Text by Liu Haile
Tea and baijiu (white liquor) are two of the oldest and most prevalent beverages in China. Tea, as well as the rice spirits, has achieved a prominent role in countless legends and stories throughout history, and myriad places across the country lay claim to the title “home of tea”or “home of spirits.”Guizhou in southwestern China is one of only a few provinces famous for producing both. There, tea and spirits are more than just culturally significant drinks - they are also important industries that bolster the local economy and the people’s hopes for prosperity.
In January 2012, the State Council announced a new policy promoting Guizhou’s economic and social development. Jumping at the opportunity, the currently less-developed province is now seeing a metamorphosis, especially in its tea and liquor industries.
Home of Tea
Tea fields can be found almost everywhere in the misty mountainous regions of southern Guizhou. A typical sight during harvest season is women with bamboo hats and baskets picking tea leaves on hillsides, complemented by tea’s fresh aroma in the air. According to tea industry insiders, Guizhou’s advantage lies in its unpolluted low-latitude plateau geography and climate characterized by frequent cloudy and misty weather and meager sunshine.
Dubbed the “first ecological tea-growing village in West China,”Hetaoba in the province’s Meitan County is a small town of villas in distinct regional architectural styles connected by neatly paved roads. It is hard to believe the village was consumed by poverty just a few years ago. Its transformation has been attributed to the development of the local tea industry.
Yang Jianwei, a native villager, owns a tea plantation covering nearly 0.67 hectares. “The average village household owns about 0.6 hectares of tea fields,”Yang notes, “and earns about 50,000 to 60,000 yuan each year from sales.”Now, every residence is modern and handsome, and some villagers even own cars.