In Hengxian's Jasmine Tea Market Ideals Bend to Market Reality

At the crack of dawn I left Nanning for Hengxian, a small township with a population of around 50,000 that's the jasmine tea capital of the world. About 10 years ago or so a drastic shift began, where jasmine tea production started moving from Fuzhou, the jasmine destination for many decades, to Hengxian, here in Guangxi. The trend started because of the lower cost of land, labor, and of fresh jasmine flowers to scent the tea. The local government has been aggressively luring jasmine tea factory owners to put up shop right here in Hengxian. They offer low-cost loans and it seemed that overnight, everyone who was doing anything with jasmine tea was moving here.

Mr. Chen and I are among the few holdouts still doing jasmine tea in Fuzhou, where costs are much higher. Right now, only ultra-high-quality jasmine teas are still produced in Fuzhou; large-quantity production has almost all gone to Hengxian. Because of the slumping economy, I also must reluctantly move some of my larger and lower-priced orders to Hengxian in order to compete.

It's a real shame when people such as Mr. Chen and I, who do things right, are forced to bow to pressure from price and competition, which don't necessarily reward a job well done. Mr. Chen and I will continue to make our great jasmine tea possible by resisting the trend, but I also need to keep some of my less quality-oriented customers happy by making tea they can afford. With a heavy heart I arrived at the factory where my wholesale orders were made. I spent the day cupping each batch, giving instructions, and working out cost. I'm happy to report that Hengxian jasmine production has really improved, since a lot of the skilled labor from Fuzhou moved here. I rejected all of the working examples and gave orders to re-do to everything, but inside, I know it will work out and they've done a good job.

Tomorrow I return to Nanning for a late-night flight to Beijing, where I'll cup all the samples that have arrived at my house while I've been away. Maybe one more visit to the tea wholesale district before I pack up and go home to the US!