Last updateFri, 07 Feb 2014 11am

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Tequila shop to help Mexican spirit flow in China

A pair of young entrepreneurs plans to open the first store selling tequila and agave products in China this September.

Fabiola Rodriguez and Lizeth Quiñones, both 27, started the company Conexion Asia about 2-1/2 years ago to help Guadalajara companies export products such as clothing, coffee and electronics to Asian countries, including today’s trading behemoth, China.

Then, after President Enrique Peña Nieto struck a deal with China that allowed for the import of high quality 100 percent blue agave tequila, a new door opened for the business partners.

China had tequila before, but only in the form of mixtos with agave blended with other sugars to make the spirit. Top-notch bottles made only with blue agave included methanol levels – though only at trace levels safe for human consumption – that exceeded Chinese import regulations. Peña Nieto’s deal allowed Mexican distillers to export the potent drink and in August trucks loaded with some 70,380 bottles of tequila made their way to a Mexican port before being loaded on ships headed toward China.

Rodriguez and Quiñones, who already had their foot in the door with Chinese businesses, have now seized upon the opportunity. A company that distributes spirits in China proposed that they open a store in a luxury mall focused on selling alcoholic beverages. The Conexion Asia founders now have 200 square meters in the shopping center in Xiamen, a major Chinese city where much foreign alcohol comes into the country.

These business representatives can also help them move tequila throughout China. “They have the power to promote this beverage in the whole country,” Rodriguez said.

The store, which Rodriguez said would likely be called “Viva Mexico,” will also feature agave-based products and try to impart a bit of Mexican culture to the Chinese. The idea is to include a timeline with photos, showing the history of Mexico from the Mayans to the Spanish conquest to the present day.

Conexion Asia isn’t Rodriguez and Quiñones first business venture together. They started a restaurant at the age of 18 and five years later they sold Asian beverages in Guadalajara. Each undertaking has been a learning process for the women who also have to deal with people questioning them a bit because of their young age.

Both share an interest in Chinese culture and see this as a time to increase Mexican exports to China as Mexico has been running a 50 billion-dollar trade deficit with the Asian country.

Still, doing business with China isn’t simple for many Mexicans. There’s a wide cultural difference between the two countries and that’s what Rodriguez and Quiñones are working to bridge.

So far tequila has strong potential. When Chinese people sip the drink, they often notice its strength, Rodriguez said. But she says they pour small amounts and explain the different types of tequila, from clear blancos to the darker añejos that spend more time in wooden barrels.

In the United States, tequila is known for giving a margarita its kick, but in China it requires a different approach. Tequila mixed with mint and soda water has proven popular with Chinese drinkers and, of course, there’s a canned concoction provided by a company called Tequila Immortal that features tequila mixed with green tea in a classic East meets West combination.


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