Early tea chase

Updated: 2012-04-01 07:38

By Xie Yu and Zhang Jianming (China Daily)

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Yu, her boss, worries constantly about the readiness of the tea shoots. Because of the low temperatures and constant rain in February, several tea varieties had not budded as expected. But as the weather warmed in March, they all suddenly sprouted at the same time.

Two kilograms of fresh leaves produce only 500 grams of tea. That would take about 10,000 buds.

"The tea has every reason to command a high price. I have to make sure the tea buds are picked and dried in time, or they will grow tough and decline in quality," Yu says, noting that he had to fight against time, bringing in all the pickers he could find. Even so, he could not catch up with the budding.

If he used the greenhouse early tea technology, Yu can stagger the picking of the tea, and start making profit earlier.

"Of course, if you can put the spring tea on market as early as possible, it can be more competitive," he says. He know that time is money where spring tea is concerned.

The only problem is money.

"Setting up a greenhouse with all the equipment costs over 15,000 yuan. It will not pay for itself in one year. I reckon it takes about three years to recover costs," Yu calculates. Even so, he plans to put aside 20 mu (1.3 hectares) for a pilot plantation this year, and see how it works.

Although the planting of early tea seems like very good business, the Chun'an authority is in no hurry to promote the idea.

"Early tea is good for expanding the name of tea produced in Chun'an, but the charm of tea has deep connections with tradition, and we have no intention of changing that," says Hu Duo, an official from the county bureau of agriculture.

In Hangzhou, although the picking has just started, tea activity has already been heating up. In a pre-sale auction of Xihu Longjing, the first batch of tea was auctioned for 180,000 yuan ($28,500) per 500 grams in mid-March.

Xihu Longjing is grown in a designated area around the Xihu Lake and nowhere else. The growing, picking and processing strictly follow traditional guidelines, very much like the controls imposed on viniculture.


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