It is the best of times for themed tea and coffee shops. In mid-January, images of a milk tea shop called Jingcha (警茶, lit. Police Tea, which sounds the same as “police” in Chinese) started circulating on social media, especially among marketing and design accounts. It soon transpired that it was an internal pop-up tea shop by Suzhou Police to celebrate officers on a special occasion – the People’s Police Day on 10 January (as the number for the police in China is 110).
The tea shop comes with everything you’d expect with a tea collaboration: a specially designed logo showing tea leaves inside a shield-shaped badge emblem, cups in multiple colours, paper bags and merch such as cards, envelopes, coasters, tote bags and phone cases.
The Suzhou Jingcha is not the first time that Chinese law enforcement have launched a tea shop. From as early as 2021 Gongshu Police in neighbouring Hangzhou launched Coffee Benny for their officers. In June 2023, Hangzhou Police opened a pop-up with Chagee at the China International Cartoon & Animation Festival (CICAF) in Hangzhou. It was the first time the name Jingcha was used. The pop-up included cartoon-style packaging and various merch from stickers to cushions. Incidentally, Hangzhou Police brought back their version of Jingcha for the Police Day and it was open to the public free of charge.
The topic “Mr Policeman invites you to tea” (#警察叔叔喊你喝茶啦#) about Hangzhou police gained 365,000 views on Weibo. Interestingly, in China, being invited to tea by the authorities is a euphemism for being summoned and questioned by them. Humorous usage of the term soon popped up on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, both in an official capacity as used by the force and media, as well as colloquially by netizens.
It would seem that Hangzhou police have been trying to use their Jingcha for publicity, whether it’s by opening a pop-up among merch stands at a comic convention or providing free tea to members of the public. However, it was Suzhou Police’s internal tea shop that caught the eyes of marketers as it has a full range of merch and can easily pass as an official tea collaboration.