Contents May be Hot

On June 14, 2012, in Restaurants & Food, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

Like many a weary traveler I was exhausted after the final leg of all of my China flights.  Once I landed I had to travel to Beijing, which was a traffic laden journey.  When I finally arrived in my apartment after a full day of traveling, I desperately wanted some water.  I could neither speak nor read any Chinese at the time, but the water filter had two levers.  I tried the first, and it was hot water.  My tragically Western sensibilities led me to assume that the other lever was cold, and boy was I wrong.  The other level was actually ungodly hot, and I still have the burn on my hand to prove it.  Over the course of my time here I’ve realized that there is almost no cold non-bottled water in Beijing.

Water options in the office

You can have water at any temperature as long as it's hot

This may seem trivial, but think about how much we drink cold water in the West, be it at restaurants, from water fountains, or directly from the faucet.  After a bit of research and asking around, I’ve come up with what I believe to be the main reasons for the plethora of hot water here in China:

Health/Digestion Concerns:

Hot water is generally accepted as being good for you, helping with digestion, helping to break down oil in your system, and being better for you than cold water since hot water is closer to your body’s temperature.  While a cursory Google search disproved most of these statements, there is nothing wrong with hot water either, so who cares.

Water Quality:

In China the tap water is not drinkable, and some theorize that the taste for hot water was developed in response to the need to boil water before drinking it.  This may or may not be true, but the story has a nice ring to it.

Caution: Contents May Be Hot (Coffee Cup #20), 2003 Fred Lynch

Caution: Contents May Be Hot (Coffee Cup #20), 2003 Fred Lynch


Since hot water is readily available, it is very easy to make tea or instant noodles wherever you are.  Instant noodles are much more than a dorm room staple here, and can be found at every convenience store in China.  Back in the US it was always an ordeal to heat water for tea, whereas here I can make it on the fly.

Be careful what you drink in your China travel, because if like me you are used to cold water you will be greeted with a big surprise.  Take it in stride, get used to the smaller portions and drinking your hot water slowly.  In less than a week I’ve been cured of my tendencies to down massive quantities of water due to necessity, and have grown to accept hot water instead of cold.  Give it a try, embrace the conveniences it brings, and ignore the rest.  Live how they do on the other side of the world, and you’ll end up with a better understanding of yourself.

Jack Li

2 Responses to “Contents May be Hot”

  1. Chang LIU says:

    “While a cursory Google search disproved most of these statements”
    I think there must be something wrong with my common sense….. sorry for Janna haha

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