This article was originally published on Vamped on July 9, 2014.
Last week, a story went viral about a new vampire-themed café serving drinks in blood bags that opened in Benxi, Liaoning Province, China. Almost every major publication, vampire and horror-oriented website featured the story. The kicker was, everyone was regurgitating the same info. The real name of the café and contact information was neglected in each article. Call me crazy, but from a PR standpoint this was basically free global advertising. And no one took advantage of it.
The story piqued my interest and I immediately went searching for answers. Was this café concept something new or were True Blood and Vampire Diaries fans jumping on hyped-up bandwagon? Also where exactly was this place?
My first task? Find the café’s name. It was a total pain in the ass, but I finally found “Vampire Coffee” on a Chinese tourism website called iDealShanghai. The site write-up says, “This café with a bizarre name in Wujiaochang, Yangpu District, near Fudan University, attracts young people with the theme of vampires. Witch Finger Cookies, Vampire Coffin Cake and Blood Bags are popular among customers.”
Another tourism site, Travel China Guide, even posted bus and metro routes for your convenience and a cute write-up:
I was curious about what café actually looked like inside. My next task, finding pictures, led me to a Ukraine-based Russian blogger named Kristen Dever. Her brief description says the café only has 5 tables. By the looks of her pics is going for that gothic vampire ambiance:
Apparently, coffins line the walls and vampire themed-music enhances your experience. Employees dress in nurse and doctor uniforms, which I think kills the vampire atmosphere they’re going for. Manager Hsin Hsia says, “The vampire drama is very popular here. We need to take advantage of this trend. Our cafe attracts a lot of young people. However, older people rarely come because they feel weird when drinking the water in blood bags.” So why throw hospital staff into the mix? No idea!
A GBTimes article, posted on July 7, 2014, states, “After catching the attention of local and foreign media last week, the coffee shop has reportedly raised the prices of the blood-like drinks according to China News Service.” Last week, I read articles stating the bloody bevies went for about $5 each. Now, they’re selling for $9.70. Talk about media-influenced inflated prices and gouging your customers! Would you pay almost $10 for a bag of blueberry or cranberry juice or blackcurrant-flavored energy drink called Blood Type Energy Supply?
I think it is safe to say Vampire Coffee is just someone jumping on the vampire craze hoping to make a quick buck, but my research didn’t stop here. I wanted to find out if this coffee place was the only one of its kind in China. To my surprise, it isn’t. I stumbled upon this video on 56.com, where some kids had been interviewed about “blood bag” drinks, clearly being sold in the shop behind them. Though I don’t speak Mandarin and I can’t get a date from the broadcast, it clearly shows that Vampire Coffee isn’t the only place taking advantage of the vampire trend in China.
I asked my friend to assist with the translation and this is what she said: “It’s a becoming a really popular drink in China. Started off with a store that opened up, selling the blood bag drinks. They are pretty much juice in blood bags. Upon opening the store, the drinks were entirely sold out within the first two days. There are different markings on the bags> AB, A, B, O and four different colours to choose from. A lot of the kids who were interviewed said that the drinks were appealing because it was for fun, the idea of drinking ‘blood’ out of the bags. Some kid was saying how they could reuse it and put drinking water in the bag. Flavoured with lemon syrup and other fruit syrups. Tastes kind of like juice.”
The “Blood energy potion” is supposedly available online in China and, again due to the language barrier, I was unsuccessful finding a site that sold it, but I did find the exact same product available over here on Amazon.com and eBay. They’re selling for $6.99 for a 3.4 oz size.
I even found a machine that you can buy for $6,800 US that lets you to bottle your own bloody cocktails:
The final leg of my journey was to find the actual supplier of these tasty little bags of fun. I found the following Gizmodo article from 2009:
I finally hit jackpot and found a company called Harcos Labs, which is located in California! They specialize in caffeinated products and even target gamers for those all night gaming sessions with your buddies. They are the makers of “Blood Energy Potion” and other morbid treats like Crusty Zombie Toenails and Brain Bits. Their lab is located in the US, but the site boasts they sell their products to places in Europe and even Australia.
They even take the piss out of vampires on their website with a page exclusively for “Blood energy potion.” Notice the fine print at the bottom? It says, “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Yes, this website is supposed to be funny. Don’t freak out.”
Is this the supplier that provides Vampire Coffee with their bloody cocktails? Probably not, because the pictures depicted by the media last week from the actual café show different labels. That means it’s probably some cheaper local knock-off. If you need to double check just scroll back up.
I’m sure someone over there invested in a production line and must be making a killing off retailers. Funny thing is, some media outlets are using pictures of the US made product for the same story. I guess they didn’t get their facts straight!
Well, there you have it folks! I wouldn’t be surprised if you see one of these places pop up over here in Canada or the US next; minus the hospital uniforms, of course. This just goes to show you how much influence successful TV shows have and everyone can cash in somehow on the wave. Also, let’s not forget that the media tends to regurgitate info without investigating in most cases. Cheers everyone and happy sipping!