Entrepreneur-turned-tea farmer promotes Chinese tea culture

​By Xu Xiaoxuan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, September 13, 2021
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Xiao Xiaoke poses for a photo against a screen presenting his Baihao tea brand at the 18th China-ASEAN Expo, September 12, 2021. [Photo by Xu Xiaoxuan/China.org.cn]

Amid the hustle and bustle of product presentations, goods purchasing and deals signing at the 18th China-ASEAN Expo, Xiao Xiaoke carefully brewed tea with a set of exquisite tea ware in an exhibition pavilion, appearing unfazed by the surrounding sounds. For years, Xiao has devoted himself to building his own tea brand and carrying forward Chinese tea culture. 

However, tea cultivation was not the industry that Xiao trained for. In 2000, Xiao traveled to Baise city of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region to work in the metallurgy business, in which he achieved great success. 

However, a visit to a friend in Lingyun county of Baise in 2011 began Xiao's transformation from an industrial entrepreneur into a tea farmer. "On my way to a friend's home, I saw a stretch of verdant and exuberant tea plants, which were being cut down by local farmers," Xiao said. "It turned out that the tea, called Lingyun Baihao tea – a specialty in Lingyun with a mellow aroma and lingering aftertaste – didn't sell well without a well-known brand, thereby producing meagre profit for local farmers." 

Being disappointed at the destroyed tea plants, Xiao, a tea lover, started to consider promoting Baihao tea and helping the farmers to become better-off. 

Xiao knew that passion alone wouldn't get him far and he was hesitant about venturing into a relatively unfamiliar sector. Therefore, he first searched for information about Baihao tea and learned that it can be processed into six kinds of tea, namely green tea, black tea, white tea, yellow tea, dark tea and Oolong tea. The tea is also a geographical indication (GI) product of China. Then, Xiao consulted tea experts for product assessment and advice. 

Given Baihao tea's own features, coupled with professors' expertise and his wife's encouragement, Xiao eventually made up his mind. In 2012, Xiao rented a tea plantation from some locals and established a tea company to zero in on the tea industry. 

Nonetheless, it was not all plain sailing for Xiao. "At the beginning, the tea we produced tasted too bitter to be favored in the market. Thus, I invited experts again to help solve the problem." Later, Xiao improved fermentation and other processing techniques based on professional suggestions and managed to improve the tea's flavor. 

To help his tea gain more popularity, Xiao visited clients and participated in different exhibitions to present his brand. Since 2013, Xiao has showcased his tea at the annual China-ASEAN Expo. His tea has entered markets of Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. 

With the enhancing brand value and rising sales volume, Xiao's tea business is flourishing. Last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Xiao's company registered a sales revenue of more than 26 million yuan ($4 million). The income of the farmers he employs has increased to at least 3,500 yuan a month, compared with around 1,000 yuan before they grew tea plants. 

In addition, the company has worked with the Tea Research Institute under Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Fudan University as well as other tea research institutes for seed cultivation, quality control and scientific innovation, and solicited opinions from clients, establishing a holistic platform to integrate the wisdom of enterprises, universities, research institutes and customers. 

"We are now planning to conduct intensive processing of the tea and expand the industrial chain, such as producing desserts, dishes and nutritious beverages made of tea, to cultivate and carry forward Chinese tea culture," Xiao said with confidence. 

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