Xu Chao Yong
Xu Chaoyong wasn’t just raised out on the fields on which his family grows their famous Longjing tea, he was born on them. His family’s land was used for cultivating and growing quality tea his entire life and his parents raised him in the art of tea farming. Upon trying tea for the first time, he recalls not liking it due to the bitter flavor, but as he grew and drank it more often, he began to appreciate its many flavors and acquired a taste for it. He spent his time as a child and young man working in the fields and learning the family business with hopes to one day run the plantation. Today, he runs his family’s business and plantation and drinks tea every day, saying it makes him feel energetic and healthy.
Like most agricultural land in China, the land was nationally owned before being parcelled off for individual ownership. His family received about 13 square kilometres and have been tending to them ever since.
Currently, his immediate family consists of his father and mother, his wife, and his 3 year old son, who Xu hopes will one day take over and continue the tea farming tradition that runs in the family.
With any industry in any economy, there are challenges that need to be faced. The challenge that Xu is confronted with today is the declining number of tea masters around to process the tea leaves. The variance in skill and the overall shortage of people with that ability is diminishing making it harder for them to produce a more consistent tea from year to year. The shortage of help doesn’t end at just the tea masters, though – there is also a lack of workers willing to pick the tea during harvesting periods. The cultivation process is tough and, in order to provide the highest quality tea, it must be done by hand. In years past, many young women in their 20s would be available to help during the harvest, but in today’s day and age, the younger generation is heading to the cities and urban centres looking for education, work, and more glamorous opportunities. This leads to having to hire women upwards of 50 years old, and the physical work can be difficult for them at times. With the decline in labour available and the window of time to harvest being so short, Xu consistently has to reach out for help to find worker during the busiest seasons.
Even with these challenges, Xu Chaoyong focuses on one area and takes great pride in it: producing high quality tea and ensuring his customer’s utmost satisfaction. Throughout his many years of growing and selling tea, he has built a strong client base and he boasts in their happiness and satisfaction with his tea, as well as their willingness to routinely come back year after year to do business with him.
Xu has an extremely high level of appreciation for the subtleties within each cup of tea he drinks, and he compares each individual sip of tea to moments in our lives. He says that just as every sip is different – some may be sweet, others being bitter or even mixed – the moments in our day-to-day lives are just as unique and every last drop should be cherished.
Geography and Population
Xihu, or West Lake, is a freshwater lake in eastern China. It is considered to be a suburb of Hangzhou, which is the capital of Zhejiang province. The city is the largest in the province and the fourth-largest nationally, with about 8.7 million people. The city sits right on the edge of the bay of its namesake, and the East China Sea. The lake area lies to the southwest of the city centre, and the city itself is about 180 kilometres southwest of Shanghai. Hangzhou has been one of the most distinguished and thriving cities of China for much of the last 1,000 years, due in part to its beautiful natural scenery. West Lake is the region’s most popular attraction. The area surrounding the lake is lush and the land is very excellent for all types of agriculture, including the farming of Xihu Longjing tea, a premium variety of green tea.
The climate of the region is considered to be humid subtropical and has four distinct seasons, characterised by long, hot, and humid summers and chilly, cloudy, and drier winters. The average temperature is about 16° C, but range from 4°C in January to 28° in June. The city receives about 1.45 metres of rainfall each year and is affected by monsoon rains in June. The lake is surrounded on three sides by mountains, and it is in those mountains where most of the tea growing takes place. Because the city is right on the sea, its elevation is only about 18 metres; however the West Lake area has a peak elevation of 355 metres.
Tea from Xihu
Xihu’s tea growing area is now protected by the government, and only the leaves picked within its 168 square kilometres are considered to be genuine Xihu Longjing tea. There are four local villages in the area, and many of those who call them home are involved in the growth and production of the Xihu Longjing, also known as West Lake Dragonwell tea.
Economy of Xihu
Hangzhou is renowned for its historic relics and natural beauty, which makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in China. With West Lake as its most popular attraction, tourism is a large part of the city’s economy. The economy as a whole has more than tripled since 2001, and continues to grow today. The city has worked to develop many new industries including medical, electronics, telecommunication, and chemical.