Visitors learn about Chinese tea at an exhibition in Moscow, Russia, on November 24 (XU HAO)
Although a traditional Chinese style brick-red gown and braided long hair may seem outlandish for a Russian man, such an outfit is a nice fit for Andrey Gretchin, a tea brewer and tea ceremony master in Moscow.
At the Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Center, he was brewing Chinese tea before carefully pouring it into a cute shallow ceramic cup bearing the image of pink lotus flowers at the bottom. The tea, in cups each on top of a delicate leaf-shaped plate, was served to visitors to taste.
"I am interested in tea culture. I opened a teahouse in 2013, and I have visited China every year since then to choose tea," he told Beijing Review at an exhibition held there on November 22-24.
The exhibition was organized by Strong Commerce and Exhibitions Co. Ltd. (SCE) based in Fuzhou City of Fujian Province in southeast China under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. Some 60 companies from various regions of China specializing in growing and producing tea showcased their products. The exhibition also featured a roundtable on the prospects of Chinese tea in Russia and opportunities for cooperation, as well tea evaluation and tasting.
"Russian people like to drink tea, but they do not yet have a good knowledge of Chinese tea, while most Chinese tea producers are unfamiliar with the Russian market," said Huang Jiguang, SCE's Chairman, at the exhibition.
Today, 70-80 percent of the tea products in the Russia tea market originate from countries such as India and Sri Lanka, while those from China account for only 7 percent, said Huang.
Huang said that the exhibition served as a good platform for promoting cooperation in tea and there are broad prospects for such cooperation. "Eighty percent of Chinese companies received orders at the expo," he said.
Chen Chengzhi (right), General Manager of Yunxiao Yinkang Food Co. Ltd. based in Zhangzhou, Fujian Province in southeast China, at a tea exhibition in Moscow on November 24 (WANG HAIRONG)
"I feel the market potential is huge," Chen Chengzhi, General Manager of Yunxiao Yinkang Food Co. Ltd. from Zhangzhou City of Fujian Province, told Beijing Review. The company exhibited a wide variety of products, and Chen said that Russian consumers showed a strong interest in their products, and the products they brought were sold out.
China produces about 40 percent of all tea in the world, and Fujian produces 40 percent of all tea in China, according to Huang. He said that several ongoing initiatives in China, such as building a beautiful countryside and targeted poverty reduction, will further boost tea production in his hometown. Tea planting will generate more income while creating a beautiful environment.
Tea trade between China and Russia were prosperous after the 17th century, and a trading route known in Russia as the Great Tea Road was formed. In March 2013, during his visit to Russia, President Xi Jinping mentioned the close relations between Chinese tea producers and Russian merchants in his speech. In September that year, an international alliance of cities along the Great Tea Road was established. Chinese cities in a number of provinces including Fujian, Jiangxi and Hunan joined the alliance, along with cities in Mongolia and Russia.
China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, and now it is also developing the Silk Road on Ice together with Russia. Chen believes the initiatives will further boost tea trade between the two countries.
(Reporting from Moscow)
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