In China, we have a proverb that ‘the finest tea comes from good mountain and good water,’ which means a good environment is a basic condition for high quality tea production. In history, all famous teas were planted at the location that had the best scenery and weather, such as Longjing in West Lake, Lapsang in Wuyi Mountain, and Maofeng in Yellow Mountain.
However, due to nationwide increases in pollution and use of agrochemicals in recent decades, as well as all kinds of other human activities, the tea estates and environment in which tea is grown are losing their appeal. Farmed land in China has problems with rubbish and dirty water, and moreover, in order to attract tourists, villas, cement roads, and pavilions are being built at the tea gardens with no consideration for environmental sustainability. Day after day they’re becoming ordinary farms the same as other crops. Worryingly, the natural appearance of the tea plantation is vanishing.
When I visited tea gardens in Sri Lanka to be part of the farmer field school training, I was fully impressed by the wonderful scenery there. The sky is so blue and the air is so clear, I almost suspected that I was back to a previous age before the Chinese environment was damaged. We stayed at a villa nearby a beautiful lake. Across from the lake there were tea gardens at Green Mountain with locally dressed farmers plucking the tea. Although several tea factories are located in the area and villages surround the lakeside, no visible rubbish or pollution could be seen. When sitting at the villa balcony with a cup of Ceylon tea, the breeze touched my face and I felt the harmony between man and nature.
At morning I walked around the tea garden to watch the sun rise; at night I looked up at the sky full with shining stars. These are the scenes we don’t see in China for a long time. When I sent the photos to my friends, all of them were so surprised and inspired to come to Sri Lanka as well! In China we have been working hard for a better and more prosperous life for the past 40 years and creating a more powerful country. Unfortunately we neglected one important thing, maybe the most important thing – a good and healthy environment. And now we suffer the consequences: food safety, health problems, climate change, and resource shortage. We have to learn the lesson and do all we can to remedy the situation before it is too late.
I have to say I love Sri Lanka. It is a small and beautiful country. I will remember what I saw there and will tell Chinese producers my story. If we fail to protect the environment, sooner or later, Chinese tea will no longer be a symbol of our traditional culture, but a problematic product. That’s why the work of the ETP is so important for members and producers. ETP is integrating approaches from farmer field schools that have been so successful in other countries, to our farmer training in China. This training has a big focus on protecting the environment, which is so important for all our future.
- Taking Farmer Field Schools to Sri Lankan Tea Plantations by Dushy Perera
- From Workers to Tea Farmers by Joseph Wagurah