Coronavirus Experience. Changing Work Environment in Russia, Belarus & Singapore

We continue a series of posts in which Tea Masters from around the world share their experience of work in the pandemic.

Mikhail Khong. Winner of TMC Russia Tea Mixology 2020. Barista. Kazan, Russia

After each championship, by tradition, I prepare my signature drinks in the coffee shop, so that not only the judges, but also guests would enrich their sensory background and taste experience. After the Tea Mixology Championship, I planned to devote one evening to the Master’s Mix which I presented to the judges. But you know, this corona and quarantine.., so I will certainly arrange the evening of my signature drink later, after everything has settled down.

But for the most impatient, we organized a competition which is easy to participate while in quarantine. Three random winners will receive two bottles of my signature drink based on Xiao Zhong tea and 50 grams of the very Xiao Zhong along with the recipe and instructions for preparation.

Stay well!

Anna Svishcheva. TMC Russia Tea Pairing 2017 Winner. Head of tea department at a chain of coffee shops. Moscow, Russia

The pandemic has made some adjustments to our business. It all started when some office workers were transferred to remote work, students and schoolchildren — to distance learning. Our coffee shops felt a significant drop in demand for tea and coffee. Gradually we adapted to the new conditions and introduced home delivery of tea and coffee. This is a very interesting experience, I even had a chance to deliver some orders myself. Then with the directive from the authorities, public places, including cafes and restaurants, were closed, but it was still possible to carry out deliveries and prepare take-away drinks. Then we decided to close our coffee shops, as we could not risk the health of our employees, and we all went into quarantine. During the quarantine, my team and I will continue working, I plan to focus on promoting our tea products as well as creating new products!

We see this time as an opportunity to pause and calmly analyze our work, we understand that changes have already taken place and there are more to come, we need to prepare for them! But I believe that everything will be fine!

Aleksandr Brazhnikov. TMCI Tea Pairing 2016 3rd Prize Winner. Minsk, Belarus

Perhaps the most pressing question today is “What will happen to the business?”

I am a co-owner and managing director of a small coffee shop chain, so this is my main question and the main task to be solved. By the way, we have “mono coffee shops”, I mean there’s almost nothing except for coffee and tea on the menu. This ‘mono’ or single-product idea is our principle on which we will not give up even in such difficult times (you can consider us crazy). Naturally, we were also touched by the situation in the world and the country. How are we coping? For starters, in the Republic of Belarus there is no quarantine, so people still come to us for a glass of their favorite drink. Plus, our coffee points are in places of high traffic (subway stations). What do I mean by that? To some extent, we’ve backed oneselves up with the location and format. We don’t need to attract people, all we need is not to scare them off! And this is done in a simple way, do your job and your product well!!! We are not restaurants and it’s problematic, if not unprofitable, to organize the delivery. If the situation gets worse we will resort to total discounts. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that.

The most important thing is to perceive the situation as an opportunity to rethink various aspects of your business (and not only business), changing the approach, you change the way of thinking. The comfort zone is broken, it is time to act today, no one knows what will happen tomorrow.

Shocks are not new to us. We are certainly tired of living in the time of fateful events, but everything will be fine).

Dave Lim. TMCI Tea Pairing 2017 3rd Prize Winner. Sun Ray Cafe, Parchmen & Co, Parchmen Academy. Singapore

Singapore is one of the first few countries to be impacted by COVID-19 pandemic and we have been progressively implementing social policies that aim to contain the spread. Our country is not in a lockdown but big social gatherings are forbidden and cafe seatings need to be reduced to allow safe distancing amongst diners. The reduction in the traffic at the cafe has diverted customers towards our online store. When people do come to the cafe, they choose to buy more tea so as to minimise travel out of their homes.

We buy teas directly from the farms because we believe in knowing the stories of the farmers and these field visits allow us to learn more and evaluate quality better. We have actually planned to visit Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Darjeeling, Taiwan, China from south to north for the spring tea harvest, but the plan has become impossible. We will still pursue the plan next year, while we continue to ship these teas from old and familiar sources mostly, as well as some new sources from our fellow classmates at a recent tea course in Hangzhou China.

I teach tea at Parchmen Academy as well as Singapore Polytechnic, but the lessons have paused for the time being. However, owing to enquiries from the public, we will start conducting smaller group training soon.

We have also received numerous enquiries whether an online circulation that theaflavin can prevent COVID-19 is true. While a paper published in the US National Library of Medicine website written in the aftermath of SARS pandemic in 2003 did mention this and we did a brief explanation based on that paper, we took the opportunity to advise people to drink more tea as it is generally healthy and increases immunity.

While the end of the pandemic is nowhere in sight, our spirits are lifted to know that the wonderful spring teas are arriving and we hope this brings some emotional relief to all of us.