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Tea from Britain Booming in China, the Drink’s Birthplace

For three centuries, countries in Asia and Africa have been quenching Britons' thirst for tea, supplying dried leaves worth millions of pounds every year

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An employee packs boxes of tea at the production line at Taylors of Harrogate's tea packaging facilities in Harrogate, England, Aug. 30, 2016. Image source: VOA

Ji Mengyu sinks into a soft chair with her cup of tea to the sound of tinkling teaspoons and light chatter. The opulently decorated Victorian tea salon is quintessentially British, something straight out of Downton Abbey. Except it’s in Beijing.

The 25-year-old HR professional is one of a growing number of Chinese who are looking past their country’s ancient tea traditions in favor of imported British blends. For Ji, the tea has an aura of luxury and quality, and gives her a sense of partaking in the posh British culture popularized globally by TV shows and fashion brands.

“I think British people’s traditional customs and culture have a kind of classical style,” says Ji, who says she’s inspired by TV shows like Downton Abbey, but also Sherlock Holmes and Game of Thrones.

For three centuries, countries in Asia and Africa have been quenching Britons’ thirst for tea, supplying dried leaves worth millions of pounds every year. Now, that trend is showing some signs of reversing. China and Hong Kong in particular, are seeing a surge in appetite for British tea blends – some of which are made with leaves from China itself, an example of the twists in trade that the globalization of tastes can create.

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Upscale tea blends from storied British companies like Twinings, Taylors of Harrogate and Hudson & Middleton occupy increasingly more space on shelves in Chinese supermarkets, restaurant menus and online shops.

Tea houses serving British afternoon tea have sprouted up in the bigger cities in China. Five years ago, Annvita English Tea Company managed ten tea houses around China, serving imported blends and pastries in British-style tea rooms. The number has since grown ten-fold, with more planned.

“It fits the taste of people who want to pursue a higher quality of life,” says Li Qunlou, general manager at AnnVita English Tea House in Sanlitun in Beijing.

As a result, British tea companies selling premium blends have seen their exports to China and Hong Kong skyrocket.

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In the first five months of 2016, British tea exports to Hong Kong nearly tripled in value compared with two years earlier. They doubled to the rest of mainland China, data from the U.K. HM Revenue & Customs show.

Shipments to China and Hong Kong only make up 7 percent of total British tea exports, but the share is growing quickly.

Some of these deliveries come from Harrogate, a small town in northern England that is the home to Taylors of Harrogate. The fourth generation family-owned company has been selling tea to China for more than 10 years. In the past three years, sales have more than doubled every year, albeit from a low starting point.

“China produces nearly one half of the world’s tea, so on the surface you would think that there is a limited opportunity for Taylors of Harrogate,” says Matthew Davies, Head of International Sales at Taylors of Harrogate.

Tea originates from China and has been a central part of the culture for thousands of years. In Britain, tea was not introduced until the 17th century, though it has since become a staple and adapted to local tastes.

Every day thousands of tea samples arrive in Harrogate for the tasters to evaluate. The business essentially relies on their taste buds to find the right mix of leaves to maintain the signature flavors that the company bases its reputation on. Chinese customers mainly buy Taylor of Harrogate’s Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea.

“Our approach was to invest time and resources to understand consumer behavior and we found that there are a number of Chinese consumers with a high level of discretionary income and demand for Taylors of Harrogate brands,” says Davies.

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The demand is growing mainly among China’s wealthy middle class and is fueled by portrayals of British high society featured in TV shows, news stories of the British royal family and classical novels like Jane Austen’s, analysts say.

“Previously, Chinese consumers were more exposed to American culture, McDonalds and Hollywood-style things. These few years, because of the popular British TV dramas, Chinese consumers are more exposed to British brands and the lifestyle,” says Hope Lee, senior drinks analyst at Euromonitor International.

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Another reason for the thriving popularity of British imported tea is the seemingly endless string of food scandals that plagues China and Hong Kong.

Greenpeace and government investigations found high levels of pesticides or poisonous earths in tea, also in some of the best-known brands. Imported premium British tea brands are perceived as being safer and of higher quality.

Paradoxically, some of the British tea sold in China and Hong Kong is originally grown in China. However, it represents only a small amount of British exports there – about 3 percent, according to Frost & Sullivan, a market research company.

British tea makers mainly import leaves from Africa and India, regions where the taste for British tea blends has not grown in the same way, for economic and cultural reasons.

Despite the recent slowdown in the Chinese economy, Taylors of Harrogate and many other companies and industry experts are optimistic about the country’s consumers.

“We are continuing to strengthen our lengths in China,” says Davies. (VOA)

 

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Real Estate Companies in India, China Adopting Artificial Intelligence

Additionally, the rising adoption of the machine and deep learning technologies by companies to automate their business model is also considered as one of the major factors contributing to this regional market’s growth, said the report

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Artificial Intelligence Bot
Artificial Intelligence Bot. Pixabay

The real estate companies in India and China are fast adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in the development of applications that comprise machine vision for easy analysis and surveying of buildings and structures.

Asia Pacific that contributes nearly 40 per cent in the global construction market, is estimated to be the fastest growing “AI-in-construction” market by 2024, Zion Market Research said on Monday.

The growth in Asia-Pacific “is owing to the extensive adoption of the AI-based platforms, such as machine learning and deep learning, code frameworks, and pre-built algorithms by the real estate companies in emerging economies, such as China and India”.

Additionally, the development of creating information modelling is software that gives information on a construction project, warranty details regarding material used, and commissioning data.

This has resulted in increased AI adoption by most of the construction start-ups globally for various applications, the findings showed.

According to the report, the global “AI-in-construction” market was valued at $312 million in 2017 and is expected to reach $3,161 million by 2024.

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“Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society.” VOA

“The construction sector is adopting AI to obtain precise data and insights to increase productivity, operational efficiency, and ensure safety at work. AI operates on algorithms related to image recognition to find out search criteria,” said the report.

In addition, the need for safety measures on construction sites is also projected to drive this market’s growth.

“Furthermore, huge investments made by construction companies from the emerging economies globally in the adoption of the advanced AI technology for construction applications is also likely to contribute toward the global growth of the AI-in-construction market,” the findings showed.

Also Read: Tech Giants to Face US House Hearings on Anti-trust, Cryptocurrency

Europe is projected to witness a remarkable rate of growth in the global “AI-in-construction” market in the upcoming years, due to the huge investments made by construction companies in AI technology for support, training, and digital platform.

Additionally, the rising adoption of the machine and deep learning technologies by companies to automate their business model is also considered as one of the major factors contributing to this regional market’s growth, said the report. (IANS)