology, the inevitable outcome of which was a glass of hot water.

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