Guizhou tea set to make a splash

Updated: 2011-09-19 09:15

By Lee Hannon (China Daily)

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On a clear day throughout the southern hills of Guizhou province an army of women rhythmically move through a sea of bushes on a mission to find only the very best for one of the world's favorite pastimes.

Under the shade of wide hats and with woven baskets in hand, the tea pickers of this southwestern province are zealous in their demand for perfection as they carefully select the most tender shoots to pluck at exactly the right time.

In China, tea has always been more than a business, but in Guizhou the rising quality of cha (tea) is helping to lift the province from the depths of poverty.

The number of plantations is expanding by nearly 30,000 hectares each year, with tea now being a multi-billion industry.

The cool and pleasant monsoon climate, high altitude and natural habitat has proved such a fertile combination for cultivating the finest leaves that Guizhou is now the nation's second largest tea-producing province and is ranked number one in green tea production.

"Six types of the most famous teas are grown here in Guizhou," says Zi Yezhu, vice-president of the province's tea association.

"Throughout history Guizhou has supplied tea to 18 different emperors. The high altitude, cloud, temperature and lack of pollution make it perfect for growing tea. It is a blessing."

Government subsidies have also blessed the province's tea business to grow into a pillar industry by increasing the average annual income for millions of tea growers by nearly 3,000 yuan ($470).

More than 700 million yuan has been invested in agriculture with 400 million yuan alone invested in the construction of tea plantations. The province plans to devote more than 300,000 hectares to ecological tea plantations by 2020.

At one company alone in Zunyi over a two-year period, the annual tea production capacity rose from 200 tons to 2,000 tons, and its sales revenue increased from 8 million yuan to over 80 million yuan.

And the accolades for quality are growing faster than the construction. Guizhou's famous green tea received dozens of awards at a number of recent tea expo gatherings of the world's top producers.

The boom in the brew is also drawing back the province's young who once headed to the rich big cities in search of a good life.

Kelvin Gan moved to Shanghai to work in investment before the world financial crisis hit, making him reconsider his career move. He decided to move back home and invest in the tea industry in Guizhou.

The 30-year-old started a brand supplying high-end black tea to consumers across the province. He hopes to start an international supply chain soon.

"We are just starting out, but I had a love for tea and wanted to invest in it. Green tea is very popular here, but I wanted to come back to promote black tea. I want to bring Guizhou's black tea to the international market."


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