by Zhang Jianhua, Wang Shan
A group of Chinese tea enthusiasts after discovering ancient tea trees scattered among coffee plantations on the southern Lao plateau, carefully replanted the trees together, built tea plantations and tea factories, then brought the ecologically-friendly tea to China, to further introduce it to the world through the China International Import Expo (CIIE).
Located in the south of Laos, the highlands of the cloud shrouded Bolaven Plateau, with its unpredictable weather, are home to these ancient tea trees which would still be hidden in the tropical jungle if they weren't discovered by the Chinese visitors.
"We want to develop ecologically-friendly tea products combining traditional Chinese tea-making technologies with the unrivaled tea grown in Laos," said Xie Ronghong, chairman of Lao Three Six Manor Trade Export Import Sole Co., Ltd.
Xie has been living in Laos for more than 20 years, and along with her family is developing the business here as a way to pay back the local society.
Five years ago, hearing that there were ancient tea trees on the Bolaven Plateau, Xie rushed to explore them. "Some villagers didn't know that these ancient tea trees are precious, they cut some down to build houses, cultivate land or for firewood. What a pity."
Xie soon decided to stay on the Bolaven Plateau, enclose some land and build houses.
The woman from China's southwest Sichuan province led her staff to purchase ancient tea trees one by one from local farmers' fields and villages, and moved more than 100,000 ancient tea trees into her newly built 150-hectare tea garden. She then set up a tea factory, employing local people to take care of the trees and pick tea leaves.
Due to the special climate, altitude, soil, and especially the obvious temperature difference between day and night, the fragrant tea accumulated abundant substances and featured a fresh and mellow flavor with a long-lasting, sweet after-taste.
Having been making tea for more than 20 years in China, Hu Xiaofeng was attracted to stay on the Bolaven Plateau ever since he came across the precious ancient trees and now is the director of the tea factory.
"We make black tea, white tea and Pu'er tea here, and they all have their own outstanding characteristics if compared with Chinese tea of the same categories," Hu explained, sitting comfortably in his tea room decorated with Chinese mahogany furniture on the southern Lao plateau.
The quality of the tea makes Xie confident and her participation in the first CIIE had unexpected results.
The Lao government provided her company with two free exhibition booths, including a national image pavilion and a trade show.
Before the CIIE, Saleumxay Kommasith, minister of foreign affairs of Laos, listened intently to the report on Three Six Manor's products representing Lao ecological products at the CIIE.
Sonexay Siphandone, deputy prime minister of Laos, praised the company for protecting local ancient tea resources, and promoting employment and exports. At the CIIE, Thongloun Sisoulith, the Lao prime minister, visited the Lao National Image Pavilion to promote the Lao tea in person.
"China welcomes excellent products from all countries with an open mind. For us, with the overseas Chinese, it is a real win-win situation and a great opportunity to meet and cooperate," said Yan Yong, the Chinese general manager of Lao Three Six Manor Trade Export Import Sole Co., Ltd.
"China will further expand its 'opening up' and stimulate its import potential, which is a great opportunity for many Chinese companies like ours that have come out and have taken root abroad. We will export more high-quality products from Laos to China, serve Chinese consumers and even consumers around the world, in return, bringing prosperity to the Lao people to make this high-quality cooperation more sustainable," Yan said.
"The tea we exhibited in the CIIE was affirmed and recognized by Chinese consumers especially for its organic quality and no pesticide residues. About 1.5 million yuan (around 211,000 U.S. dollars) of tea was sold in the first three days," Yan told Xinhua recently.
"We have decided to participate in the second CIIE this year, and we must bring more goods this time!"