The social-integration organisation City Central has continued to help international people integrate with Dutch society as they host their third-ever ‘Q Tea Bubble Tea’ event this afternoon.
The bubble tea events are designed to drum up interest in the organisation and to encourage those new to Groningen to meet people in a similar situation to themselves. City Central was established in January of this year, and has since sought to achieve these goals through various enterprises, such as the ‘My Local Friend’ scheme that pairs international residents with locals.
But the organisation is doing more than just stitching together friendships: it is also helping foreign entrepreneurs establish a stake in the Dutch economy. The sweet, milky bubble tea, originally a Taiwanese invention from the 1980s, has been brewed by Qian Zhang, a 25-year-old woman from Chongqing, China. Qian, who describes herself as having an “entrepreneurial mindset”, claims that City Central has helped take her business dreams closer to reality.
“I got involved after a chat with the founder,” she says from behind the counter of City Central’s premises in the Aa-Kerk church, just yards from Groningen’s central Vis Markt. “I said I wanted to make different foods and a variety of teas, and then I came to helping out with the bubble tea.”
Qian is in the initial stages of setting up a café in Groningen, but argues that the idea has only become more realistic because of the experience granted to her by City Central.
“In the beginning it was a very vague idea, but then City Central offered this space, and I got so much positive feedback and so much confidence. The bubble tea events are great practice, and lots of people are interested. Without this experience, I’m not sure I would be able to start a café!”
A potential location for the new company, ‘Q Tea’, is Oude Boteringestraat, but, as this is far from settled, City Central may yet again prove vital to its realisation. The organisation may have to find a new place for 2019, in which case it is possible that it may make a joint space with Q Tea.
As if to remind us of the impact such initiatives can have on a place, 28-year-old Groningen local Natalia Bregman and 20-year-old international student Rachel Yang arrive at the City Central space to try the tea. They were paired together through the ‘My Local Friend’ scheme, and, over sips of Qian’s grapefruit honey citron tea, they tell me: “It’s been an incredibly positive experience”.