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'Queen of tea' losing crown amid frugality drive | Updated: 2014-04-02 14:59

The Spring Festival and Tomb-sweeping Day, which falls on Saturday this year, are usually peak sales periods for West Lake Longjing tea. Not this year.

Local gift shop owner Du Qiaohong has not sold a single box of high-end Longjing tea since before the Spring Festival in January.

"Few people buy them as gifts now," said Du, who plans to close the gift shop.

Tea leaf dealers have also witnessed a slump. Lu Jiangmei, chairwoman of Hangzhou Zhenghao Tea Leaf Co., Ltd., said unlike previous years, when "major clients" from across the country ordered 70 percent of their high-end teas, the company has decided to control purchases to prevent excessive inventory.

"If the tea is not sold this year, it will be worthless next year when new tea leaves are harvested," she said.

The company is one of the largest dealers of Longjing tea, with 30,000 kilos of tea leaves sold last year. About one sixth of the volume was high-end tea, according to Lu.

To boost sales, she said the company was looking into online trade and selling at lower prices.

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