Business / Industries

Guizhou's high-quality green tea has the taste of success

By ZHU WENQIAN/YANG JUN (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-05 13:50

Green tea is a way of life in Guizhou province and the export business of the country's favorite drink is booming.

With its subtropical climate and unpolluted clean air, Guizhou is ideal for growing high-quality tea. In fact, the brand has been so successful it is developing a growing international reputation.

Gui Tea Co Ltd is a major company that grows green tea in Guizhou and exports its product to Europe.

"It's not easy being involved in the tea business in Europe as many European tea companies have taken most of the market share," said Wang Lei, general representative of Gui Tea Co Ltd in Germany. "But we are confident in the green tea products from Guizhou with its premium quality and great taste."

Most green tea produced in China has struggled to break into European and United States markets because the pesticide content levels failed to meet international standards.

But Guizhou's green tea has beaten the odds in those markets because it has ultra-low pesticide residue levels.

Last year, exports of green tea from Fenggang, a county of Guizhou province, totaled 120 metric tons worth 15 million yuan ($2.41 million).

This year the export volume has so far reached 180 tons. Key international markets include the US, the European Union, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

"The earth in the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau has rich zinc and selenium, and the favorable earth conditions highlight the high nutritional values in tea," said Xu Jiamin, secretary-general of the Guizhou Green Tea Brand Development Promotion Association. "It's the only such tea in China."

Guizhou aims to launch an export drive in the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Russia this year to expand its market base. All the signs of continued growth are there.

The province has mild average temperatures with excellent rainfall-ideal conditions for growing green tea.

Naturally, the growth cycle for green tea in Guizhou is fairly slow because of the high altitude. While the shorter cultivation period in other provinces produces higher yields, Guizhou's green tea absorbs more nutrients during a longer growing period, making it a premium brand.

"We need to export more brand-named tea instead of bulk tea," Xu said. "The green tea in Guizhou needs to continue to raise its reputation and impact domestically by increasing the export volumes, and expand the domestic market share."

Last year, Chinese tea exports plunged 7.5 percent year-on-year to 302,500 tons, according to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs and Native Produce. But the value of tea exports experienced a moderate growth of 2.1 percent to reach $1.27 billion.

The vast majority of Chinese tea exports are sold at wholesale prices for blending. In 2014, more than 80 percent of exports were low-grade green tea, with Africa and Russia being two of the main markets.

In terms of the domestic green tea sector, Guizhou does not produce the big volumes generated from Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, but its reputation is rapidly growing.

Germany started importing high-quality green tea from Guizhou in 2011 and now the Chinese brand is sold in Kaufhof and Karstadt, two high-end chain department stores in Europe's biggest economy.

"We are expanding the production scale and focusing on branding. Guizhou is bullish about the prospects for the green tea exporting business," Wang said.

From 2014 to 2018, Gui Tea plans to expand its export business and target high-end department stores, supermarkets and hotels.

Su Jiangyuan contributed to this story.

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