Hi everyone, I am back from an amazing trip of which crown jewel was Tuscany, Italy. Soon I will published some of the pictures and stories.
Some time ago I sent some tea samples to friends of mine.
The tea samples arrived only labeled by colored stickers.
One reason for sending them like that is very much like my dear friend VL described. But there was another reason.
This is the story of the other reason
Every tea house has a menu. Mine was almost done, so I thought.
A very good Taiwanese tea vendor with lots of very good online reviews. Interesting Chinese teas and very good Indian Black tea vendors. 'Other teas' (herbal, fruits and blends) were also to appear on the menu.
Having tasted the teas, I was pretty happy (relative to the price and overall quality I wanted to achieve in my future tea house).
It all crushed during a very long week not too long ago.
I tested a 'mini menu' (the menu consisted of teas that were to be offered on the menu, as well as some scarce teas -where by I wished to see the tester’s reaction to some more special teas- and teas which most tea blogers would considered unfit for consumption. I did not test any Taiwanese or herbal on that occasion). All together there were 19 testers.
The testers represented what is most likely to constitute my future customers’ demography.
I placed on the table all the tea tools that will be present in the tea house i.e. Gaibei, yixing pots, English tea pots, kettles, measuring tools etc. Each person was told to use what he/she preferred to use with the given teas. They were not told what the teas were or how to brew them. The results were eye opening - despite the fact that I spent most of the time closing them in despair and disbelief.
Putting aside the fact that almost everyone asked for sugar, things went from bad to really bad. Most teas were over brewed - people are used to brew their teas here for some 5-7 minutes and put a huge amount of sugar or some sort of sweetener (needless to say tea bags is the norm here). Expensive pots were almost broken, 1 Gaibei broke!
Tastes that I consider as unfit for consumption were liked because they were "...so different!" - think of those Puerh that smell and taste like the bottom of a very dirty pond - it's a hit here! The findings were numerous, some were funny others depressed me so much that I considered to give up the whole project - perhaps there is a need to reconsider the business model… .
Back in Taiwan the best teas I had would taste great despite over brewing (or bad brewing techniques in general). But these teas are too expensive and so scarce that it is almost impossible to get even for own consumption.
Yet, it is obvious I need to do something about all the problems that I encountered, specially the "brewing problem". After a short email to a friend living in Beijing I received 4 samples of Chinese teas that my friend suggested "might be something worth looking at". These teas can apparently be brewed for longer time and are very cheap (when asked how much the testers were willing to pay for the experience of sipping tea in a traditional tea house setting it was lower then expected - no premium for the experience in theory).
I tasted the teas after sending them to my friends. Two of them appealed to me very much and I absolutely hated the other two. There were some similar and very differing views but more about this on perhaps a different day.
Since I received the samples as I was packing the olive-oils, I decided it would be a good idea to hear what my friends think of these teas. The fifth sample (not yet saying which label, but it is obvious) is a sample Bao Zhong tea I bought on my trip to Taiwan. Why did I send it? Simply because I was drinking it on the day - and I like it :-)
Having said this, getting what some might consider weaker tasting teas is not what I consider to be the ideal solution , but it is one and I have not ruled it out completely - this is "the rationale" for getting these teas in the first place.
Needless to say, I am currently working on brewing notes for each tea so as to simplify the brewing instructions and achieve better results - these notes also include pictures as well as a stop watch to be placed on top of each table. Although trained stuff members is a must, I am not planning on having them sit at tables brewing teas. At least not the second pot...for free. Tea brewing demonstrations to improve the customers knowledge are also considered.
Any recommendation as to how to improve the brewing ability of customers sitting at the table will be most welcome.
As I said, I did not test with brewing instructions, but perhaps a short booklet will be sufficient to do the trick.
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