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A Meeting with Mr. He, Tea Grower

Mr. He works for the Office of Agricultural Research, where he develops new teas. He has also been a tea grower since 1991.

How did you get to where you are today in the world of tea?

My family has been producing tea for several generations, I forget how many exactly; but we grew it only for our own use. When we had too much we gave it away. Tea is part of my family heritage.

From 1987 to 1991, I studied tea at the Agricultural University of Zhejiang, and since then I have always worked in this field. At first I worked for the Department of Agriculture, whose main function was to teach farmers how to cultivate tea trees and the techniques for processing the leaves. Now I work for the Office of Agricultural Research on the development of new teas. At the same time, I own a tea garden where I have been producing my own tea since 1991.

How big is your tea garden?

My garden covers approximately 2 mous [I mou = 1/6 acre or 1/15 ha]. I also rent a tea garden covering 580 mous.

How much tea do you produce every year?
Do you have employees?

I produce more than 1,500 kilos [3,300 pounds] of high-quality tea every year. About 20 people work with me on the plantations and in the factory. In addition, in harvest season, I employ roughly 300 pickers.

Do you have a store where you sell your tea?

I am both a producer and a trader I own two tea stores, and eight others help me sell my tea.

To whom do you sell your tea?
The lacal or international market?

I produce mainly for the local market.

What kind of tea do you produce?

When I started out, purchasing power was low in China, so I produced low-grade teas using machinery for picking. Now that purchasing power has increased, I produce high-quality teas from handpicked leaves. I produce less tea now than I did when I started. Even if production costs have risen considerably because of the increase in salaries, I want to continue to produce high-quality teas.

Have you noticed changes in the industry and in your clientele since you started?

At the moment, the Chinese appreciate tea for the way it looks, and that limits the development of the industry. I try to educate consumers so they will learn to better appreciate the taste and the nutritive values of tea and not just the way it looks.