Thursday, August 14, 2014

A 19th century tradition for the 21st century tea business

I received a call for help from a fellow tea lover and tea seller who has been re-selling my teas for several years in Europe:

"(...)The problem is I am still struggling to sell Taiwan teas in solid amounts, because there is too much cheap competition on market and people prefer cheap over good here... I simply do not know how to break the wall of this low-price focus on my customers side and how to beat the competition which is really big here (about 10 wholesalers selling Taiwan teas here, maybe more, that's simply too too much for such a small market...)

I would like to sell your teas and put the time and effort into it, because honestly I love your teas and what I tasted, they are the best I can have. And I like to sell the best. And I like to work with you so much. So if you would have any idea, about what to do or maybe any kind of support you could give me... Every idea or every advice would be great help :-).

Thank you so much."
Well, thank you for your frank question and positive feedback about my teas. I don't think there is a simple solution to make people more sensitive to quality than to price. (If my readers have ideas, we'd be glad to read yours!) 
Quality becomes the focus when tea becomes a pleasure on its own rather than just another beverage. Low quality can be forgiven if it's a simple drink that offers a variation to water or coffee. However, low quality becomes unbearable once tea takes the center stage, especially if you have experienced better tea. That's why it's so important to educate, almost evangelize, people's taste with superior teas. So, continue to teach your customers.
In 'The Count of Monte Cristo' by Alexandre Dumas, I was recently reminded of an early 19th century tradition meant to defend your honor: the duel. For obvious reasons, I'm not suggesting that you kill your competitors! However, you can kill their teas by offering a duel between their teas and ours. This is the weapon that you'll use:
2 white porcelain competition sets. One for each tea. 3 grams of leaves. And 6 minutes of brewing with boiling water. This is the standard for tea competitions in Taiwan. This single brew aims at extracting most flavors from the leaves. It's by far not the best way to brew tea, but it's one of the fastest and easiest way to get to know a tea and evaluate its quality.

During tea classes with your customers, you should systematically make such duels between our tea and similar teas from the competition. People quickly tire if they hear the vendor say that his tea is the best. It's better to let them experience the difference for themselves. For a minimum cost/fee, you can make such duels happen. Think of some incentive for these side by side comparisons. And inform your customers about the possibility of making these duels.
My other advice is that you continue to help teach your customers how to brew tea the best way possible. Show them that they can be inspired and creative with their Chaxi. Tea appeals to all our senses and we naturally strive for quality when we pursue the pleasures of real tea!

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