Traditional black tea type regains old glory through innovation

(Xinhua) 15:46, February 08, 2023

FUZHOU, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Days after the Spring Festival holiday, traders from across China flocked to a tea market in Fu'an, a city in east China's Fujian Province, for a special type of black tea called Panyong Congou.

"I haven't seen such a busy business in years," said Chen Canguang, who started tea production in the 1980s. "We hope to make breakthroughs this year with more innovative Panyong Congou products."

Panyong Congou originated from Tanyang Village in Fu'an in the mid 19th century. It won a golden prize at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, and became one of the most popular black tea types globally.

However, following a period of huge market success in the first decade of the 21st century, the popularity of Panyong Congou went downhill after 2010.

"Some 10 years ago, Panyong Congou was known all around the country and sold for as much as 20,000 yuan (about 2,948 U.S. dollars) per kg," said Chen. "However, its price later dropped significantly with an influx of mediocre products from new producers."

Many tea growers and producers with a strong affinity for this traditional black tea began to make efforts to revive its old glory.

Chen's daughter-in-law, Yang Jingjing, who previously worked for an internet company, is now the general manager of Chen's tea company.

Yang and her research team have developed a new product by adding the aroma of jasmine to Panyong Congou. The new product has gained growing popularity in the market and is particularly well received by female customers, Yang said.

In Fu'an, a city with a long tradition of tea production, about 60 percent of its 677,000 residents work in the tea-related industry. In recent years, the city's tea industry has rebounded, with the annual revenue of its tea market hitting 4 billion yuan, said Zheng Zuhui, deputy director of Fu'an Tea Development Center.

In order to keep up with the pace of the market, the local tea growers are also constantly improving their tea planting techniques.

"Better leaves make better tea products. Now, I only pick them twice a year instead of the customary four times," said Lin Zhengjin, 44, a local tea grower, adding that the new approach ensures more nutrition for leaves.

The reduction in tea-picking workload allows Lin to focus more on fertilization and weeding. As a result, the quality of his leaves has improved, and they were sold at a much higher price than before.

Lin and numerous other local tea growers learned their techniques from the Tea Research Institute of the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which has played an important role in the development of Panyong Congou.

"Since last year, I have helped many local tea growers build ecological tea gardens, which have proved to be a success and brought them a lot of benefits," said Wang Zhenkang, the head of a local testing base under the academy.

According to Wu Jianjian, manager of a Panyong Congou tea company, high quality is the key to the success of the Panyong Congou tea industry.

Each product of his tea company comes with a QR code, which provides customers with information about the producer and the tea planting records.

In 2023, Wu plans to build a factory shop, which can offer high-quality Panyong Congou tea to more customers and try out to produce drinks, wines and perfumes featuring tea ingredients.

"More and more young people enjoy Panyong Congou. I hope our efforts will lead to its improvement," Wu said. 

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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