In China, the business model built around the rapid-fire creation and sale of hot, expensive, caffeinated beverages has only relatively recently hit its stride (though not without several minor hiccups).
Long before the siren’s call, however, tea was being enjoyed almost everywhere across China – facilitated by the availability of hot water in almost every restaurant, office, and train car (and this despite the inherent risks of sipping scalding liquid while trundling down uneven tracks). Also helping in on-the-go consumption are these eminently pocketable, single-serving size, minimally decorated and elegantly paper-packaged blocks of tea. Roughly big as the top joint of one’s thumb, this is a common way for pu-er tea to be sold/carried/consumed.
Stand one of these next to an attempt to package coffee into a single serving size, and it is hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy for the somewhat less attractive “K-Cup” – and perhaps also frustration at requiring a $100 coffee machine in order to actually use it (rather than a container and some hot water).