Monday, March 14, 2005

Old and new tea marketing in Taiwan

Last week, I have presented pictures of an old tea shop in Taichung. The tea I obtained there is priced very reaonably and sold in large quantity (look at the huge tea bags against the wall). The 'trick', if trick there is, to obtain a good tea is to talk passionately about the tea you love to drink with the shop owner. Doing so, you'll recognize if he's also a tea lover who wants to satisfy your thirst with what's best for you, or if he's only there to make a quick sale. If you are lucky, you'll not only have an enlightened chat, but also he will try to impress you with a tea fitting your taste (and your purse) and may even offer to taste it with you. If you don't like the tea, be honnest to say why and there are good chances he'll make a better one. If it is good, then ask for the price and buy half a jin (300 gr) or a jin (600 gr).

The sales technique of old tea shops is quite time consuming, as you can imagine, and you may end up avoiding a certain tea shop because you can't stand the owner. Or maybe the owner doesn't have the energy anymore to talk to new customers and prefers to sell to his old customers.

The other reason for the decline in tradtional Chinese tea shops has also to do with our lack of time to prepare gongfu cha. The invention of tea bags (with tea dust, the cheapest raw material) has brought tea convenience to the masses.

There is now a revival, a renewed interest for traditional tea in western countries and in Taiwan. Better taste and authenticity seem to be longing of the customers. But it is also due to better marketing.

Worth mentioning are Wang De Chuan (an English presentation here) and Union Tea. You'll see that the packaging and brand images are very well thought of. They sell tea in smaller quantities and market tea like a fine wine, not a commodity.

I recommend Union Tea's website. In its section about Taiwan tea. It has a quite complete, but not too long, description of what you need to know about Taiwan's tea, and it's in English! Unfortunately, you won't be able to order neither brand online from the USA or Europe. Their focus remains Asia. Too many western companies have marketed tea like this earlier then them. But when thinking about it, I'd rather buy fine (and expensive) Chinese tea from a Chinese store then from a western one... Or better, I'll continue exploring old tea shops in Taiwan!

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