Is ‘SexyTea’ Too Provocative for a Boba Brand? Some Folks Think So

The controversy surrounding Chinese milk tea brand SexyTea is just the latest installment in a larger debate over sexual mores in China

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6:35 PM HKT, Mon September 19, 2022 1 mins read

Is a milk tea shop named SexyTea detrimental to the moral fabric of society? You may be quick to answer ‘No’ and deem the idea silly, but such a debate is taking place on the Chinese internet, with some customers calling the brand “vulgar” and expressing their concerns that the name will “lead to bad associations.”

On September 9, niche milk tea chain Cha Yan Yue Se (茶颜悦色), which also goes by the English name ‘SexyTea,’ expanded to Nanjing, East China — a move that has put the brand in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

After opening in Nanjing, Cha Yan Yue Se’s English name caused so much furor that the brand announced just over a week later that it would no longer be going by the controversial title. The company is currently in the process of choosing a new English moniker.

Founded in Changsha in 2015, Cha Yan Yue Se is built around the theme of ancient China and is known nationwide.

A company representative reportedly filed for the ‘SexyTea’ trademark three times in 2018, but each application was rejected for its potentially “adverse social impact.” Regardless, the brand has used the English title for at least the past year.

Before Cha Yan Yue Se dropped the SexyTea moniker, news site Modern Express suggested that the company change its name, and many users of the microblogging platform Weibo agreed.

“It is a milk tea brand, what does it have to do with sex? They are forcibly using an inappropriate English name to make others think of sex,” complained a netizen.

Others, however, defended the name choice.

“The English name brings the company closer to the rest of the world and helps facilitate consumer recognition for international customers. [If you disapprove], it means your own thinking has gone astray, and everything can seem dirty to you,” a netizen pointed out.

jian lou zi sexytea chayan yuese controversy

A controversial advertising slogan used by Cha Yan Yue Se in 2021

This is not the first time Cha Yan Yue Se has come under fire. In February 2021, netizens blasted the company for running an inappropriate campaign that was disrespectful towards women. The ad mentioned that “hot girls [...] come to us to buy milk tea” to entice customers to visit their stores.

chayan yuese sexytea cup of milk tea

Sample beverages from the brand

Cha Yan Yue Se’s pile-up of scandals has rubbed some netizens the wrong way and led one Weibo user to accuse the tea chain of “turning the clocks back 50 years.” (Make of that what you will!)

The controversy is just the latest installment in a larger debate over sexual mores in China.

Recently, Chinese actor Li Yifeng was detained for allegedly soliciting prostitutes on multiple occasions. As a result, several brands quickly cut ties with the star, and fans unfollowed him faster than you can knock back a cup of milk tea.

All images via Weibo

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