French Tea People Promote Chinese Pu’er Tea

Wenzhuo Liu

French man William Osmont settled in Yunnan, China, with a background in agricultural machinery education. He helped his wife Yubai, a tea farmer, whose family has been tea farmers for generations, William establish the Yunnan tea brand Farmerleaf and gradually expand into the international market. William mainly promotes through social media. In 2023, he organized a European tour to promote his own brand of tea, holding small meetings with local tea enthusiasts in more than ten cities across Europe.

William grew up in rural France. During his high school years, he often went to the tea shop across from his home and found pleasure in tasting tea. From European blended tea to trying Chinese loose leaf tea, such as green tea, black tea, oolong tea, etc., dark tea type Pu’er tea is very difficult to find at that time. In 2007, William went to tea shops in Paris and found only one selling Pu’er tea. William, who was 18 years old in 2009, first went on a study tour to China. At that time, he was deeply impressed by Yunnan and enjoyed chatting with local tea people. He also found his favorite Pu’er tea. The following year, while visiting Jingmai, he met his current wife, whose family was a generation of local tea farmers who had just opened a tea factory in Jingmai. William returned to Europe to continue his studies and worked to save money in order to go to China again. After graduating with a degree in agricultural machinery, he married his wife and settled in Yunnan.

Up to now, William has been helping his wife’s family business with international sales of Pu’er tea. His agricultural background has helped him communicate well with local tea farmers. The brand he founded, Farm Leaf, mainly uses online platforms for promotion and sales, and word of mouth. 40% of his customers are located in the United States, 40% in Western Europe, and 20% in other regions. In Pu’er City, they have a tea shop and studio that can receive visits from international customers. William also takes customers to visit their own tea mountain. William said that the cost of living in Yunnan is relatively low, and their sales volume is about 1 ton per year, which can ensure the living expenses of the family. He has plans to produce tea with better quality in the future, targeting the high-end market in the future.

William conducted a European tour in 2023 to promote his own brand of tea, covering Berlin, Munich and Hamburg in Germany, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Prague in the Czech Republic, Paris in France, Switzerland, Austria, and the United Kingdom. The tour took the form of a small appointment meeting, where 10 people would brew tea and chat in various local tea spaces. In cities where tea drinking atmosphere is not strong, more interested people will sign up. For example, in Berlin, Germany, due to the large number of applicants, the event was held four times, and according to statistics, about 10% of his international customers are in Germany. William is very satisfied with this itinerary and is very happy to meet the clients. He did not consider the cost in the early stage, but calculated that it will cost approximately 6000 euros in the later stage. He also plans to hold another meeting tour in several other European cities next time.

There is no shortage of tea brands in China, but the scope of activities is limited to within the country. William’s analysis is a language issue, with a hint of outdated clichés. He believes that Chinese tea brands do not pay attention to the foreign market, invest heavily in the early stages, and it takes years for advertising to yield returns. No brand will do so. Indeed, there is a huge difference in tea drinking methods and habits. Chinese tea faces the mass market domestically, but quickly becomes a niche tea in the international market. William pointed out that European customers are concerned about issues such as pesticide residues in Chinese tea, although this is a long-standing issue and the adverse effects still persist, requiring a lot of time and money to alleviate. He cannot provide constructive suggestions, perhaps we should look forward to seeing how he can explore the international market of his own tea brand in future practice.

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