Tea in China

According to Chinese legend, Shennong–the ancient Chinese deity of agriculture–was boiling water under a Camellia tree when leaves from the tree fell into his pot. Intrigued by the fragrance, Shennong took a sip, found the taste refreshing, and the first pot of tea was brewed. Tea is an integral part of Chinese culture and is consumed and available in just about every setting imaginable. As such, farmers not only consider growing the crop part of their job, but also an important contribution to the country’s cultural heritage.

Tea plantations in the Xihu district in China.

The Challenge

“It’s not very difficult for me to produce tea because the traditional way to dry leaves has been around for centuries,” says Yang Jiam Ping, who has been farming tea for more than 40 years. The trouble starts when pests, like the tea leaf hopper, attack the plant. Plant scientist Qiang Xiao says, “The hopper is attracted to tea leaf liquid like mosquitoes are attracted to human blood.” The tea leaf hopper is the main threat to tea production in Asia, causing losses of up to 30 percent if not properly controlled.

Waitress Xiao Juan Zhu with a tray of tea at the Qing Teng Tea House in Hangzhou City, China.

The Solution

If you like drinking tea, then Professor Qiang Xiao has an important job. “I work in the Tea Research Institute of China, and my major job is to find ways to control tea pests, especially the tea leaf hopper,” he says. Professor Xiao researches both bio- and chemical-control methods that provide tea farmers with a variety of tools and effective protection for their crops. “Drinking tea is very good for human health, so I think my job is quite important,” Professor Xiao says.

Weng yun Juan (left) and Weng Yung Hua (right) drinking tea at the Li Geng Tang Tea House in Meijiawu Tea Village, China.