STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 4, Number 3

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54 STiR tea & coffee industry international / Issue 3, 2015 (June/July) Z By Helen Xu Fei hejiang is one of China's economically advanced provinces located in the lucrative Yangtze Delta Economic Zone. The coastal province borders Shanghai and Jiangsu to the north, Fujian to the south, and Jiangxi and Anhui to the west. It is known as the "Land of Silk and Tea." The rolling hills and subtropical climate makes Zhejiang one of the most suitable sites for growing superb green tea. Teas from Guzhu in northern Zhejiang were highly praised by Lu Yu in his masterpiece "Classic of Tea" and in the 8th century the first royal tea garden was constructed at the foot of Mount Guzhu. Each spring 13,000 local tea workers were engaged to produce premium spring tea for royal consumption before the April Qingming festival. The royal tea garden shifted to Fujian in the 10th century and production was switched to the then- prominent Dragon and Phoenix cake. Leaf grown in Zhejiang would turn flat and tasteless when made into such refined tea cakes. As a result, Zhejiang did not follow the trend seeking instead a more suitable way to produce the best tea from fresh local leaves. In time Zhejiang became China's leading producer of loose leaf green tea. Today, green tea accounts for 70% of Zhejiang's output. Industrialization in the past 40 years has greatly slowed the development of Zhejiang tea production but it remains China's leading tea exporting province, accounting for half of China's export volume. The majority of Zhejiang's export is low value conventional green tea such as chumee and gunpowder. Much of the conventional green tea exported by Zhejiang is outsourced to other regions and then refined or blended in Zhejiang. In 1978 Zhejiang launched a tea project to restore historical gourmet teas and create new teas. The program has since generated a good response in the US, according to Shengyuan Chen, executive director of Delaware-based Firsd Tea. "US tea drinkers have become more sophisticated and selective," she said. "That is why we decided to set up operations in the US to listen, communicate, and help bring to the con- sumer more of Zhejiang's specialty teas," said Chen whose company is affiliated with Zhejiang Tea Group, a 60-year-old firm that ships 40,000 tons of tea a year and is the top green tea exporter in the world. To improve brand building and marketing gourmet teas, the Provincial Department of Agriculture in 2004 launched the Zhejiang 10 Top Gourmet Teas competition. This quinquennial (five-year) competition pro- moted gourmet teas that display excellence in taste, sufficient supply, and were grown according to GAP (good agricultural practices). The rules required these commercial teas to possesss a sound track record re- Sourcing Tea in Zhejiang High grade Kaihua Dragon Topl containing only tea buds.

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