A few weeks ago I wrote about the merits of doing the seemingly impossible: selling tea to China. After garnering quite a bit of interest, I’ve decided to extend that article (although, if you haven’t yet read the old one, you can take a look here). Today I’m going to link you to some news articles about entrepreneurs who are all selling their own tea to China.
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?
During the Song Dynasty in China an Emperor named Hui Zhong said that white tea was the coming together of all that is elegant.
White teas are the first flush pick of the spring; their liquor is fresh, slightly sweet and very subtle.
Once reserved for the privileged elite, white teas are recognisable by their luminous, straw-coloured liquor.
Traditionally they come from China’s Fujian Province. It was here that the style of tea has developed into what it is today.
There is a growing movement of tea drinkers who favour delicate white tea and it is now produced in other areas of China as well as in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and other nations.
You may wonder why white tea is considered so special. It is because its harvest season is so short – just a few days. The leaves are handpicked from and then closely processed with extra time and care. For this reason, there’s only a tiny amount of white tea produced in the world. Enjoy every sip!
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.