The art of drinking tea: Chinese traditional tea ceremony conquers Kazakhstan.
The Chinese traditional tea ceremony in Kazakhstan is gradually gaining a niche in the market segment, creating competition for traditional methods of conducting business negotiations, such as coffee breaks. At the moment, those who can “properly drink tea” in the country can be counted on the fingers.
One of the pioneers, an entrepreneur in Almaty, Meir Solyanik, began to get involved in proper tea drinking as a hobby 10 years ago. In 2013, together with his partner, he opened an experimental “tea ceremony” business in the style of a semi-closed underground. It’s done.
The first customers were relatives, friends, acquaintances. Many people did not perceive a tea party without dessert, as is usually customary in the CIS countries. However, the difference between the Chinese traditional tea ceremony and the same Eastern teahouse is in creating a special atmosphere. Tea is served high-quality, selected varieties, it is brewed using a special technology to preserve the taste and aroma. The cooking process itself arouses interest in another culture.
“The main and frequent question that Kazakhstanis ask me during the tea ceremony: “Where are the Baursaks?” laughs Meir Solyanik.
According to him, the Chinese traditional tea ceremony differs from the Western style of banquet and buffet directions (catering, coffee break) in the eastern culture, the atmosphere, the food, even the lightest, is not provided in the tea party in principle, the emphasis is on the sensations and tasting of various varieties of the product.
In Almaty and Astana, national companies and private businessmen are increasingly resorting to holding such a “business tea party”. By the way, with the help of properly selected varieties of tea, you can both delay the negotiation process, and quickly complete them. It all depends on the customer’s wishes. The cost of a tea ceremony on average varies from 3 to 20 thousand tenge and above per person.
Before creating the White Lotus Tea House, Meir’s tea drinking was originally a personal hobby, a philosophy and a discipline that gave rise to the idea of teaching people how to “properly” drink tea. In the CIS countries, in particular, in Russia, there is a whole subculture – “tea drinkers” – a community of people who have given up drugs, alcohol and cigarettes in favor of a useful habit of consciously drinking tea. There is no such trend in Kazakhstan yet.
Sometimes Meir receives orders to conduct a tea ceremony for private drug rehabilitation centers. As it turned out, the effect of some varieties of tea helps to displace bad habits. “High-grade teas are not addictive, and this is scientifically proven, most likely, people become “tea drinkers” because of the very environment and process. What really causes chemical addiction is coffee, ” says the tea entrepreneur.
Tea ceremony as a business is profitable, the businessman plans to open a training school and several tea houses in the country. Meir’s business process is structured in such a way that he himself participates in everything, starting with the purchase of tea, going to China three times a year, and ending with its preparation.
Prices for collectible teas are approximately as follows: the variety ” Da hong pao “costs from 100 to 1200$ for 1 kg,” Tiguanin ” – from 100 to 400 $ for 1 kg,” Pu – erh “- from 20 to 1200 $ for 1 pancake, “Milk oolong” – from 35 to 100 $ for 1 kg.
“Buying tea directly from a Chinese manufacturer in China is also a kind of ceremony. It requires calmness and skill. When buying tea, you need to inhale its aroma for a long time, take your time and be sure to look into the eyes of the seller, only then you can buy really high-quality tea. This is very important. “In Kazakhstan, in particular in Almaty, when I conduct ceremonies, different varieties of oolong tea are in demand. Working with Chinese sellers, with whom I have long established a partnership, is akin to sports sparring, they are involved in selling as a game, courage and may well sell expensive expired tea to an ignorant person. As a rule, various flavor enhancers and flavorings are added to the expired tea and sold to the market. If you look from the point of view of eastern medicine, then tea has the energy of “qi”, which is lost after a year. If the tea cost $ 700 per kg, then a year after the expiration date, it will cost no more than $ 100 per kg.
Tea can be viewed from different aspects. As a gastronomic product. As a cultural aspect that has a thousand-year cultural history. And also as a medical product. Tea can both harm and heal. If the tea is drunk cold or has stood for more than two hours, then such a drink is considered unhealthy. If the tea is brewed with the right boiling water at the right temperature, it regulates the pressure, raises the overall tone, removes slags and neutralizes about 72 poisons and toxins, ” says the entrepreneur. At the tea ceremony, everything looks calm in the east: relaxing music in the background, the stages of preparation for the tea party on the table: first you need to feel the smell of incense, which, by the way, is also difficult to find, as well as high-quality tea. And then there is the process of tea drinking itself with subtle tricks, how to hold the cup, how to drink, calculate how many sounds an inverted cup will make.
Having seen the tea ceremony in Kazakhstan, foreign investors are surprised by the versatile entrepreneurial spirit of businessmen. For example, in China itself, the tea ceremony in tea clubs is very expensive. In Kazakhstan, companies and middle-class people can afford tea drinking, the entrepreneur claims. Its relevance in the business environment speaks of the need to move from the hustle and bustle to calm. That is, business people intuitively strive for the very atmosphere of calm and harmony.
According to the Almaty Chamber of Trade and Investment, Kazakhstan ranks 10th in the world in terms of tea consumption. The capacity of the Kazakhstan tea market is about 24.5 million kg per year. Black tea still accounts for more than 90% of the local market. Kazakhstan has its own tea factories with raw materials from India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and China. Half of the market, almost 50%, is occupied by suppliers from India.