Thursday, October 05, 2006

Teh Botol

Dead soldiers in the lunchroom at work

Teh Botol, or bottled jasmine tea, is to Jakarta as Coke is to the U.S. At home or work, I don't have to walk more than two minutes from the front door to get one from a street vendor or warung.

Teh Botol is sweet, of course, because everybody loves sweet drinks here, but the tea gives it enough of a bitter edge to make it thirst-quenching. (I hate sweet drinks that make you thirsty.)

According to legend, Teh Botol came on the market in the 70's when a tea company was trying to expand its market. The company, Sosro, was sending vendors out into the field to brew hot tea as samples. But potential customers wouldn't stick around long enough for the water to boil, so the company started brewing tea at its factory and sending it out on trucks in big containers. It sloshed all over, so they started putting it in bottles. Then they realized they could sell it right in the bottles. And a marketing phenomenon was born!

Lots of companies, including Coke and Pepsi, have tried to knock Teh Botol off its pedestal with other bottled tea products. As Fairy Mahzdan notes on the quirky Jakarta fan site, true Teh Botol lovers accept no substitutes.

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