Tea in the Experience Economy. Tea Experts and Tea Storytellers

Photo: Alexander Sidorenko

In the previous article, we described two roles that a tea professional can play in the consumer tea culture. These are the roles of a tea guru and a tea actor. Successful work in each of these roles requires a rare set of circumstances. But this coincidence sometimes happens — so almost every consumer tea market has its own tea gurus and tea actors (and sometimes tea clowns).

The roles of the tea actor and tea guru are not the only ones possible for the tea professional. In order to find other directions for such tea work, it would bу worthy to remind oneself that the main commodity in the experience economy is experience. At the same time, it does not matter at all how the client receives this experience.

Let’s imagine two slightly exaggerated versions of the work of a tea master selling tea and tea-related experiences.

Option one. The master brews tea for guests, making it unusual and effective. Without saying a word about what rare tea the guests drink, what exquisite dishes are on the table and what accurate moves the tea master makes in their special clothes. Then the master serves tea to the guests, assuming that the guests will independently evaluate the tea, the teaware, the costume and the precise movements and get the very experience for which they paid or are going to pay money.

Option two. The master does all the same, but at the same time emotionally tells the guests about the tea, teaware, clothes, and what a rare occasion it was to source this tea, what wonderful landscapes (people, cuisine, history and high-speed trains) are in those places, how they met the farmer and what a funny cow (a dog and a crow) he has, how this tea struck them in the heart and how fresh notes in it remind the taste of water from a spring on the slope of the very mountain where this tea grows. In fact, in this case, guests will hardly receive impressions on their own, they will pay for those experiences that the specialist sitting at the tea table has specially acquired and processed into the most pleasant form for consumption.

Undoubtedly, the second option for trading in impressions is much more attractive than the first one, especially considering that it does not exclude the first option, but builds on it. And, accordingly, tea masters who are able to work with impressions (receive, combine and process them into an easily consumed product) will be significantly more efficient than tea masters who expect that guests will receive all the impressions from the tea served and the performances made (songs, dances, other acrobatics) on their own.

A tea master who resells experiences can be called a tea storyteller. The demand for ready-made tea experiences is constantly growing. This growth is driven by an amusing contradiction in today’s consumer culture. Its essence lies in the fact that the presence of consumer experience in society is highly valued, and most people do not have the resources (time, money, emotional strength) to independently obtain such an experience. The easiest and cheapest way out of this contradiction is to buy ready-made experiences. A tea storyteller should have a lot of them for every taste.

Another role associated with trading in ready-made experiences is that of a tea expert. It is as close to the role of a tea storyteller, as the role of a tea guru is to the role of a tea actor. The difference between a storyteller and an expert is that a storyteller trades impressions in the form of entertaining stories, while an expert trades impressions in the form of convincing comments and solutions (in the simplest case, where and what tea to buy).

How to educate a tea storyteller and a tea expert is also rather clear: information technology in the broadest sense of the word, storytelling and copywriting, the history and mythology of tea, presentation skills, the building and keeping updated one’s tea erudition, as well as professional and consumer knowledge, and so on…

Let’s draw up a mini-summary of our first four articles of the Tea in the Experience Economy series.

For the development of tea in the experience economy paradigm, it is necessary to understand that the main product is impressions that customers receive on their own or buy ready-made from tea specialists. Tea, its taste, aroma and physiological effect, its brewing and serving methods, tea utensils, knowledge, skills and abilities of the master are decorations and tools for creating and preserving impressions, their independent value is not high.

The effective trade in tea experiences is possible according to at least four schemes: tea actor, tea guru, tea storyteller and tea expert. The tea actor creates joyful tea shows. The tea guru builds productive communities and moderates them for shared but uneven benefits. The tea storyteller conveys their own experiences to people through engaging stories, while the tea expert does the same through expert comments and expert decisions. Naturally, any particular specialist can use any number of these schemes and in any combinations, even all four at the same time — this will only be more effective. And, of course, one can add new schemes to the four.

A clear understanding of the professional work patterns of high-level tea specialists allows us to draw up an approximate program of professional tea education of the highest level — which is one of the most difficult issues in tea culture. We will try to deal with it in the next article.

Olga Nikandrova & Denis Shumakov. Teatips.info. 2021. Photo: Alexander Sidorenko