This was a recent interview carried out by Global Times in Beijing. Interested to learn how western tea companies are tracking tea consumption trends and delivery in western markets. Following is the interview held between Global Times reporter Chen Xi Meng and Tea Journeys Director Mark Thirlwall.
The main angle to this complete article and interview is about what are the accepted or popular Chinese tea choices amongst foreigners in western countries and how this trend has been tracking over recent several years. Is Chinese tea gaining more access to new markets and greater acceptance among foreigners as a choice beverage amongst cafe-goers. Is Chinese tea culture changing within this market?
- Please offer one sentence to introduce your company Tea Journeys and why you launched it?
Tea Journeys is changing the way we drink traditional teas in western countries. We take the traditions and expertise around tea from Asia and reposition these products to a western clientele. What we do differently is to learn to understand our target markets drinking habits and mold our product offerings around the needs of our customers.
- What do you think is the acceptance or popular degree of Chinese tea among foreigners over recent several years is it getting more markets or acceptance among foreigners? As we know that a lot of foreigners like coffee very much, are there any or an increasing number of foreigners who love tea so much that they switch from coffee to tea or they will drink tea as much as coffee? If you have some figures, it would be better.
I think there is a large number of foreigners whom drink tea in China. I think that most of this group of foreigners whom drink these teas use this is a means to show off their Chinese-centricity and ability to understand Chinese culture. I don’t mean this in a negative or patronizing way. I am or rather was one of these people. However, they follow the traditions of Chinese drinking tea in China. The style of drinking Chinese tea or Gongfu tea is fantastic when in China however does not work in a western world. Our habits and customs are too different from this style to ever catch on and become main stream.
Furthermore, this style of drinking tea does not present any innovation or really try to understand what todays customers needs. As a result you are seeing young Chinese if reaching for a cup of tea, taking teabags or pyramids or herbals and brewing them western style. Why, the old Gongfu style of serving tea is not practical and does not speak to this younger upcoming and affluent marketing in China.
The market saturation of coffee in China is very low, in fact the saturation point of tea is also very low and could be a lot higher. Here in the west 10% if hot beverage orders are tea. In China this figure is a little higher but generally there is an even wider spread of options on a Chinese cafe menu. Essentially to bring tea sales up to match coffee, there are a few steps to be involved:
- Create an aesthetic with tea not only creating a simple but memorable experience for the customer at their table but also something that is practical and works for a cafe and cafe service staff. How do you provide a mini ‘tea experience’ that captures their imagination and will have a lasting impression on your customer.
- Create a compelling story behind the teas. People love stories. Tea is more than the taste in the cup it is about transporting the consumer back to where the tea is from, how its picked and processed and the uniqueness of each product. On top of this what does your own tea brand stand for, whom and why does your brand represent a particular area of growing tea cultivation. Where and how is the link created between tea brand and consumer in a cafe
- Make it a easy process in both in product but also application for the barista or the person serving the tea. This means that everything from the training manuals to the way tea is served and carried to a customer needs to be clean and efficient – make it as fast as possible because turning tables and taking next orders is a priority for café owners.