Hakka Tea, as it is called, is a dying form of tea in Hong Kong. The tea consists of pounded tea leaves and a variety of other ingredients, such as peanuts, salt, puffed rice and sesame seeds. Other ingredients are also often added to give the tea different nutrients and flavours. By consuming Hakka tea, a person is able to both drink and eat at the same time, making it ideal for snacks.
Despite the tea having been around for centuries, it is currently in a slump. Only some members of the older generation continue to make it, and many of the Hong Kong locals do not know of its existence.
One of the largest hotel chains in America, Marriott, recently celebrated opening their 4,000 hotel with an acknowledgement to the quickly growing number of international guests from China.
In an effort to better accommodate the Chinese people, Marriott is now also employing Chinese-speaking staff and offering Chinese-style tea service, along with several other upgrades to make them feel right at home.
It is no secret that China has market dominance when it comes to tea, followed closely by India and Japan. China produces so much tea, and in so many different varieties, that it caters for palettes the world over. In addition to that, it has generations of tea farmers who have passed down ancient and heavily-refined tea processing techniques to their children, thus giving their tea an edge that very few other countries could ever hope to match. With access to the wondrous, mountainous areas of the Himalaya, to ideal soils and large amounts of land from which to harvest, China truly understands the importance of its thriving tea export market.
So, the question is begged: Is it actually possible – under any circumstances – to sell tea to China?
This phrase tends to be thrown around when someone is seen as an exceptionally good salesperson. Compare and contrast “Selling ice to the Eskimos”, which I can guarantee is going to be harder still than selling tea to China. And yet, the question still hangs in the air.
This may surprise you to know, but one clever British woman is doing exactly that. And she is doing it by selling Chinese tea connoisseurs experiences that may only be seen outside of the Chinese market. It seems a little silly, really, that with China’s love affair with tea that very few are exporting more exotic teas into the country. In fact, it seems, selling tea to China is shockingly easy, with China on average spending even more on tea than we Westerners manage to spend on alcohol.
Let that statistic sink in for a moment. Think about the sort of drinking cultures we have here, especially in the UK and Australia: Binge drinking is common among youth, and people who choose not to drink at all are apparently “strange”, for some reason. Alcohol has pervaded our society with unimaginable breadth – and it definitely isn’t cheap. Despite this, despite the fact that you could probably die from over-consumption of tea if you spent (and proceeded to consume) the same amount as you would for scotch, China still makes more money per capita on tea than we do on alcohol.
Now we’re starting to see the bigger picture, but this doesn’t include incredibly rare and special teas, which can become very expensive indeed. However, these aren’t for the average consumer – these teas are in limited supply and do not make up a large market share. Many average Chinese consumers still crave for a taste of the exotic – even if less expensive varieties of exotic would be favoured.
I will leave this analysis with one final question, one that you may be asking yourself right now:
Why aren’t more people selling tea to China?
Made from a special clay found only in the city of Yixing, China, this extraordinary teapot possesses the ability to absorb the flavours of the teas inside it over a number of years.
Those who have the privilege of owning and using one over many years are said to be able to brew tea simply by adding plain, boiling water to the pot.
Before the teapot is made, the mined-out clay is left in the sun in the form of large rocks after extraction to weather. This process will take in excess of a year before the clay is ready to be pounded into a powder and sieved to remove impurities. The clay is then placed in a large fresh water tank for three days, and is then allowed to dry out under sunlight. Finally, before it is ready to be sold, excess moisture is drawn out of the product using a vacuum processor.
Such preparation seems excessive, but it doesn’t end there. The potter artisan must make time for a further two days of processing, which involves pounding the clay with a wooden mallet while every so often adding some water, until there are no air pockets to be seen.
With such a lengthy process and renowned tea-brewing capabilities, Yixing teapots are not nearly as expensive as they might sound at first glance. The unfortunate truth, however, is that while commonplace in China, much of the Western World is unfamiliar with them.
An exciting opportunity has come about in the tea world recently, thanks to the hard efforts of the ITEI, or Internation Tea Education Institute. Hosted by four tea experts – Sylvana Levesque, Brigitte Horrenberger, Susan Peters and Sandy Li – a 10 day intensive is being held in Zhejiang Province, China, where you can learn about Chinese teas in a way that no other educational experience could hope to provide.
Students will take part in a large variety of educational tea activities from renowned local producers, growers, and experts. Focused on will be the famous Chinese green tea Dragon Well, or Long Jing.
The tour begins on September 15, 2014, and continues for a total of 10 days and 9 nights.
Included in the cost of the tour:
10 days and 9 nights in the Hangzhou region of Zhejiang Province. Beautiful five-star hotel accommodations are provided throughout the tour
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are all provided daily
Transport to all locations in the tour, including to and from Hangzhou Airport
A professional photographer to document your learning experience, as well as four tea experts to guide and educate you
All activities, entrance fees, etc. are included
An “Advanced Certificate for Education in Chinese Tea Study & Travel” will be awarded to each student upon their completion of the tour
Airfares (this allows students to extend their trip beyond the tour dates).
A tuition fee of $4,250 for ITEI and CTMA (Canadian Tea Masters Association) members, or $4,475 for non-members. Further details will be announced soon and displayed on the ITEI website in the tea tours section. For bookings and more information, please feel free to contact Sylvana P. Levesque, at email@example.com.