A tea party was recently held at the Tribute Tea Museum of Tang Dynasty in Changxing county, East China’s Zhejiang province. Zheng Funian, a national intangible heritage bearer of the Zisun teamaking technique, and his apprentices celebrated the addition of China’s traditional tea-making to the intangible cultural heritage list of UNESCO in late November. The ancient ritual included crushing tea leaves, sifting tea powder, adding hot water, and stirring with a whisk until thick bubbles appear.
Zheng explains that the processing of Zisun tea, which has existed since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), is even more sophisticated than today’s latte art. He adds that over a thousand years ago, their ancestors had already painted or written on the tea foam. Since tea was discovered and utilized by the Chinese people in ancient times, China’s culture of making and drinking tea has become popular all over the world, and the culture has also been developed and spread more widely.
The Zisun teamaking technique is a traditional art form that requires patience, skill, and precision. The tea is made by hand, and every step in the process must be done correctly. Zheng and his apprentices take great pride in carrying on this tradition and ensuring that it remains a part of China’s cultural heritage.
Zheng also believes that the addition of traditional tea-making to the intangible cultural heritage list of UNESCO will help promote the art of tea-making to the world. “It is not only a recognition of our own culture but also an opportunity to spread Chinese tea culture to more people around the world,” he says.
The popularity of tea has continued to grow, both in China and around the world. As more people learn about the history and culture of tea-making, they are also gaining a greater appreciation for the art and the traditions that have been passed down through generations. Tea-making is no longer just a drink, but a form of art that represents a rich cultural heritage.
Manjuelong village in Hangzhou is known for producing Longjing tea, one of China’s most renowned teas. Tang Hejun, a tea maker from the village, has been making tea by hand for years. Longjing tea makers must adjust the roasting time and technique depending on the moisture content and quality of the tea leaves, which makes each pot of tea unique. Tang states that “roasting tea is tough work,” as they have to deal with the 200 C pot every day. In the past, manual tea roasting skills were in danger of being lost as more people left the tea villages for big cities, and machine-roasted tea sells much cheaper.
However, the villagers have come up with various ways to pass on the tea art. This year in the Longjing tea production area, a course on manual tea-making techniques has attracted more than 200 people, mostly youngsters. Fu Bo was one of them, and he believes that handmade tea has abundant flavor compared to machine-roasted tea. Different tea makers will give the tea unique tastes, which is the charm of Chinese tea. Fu grew up in a tea garden, and through this, he got to know the essence of tea culture. He states that tea has become a common interest among young people, and learning how to roast tea is a new trend among the younger generation.
In Wengjiashan village, another Longjing tea production area, Sun Bin, the village’s Party secretary, has launched courses about tea brewing, tea processing, and other related skills. About 50 young villagers have participated in these courses, with the youngest participant born in 2013. Sun is pleased that more young people are willing to learn tea production techniques. As tea becomes a common interest among the younger generation, the tradition of manual tea-making techniques is being kept alive.
The tradition of Chinese tea-making dates back a thousand years, and its legacy is being preserved through various efforts. In Hangzhou, the China National Tea Museum showcases the history and culture of tea in China. The museum includes a vast collection of tea-related artifacts, from ancient tea-making equipment to contemporary tea sets. The museum also offers visitors a chance to try different types of tea and learn about tea culture.
The tea industry is an important part of China’s economy, and the country is the world’s largest producer and exporter of tea. According to the China Tea Marketing Association, China produced over 2.8 million tons of tea in 2020, and the country’s tea exports were worth $1.28 billion. As Chinese tea gains popularity worldwide, the demand for high-quality Chinese tea is increasing.
The younger generation’s interest in traditional tea culture is driving the demand for high-quality tea, which has led to the revival of manual tea-making techniques. By preserving this legacy, the Chinese tea industry can continue to flourish for generations to come. With the combination of modern technology and traditional techniques, Chinese tea can continue to be at the forefront of the global tea industry.
The Chinese tea industry is seeing a resurgence, thanks to the participation of the young generation and innovative tea shops like Lu Yu’s Tea. The Belt and Road Initiative has also contributed to the steady growth of China’s tea exports, which reached nearly 370,000 metric tons in 2021, with an export value of about $2.3 billion. The coastal province of Zhejiang is a major exporter of tea, with its tea products reaching over 110 countries and regions.
