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Apple savvy brought to Xiao Guan Tea store

Apple Store designer Tim Kobe was designer for the Xiao Guan Tea label’s first store, which has opened in Jinan, China.

At the store’s grand opening, Kobe joined lead designer Jinjiang Yu, innovative experience consultant Shuo Tang and consumer experience director/company partner Hong Li about “Creating a new Chinese tea experience using the same philosophy as Apple Inc”.

Xiao Guan Tea store 1

Believing a traditional Chinese tea store would be too outdated for today’s young urban consumers, they analysed how concepts in store design integrate with the Chinese tea culture, proposing fresh ideas for both the tea and design industries.

Accordingly, the Xiao Guan Tea Store sets about changing the Chinese consumer’s impression of a tea brand right from its entrance. Full-height revolving glass doors display teaware and the company’s specially designed tea capsules.

Xiao Guan Tea store 2

On arrival, customers enter the Tea Vault with individual displays for each type of tea, and the Tea Bar where they can sit and sample teas. There are introductory videos, and different varieties of tea leaves can be viewed inside vacuum glass containers.

Once a customer has made a choice, a tea host places their tea capsules into a gift box.

Xiao Guan is not just a tea shop or product display centre – it has been designed as a place where people can linger, similar to Apple’s retail philosophy. It approach was to invite eight tea masters, each representing a different style of tea, to create products with uniform quality standards, defined origin of raw materials, and limited picking time and preparation methods to ensure the freshness and authenticity of each leaf.

Xiao Guan Tea store 3

Also, the company invited a Japanese master engineer to design an aluminium pod for individual tea brewing.

All this preparation took two years, the result being not only a new brand but also a more convenient and simple way for people to enjoy tea.

“With precise product positioning plus advanced marketing strategy, Xiao Guan Tea has created an innovative consumer experience which is very different from the traditional tea industry,” says marketing director Jiang Mei.

“Chinese tea has always been portrayed with traditional images. We have broken the traditional approach to tea selling with a new brewing method and by creating a brand experience.”

Photo: Wei Xuliang

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