Discover Xavi’s latest coffee adventure in another exotic corner of our world. What is happening in China? Let’s see how Orient gastronomy is transformed by one of the most traditional and ancient cultures:
Tell us how the idea of traveling to China arises.
X: China has become one of the most important powers and one of the most attractive markets for multiple investors, thinks that they are more than 1500 million people. It is also an ancient culture and different from ours, which has a lot to contribute to the rest of the civilization.
And what about the event in which you participated?
X: “Hotelex Shanghai 2015”, is one of the largest hospitality events in the world, where large renown exhibitors worldwide are present, they are one of the great powers of today and coffee is the product of fashion. Basically, the work has been three intense days of fair, in what we have done training, the presentation of the machine “quality espresso”, protocols for customers and baristas shows.
How is the coffee sector in a country best known for its tradition of teas?
X: It is true that China is still one of the main producers of tea, it is what continues to have more strength and power, especially at the level of domestic consumption. But as you know in recent years the Chinese culture is becoming westernized and the one who has money there wants to try what can be found in other places, to be fashionable, and coffee is among the products that most seduce them.
What has this experience brought you?
X: Well, the opportunity to learn, to see new things, other techniques and ways of working; other products related to the world of coffee. For example, at 6 o’clock in the evening I went out to dinner with them, I could see their culinary techniques, their culture to take advantage of everything in the cooking, there they eat everything from a duck, including legs or tongue. I have been impressed by the volumes they handle in everything.
What struck you most in Chinese society?
X: Socially surprising, a town full of strong contrasts, walking through the city you see three on a motorcycle without a helmet, next to a luxury car, and at the same time a sense of security in the streets. I also discovered that smoking is still allowed in many places, when it is unthinkable here. They are very humble people working, very formal and respectful.
How did you do to communicate with them, considering that they are so different?
X: Yes, at the communication level it was a little complicated. First, it costs, you have to talk very little by little, with gestures, you are between concepts of cultures that are very different. You give more importance to facial expression, body language. Apart from that, the vast majority speaks English quite well. And in terms of dissemination, I could see that they use social networks a lot, their own, which are also different from ours. Record all the details of the classes to crumble it later. They loved taking pictures and hanging them, it was fun.
And what have you worked with them?
X: Many things: mixes of cocktails, which is something that is starting there; how to make the perfect espresso, latte art, cocktails with coffee. They were given a lot of information about how we are working in Europe, they listened very attentively and they were very grateful.
Tell us about the level that the Chinese have shown in the championship.
X: We live the final championship of China with a lot of emotion: “The China Baristas championship 2015”. There was a high level, also in Latte art, perhaps the difference is that there are few in relation to the number of specialists we have here, but in terms of quality, excellent.
How did the adventure continue once the fair was over?
Shanghai is the economic engine of China, obviously, the bulk of consumption and business opportunities are managed from here. But there are other cities that are also generating things. Finished the fair we flew to Guang Zhou, a vibrant city southern Shanghai, with 20 million inhabitants. With a more tropical climate. There we visited two clients. It was exciting because we had to train 20 baristas, which ended up being 40. People got so involved, so eager to learn, that we had to duplicate the training. They are delighted, they have trained, they have learned and they have grown professionally. In addition to the classic techniques of perfect espresso and Latte art, they have hallucinated with the exhibition of molecular mixology, which is that Ferran Adriá style with airs and foams applied to coffee. He called them a lot of attention, especially the children who were present. We quickly improvised a junior training and the children immediately became the protagonists. They created an atmosphere of joy that was unforgettable. With the following training, we had to travel by plane, so you can imagine the size of its macro-cities, to another hotel where we live the same: of 6 students who supposedly waited for us, we went to 22. Unbelievable. Another representative of the city who received people from all over China, came from north and south. In both places, we organize an internal contest of Latte Arte. A team of journalists came and we were on Chinese TV news.
How do you envision the future of the business in this part of the world?
X: The growth forecast is very big, there they are starting, everything is to be done, right now it is something that has no ceiling.
And what did you learn from them?
X: I took a lot of experience, I learned more about teas, they gave me training on their part; share so many things with them, their culture, their experiences. The trip has enriched me on a personal level. It worked as a meeting point: teaching and learning. Another way of working, of seeing things, related to the volumes they handle in everything. In short, what is the contact with one of the first economic powers. Being able to travel to that culture enriches you in many ways. I only have words of thanks with them.