China’s tea market, the largest in the world, teaches consumers this: there is tea, and there is tea. While tea is a daily staple for most Chinese, some exotic – and not so exotic – varieties are fetching previously unheard of profits that have tea farmers concerned about an industry bust.
As the yearly green tea crop hits the market this month, one particular variation stands out: Daqi, or “treasure” in Chinese, is a renowned type of Xinyang Maojian cultivated in the Henan province. Packaged in a cloisonne container with a sandalwood base and jade lid, Daqi may as well be considered green gold among connoisseurs. “Only a few kilos of Daqi tea are produced every year — the tea only grows on a tiny patch of land, and our master-level selection and processing techniques have added to its value,” said Huang Yixing, vice general manager of the tea’s producer Henan Auspicious Cloud Tea Co Ltd.
In fact, a high-end Longjing tea outvalued gold in March of this year when it fetched 180,000 yuan per 500 grams at auction in Zhejiang.
But this year, the public isn’t sold on Daqi. “Compared with Anji White Tea, Pu’er, and Longjing, which have all fetched high prices, Xinyang Maojian has lagged behind. We hope our efforts can make consumers realize the tea’s true value,” Huang said.
In a country that prides tea as its culture heritage, China is hoping that its crops can become as sought-after and dignified as heirloom timepieces or red wines.
Recently, a Sichuan businessman began fertilizing tea with panda dung and now charges 20,000 yuan for 50 grams of the exotic leaves. The public argues that this sort of sensationalism will damage the industry. This exploitation of tea crops, as well as a surplus after this year’s bumper harvest, has led many farmers to complain already about a drop in purchase price.
The year’s first batch of green tea is typically promoted in April.
photo credit: chun qiu shi dai tea house