Spring Tea Scent Fills City

The tea season is here.

This year, spring tea leaves went on sale in late March, about a week earlier than usual because of the warmer climate, said Shanghai Tea Association officials.

Green tea - especially Longjing tea from Hang-zhou, Zhejiang Province, Biluochun tea from Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, and Maofeng tea from the Yellow Mountain in Anhui Province - is now the product most in demand, they said.

The price, which ranges from 30 yuan (US$3.60) to 3,000 yuan per kilogram, and availability of spring tea are similar to last year, association officials added.

There is likely a larger supply of top-grade tea - which was produced before Qing Ming, which means "Clear Brightness," the annual grave-sweeping tradition that usually falls on April 5 - because the period for picking tea leaves was longer this year, said the association's Zhao Jinfu.

Local tea retailers said business is thriving.

"In 10 days, we have sold hundreds of kilograms of top-grade tea," said Zheng Ming, general manager of Xuyou Tea House, the largest tea retailer in Shanghai. "Price is nearly the same as last year. Longjing tea of the highest grade is selling at 3,000 yuan per kilogram."

Zhou Jiaren, sales manager of the Wangyiji Tea Store, added, "Longjing is still the most-popular tea and so far we have sold roughly 50 kilograms."

Shoppers said they buy spring tea for their enjoyment as well as gifts.

"During this season every year, I always buy spring tea because I like to enjoy the taste of the traditional Chinese drink when it is in season and also to appreciate the tea culture," said former journalist Zhou Jianguang, 52, a tea lover for more than 20 years.

However, he said he has encountered some "greedy" tea peddlers who sell inferior tea leaves as high-grade stuff.

To curb that problem, the Hangzhou Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision is requiring tea growers and companies to attach a coded anti-counterfeiting label to packages of their products. It's a way to assure consumers that the Longjing tea they buy is of top quality and was produced in a 168-square-kilometer area of the Westlake District that's the original cultivation area of Longjing tea, according to the tea association.

Such labels to ensure the sale of top-quality products haven't been commonly used throughout the country, association officials said.

The association's statistics show that the city's gross annual tea consumption has surpassed 10,000 tons and the average per capita annual consumption is 800 grams. Each year, more than 1,000 types of tea leaves are available in the city.

(Eastday.com.cn 04/16/2001)

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