Yuchen Zhong’s company Yuan Kun Education is the leading education and technical consulting firm in the Chinese baijiu industry. Zhong is dedicated to promoting greater communication between the Chinese spirits industry and the rest of the world, and collaborates with Chinese and international professionals to promote baijiu and other spirits in innovative ways.
What do you do?
My company focuses on the Chinese spirit baijiu, specialising in education via tasting, international promotion and technical consulting for distilleries and distributors in China. In recent years, we have been collaborating with international spirits professionals like Antony Moss and Nicolas King at the WSET to promote baijiu to the rest of the world.
How was your work affected by the coronavirus outbreak?
During the outbreaks, we suspended our regular classes and cancelled several of our scheduled events. The National Food and Drink Expo of China was cancelled, which would have been a great opportunity for us to communicate with our customers, Chinese baijiu producers and distributors, who have also been heavily impacted as the consumption of baijiu ran low in the first quarter. It has been a tough start to the year.
How did you spend your time during the lockdown?
We started to explore the option of online classrooms for tastings, and successfully conducted several online sessions and even a tasting competition. We are quickly adapting to online methods and will continue to strengthen this in the future.
What are you most looking forward to as the lockdown eases?
The drinks business is essentially a people business, so we are looking forward to resuming face to face communication. Now that China has lifted most lockdown measures in most cities, businesses are rebooting and we are starting to organise regular classes. It is nice to see people reunite with each other after the pandemic.
Any updates since you won the Future 50 award last year?
While we have been seriously impacted by coronavirus, we have started to organise more tastings of baijiu for consumers. It may be hard to believe, but average consumers have very little knowledge about baijiu.
What’s been your favourite drink of 2020?
For whisky, I favour Singleton 15; I especially like the mellowness and sweet cake flavours. With baijiu, I always love Guan Yun Baijiu. Its brand and design are beyond compare when it comes to new generation baijiu.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Working with WSET to include baijiu in the WSET Level 3 Award in Spirits.
Do you have any advice for people starting out in the drinks industry?
It is a sophisticated industry, and anyone who wants to enter it should bear in mind that they will face several years of hard work and struggle. But once you make it, you will be heavily rewarded.
What excites you in the drinks industry right now?
We have seen an increasing number of innovations and young entrepreneurs, as well as increasing international communications with the baijiu industry. It’s a very exciting time for us.
How much do you know about baijiu? Test your knowledge with our quiz, prepared by Zhong in collaboration with our sister company Club Oenologique.