Fusheng township in Shaoxing city, Zhejiang, is a significant production area and one of the top quality matcha producers in China. Tea makers in Fusheng have built up over 400 hectares of organic tea gardens and obtained international certification to achieve their dream of making the top Chinese matcha. The companies now export high-quality tea, mainly matcha, to markets such as the EU, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Saudi Arabia.
The trend towards high-quality tea exports is driven by new types of tea drinks that are becoming popular overseas, especially in the European and North American markets. Beverages made from Chinese tea are now selling like hotcakes. Wang Yuefei, director of the Tea Research Institute, Zhejiang University, believes that there is great potential for high-quality tea exports, especially with the inscribing of Chinese traditional tea-making techniques on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list.
Meanwhile, Lu Yu’s Tea, a new tea shop, has become a hit among young people in Hangzhou. The brand is named after Tang scholar Lu Yu, known as the Sage of Tea, who wrote The Classic of Tea, the first treatise in China that elaborated systematically on knowledge of tea and related practices. The tea shop offers customers a range of fresh and healthy Chinese tea-based drinks using local tea leaves as a base and mixing the tea with fresh milk and fruit to create new flavors that will be better accepted by young consumers. The tea shop aims to encourage more people to learn about traditional tea culture.
Tea is not only a daily drink welcomed by more young people, but it also plays an important role in their social life. In a teahouse on an ancient block of Jinhua city, Zhejiang, people gathered around the owner, who chatted with the guests as he brewed and poured tea for them. Yin Junfeng, a researcher at the Tea Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, believes that as people’s understanding of tea culture deepens, more of the traditional culture will become fashionable, and China’s tea culture will incorporate more new elements.
The participation of the young generation, the Belt and Road Initiative, and innovative tea shops are reviving China’s tea industry. The focus on high-quality tea exports and the popularity of new types of tea drinks are driving this resurgence, and as people’s understanding of tea culture deepens, China’s tea culture will incorporate more new elements.
Tea exports from China have been on a steady rise in recent years, thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative. According to customs data, in 2021, China exported nearly 370,000 metric tons of tea, with an export value of around $2.3 billion. One of the most prominent tea exporters in China is Zhejiang province, known for its tea products that reach over 110 countries and regions.
Fusheng township in Shaoxing city, located in Zhejiang province, is a major tea production area. Tea factories in this area export hundreds of tons of semifinished matcha products to Japan every year. With the goal of making the top Chinese matcha, tea makers in Fusheng have built over 400 hectares of organic tea gardens and obtained international certification, making them one of the top quality matcha producers in China.
Xia Yan, an export salesman from Shaoxing Yuchacun Tea Co., explained that in the early years, the company exported low-quality tea and semifinished products, which led to low returns. However, with the improvement in tea quality and production, the company now exports high-quality tea, mainly matcha, to markets such as the EU, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. In 2021, the company exported nearly 200 tons of organic matcha, valued at $2.5 million. The average price was about five times higher than that of ordinary exported green tea.
New types of tea drinks have become an important driver in promoting Chinese tea to the world. In the European and North American markets, beverages made from Chinese tea have become extremely popular. Liu Zhirong, chairman of Shaoxing Yuchacun Tea Co., stated that the demand for these tea drinks is increasing, which is further driving the growth of tea exports from China.
Wang Yuefei, director of the Tea Research Institute at Zhejiang University, believes that there is enormous potential for high-quality tea exports from China. With Chinese traditional tea-making techniques inscribed on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list and new tea drinks gaining popularity overseas, more people are becoming interested in Chinese tea culture.
The growth of tea exports from China is also bringing benefits to local communities. In Fusheng township, for example, the increase in tea exports has created new jobs and income opportunities for local residents. According to the Fusheng government, the tea industry now employs over 10,000 people in the township, and the income of tea farmers has increased significantly.
To further promote the growth of tea exports from China, the government is also taking steps to improve the quality of tea production. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has issued a series of guidelines to promote the development of high-quality tea production, which will help increase the competitiveness of Chinese tea in the international market.
With the increasing popularity of Chinese tea and the growth of tea exports, China is well on its way to becoming a major tea-producing and exporting nation. As the quality of Chinese tea continues to improve, it is expected that tea exports from China will continue to grow, bringing benefits not only to the tea industry but also to local communities and the Chinese economy as a whole.