Coronavirus Experience. Changing Work Environment in Spain, Belgium & Uzbekistan

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

Yuli Perpén Pérez, TMC Spain 2017 Tea Pairing Winner. Spicy Yuli Tea Shops, Madrid, Spain

My tea business has been affected by the pandemic, as the number of customers has decreased. On the other hand, people are ordering tea online in huge amounts, home consumption is growing, not comparable to the times before the Corona. For this time, my customers mainly ask for relaxing herbal teas to fight anxiety and also rooibos tea, and very little black tea. But the main problem is that we supply to coffee shops in the area (in Malasana district and some other parts of Madrid, as well as outside Madrid) and now everything is closed, so we’ve lost around 75% of our tea sales. And soon, after this disaster, we are to face the summer; summer is a complicated period in Madrid because of the heat, so we’ll focus on ice tea options, because we have to find solutions. But we are hopeful, I think we are going to survive.

Greet Huybrechts, TMC Belgium National Coordinator, Co Founder of Sommelier T, Belgian Federation of Tea Sommeliers

All shops, restaurants, coffee & tea bars are closed, except the essential services, since March 16th. We just entered week 8 of the lock down. There are no tea workshops, no training, no talks, no tastings …

From May 11th shops will reopen step by step. That’s good news for the tea shops. Restaurants and coffee & tea bars have to wait at least another month, till June 8th. Reopening doesn’t mean business as usual, it goes hand in hand with a lot of extra regulations.

There is almost no business to business. But we are convinced that our sector is resilient and will survive through quality and craftsmanship.

Business to client is a positive story. People appreciate a good cup of tea, now more than before. Specialty teas find their way to the customers through websites, personal home delivery and local platforms. There is an increasing demand and more people discover the beautiful flavors of quality loose tea leaves.

We are very hopeful in these difficult times. The crisis gives also opportunities. It creates space for innovation and creativity. It can be the right time to rethink our business and put back values in the supply chain.

Nodira Narimova, Tea Specialist of Dammann Frères Italy, coming from Samarkand, Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, tea has a great importance in our society and culture. Tea is drunk all day long, every day. As in old times of The Famous Silk Road, in our days you can still see huge tea sacks exposed in big markets. May be that’s why we don’t have special tea shops with different kinds of tea from all over the world. Therefore there are no specialists in tea quality who deal with tea import. But I hope in the near future we will begin to do something very important to develop tea culture.

There’s no official statistics about tea trade during the pandemic period. Chaikhanas (traditional Uzbek tea houses) are closed as well as other HoReCa establishments. But, usually in the chaikhanas you can see only old men drinkers or foreign tourists. The rest of the population drink tea mostly at home as per tradition (Uzbeks prefer loose tea leaves). So, maybe this year we will buy loose tea at higher prices, but we will continue to drink it anyway.