| Shan Tuyet tea (Photo: Ngoc Anh/VOV5)
Cao Bo village has a population of more than 4,000 people, 96% of them are Dao ethnic minority. The area has good soil and a cool climate suitable for growing tea.
Shan Tuyet tea is a rare variety which can thrive at more than 1,000 meters above sea level on the lime karst mountains of Vietnam’s northeastern region. It has large leaves and many buds covered by white hair, giving it the name snow tea. Shan Tuyet tea has a soft fragrance, brews to a honey-yellow color, and is very good for health. It is considered a specialty of Ha Giang province.
Cao Bo has nearly 1,000 hectares of ancient Shan Tuyet tea trees divided into a lowland region of 7 communes and a highland region of 4 communes. The tea trees are planted between the forest and other crops, not in separate gardens as in other tea areas. A tea hectare is calculated from the number of trees - 1,100 trees to one hectare.
Ly Quoc Hung, Chairman of the Cao Bo People’s Committee, said: “Our advantage is organic tea. Being organic helps local tea growers sell their tea more easily and at higher prices than other areas. Thanks to growing Shan Tuyet tea, many Cao Bo households are prospering and have bought cars and modern appliances. Seen as a spearhead crop for local economic growth, Cao Bo authorities have encouraged villagers to expand their tea production. We have worked with the Cao Bo Organic Tea Company to organize meetings to tell the locals not to use insecticide or inorganic fertilizer.”
Since 2011, Cao Bo tea products have been recognised as organic products by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
In 2016, the Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment (VACNE) presented a certificate recognising 220 Shan Tuyet tea trees in Cao Bo village as heritage trees of Vietnam.
Each year, Cao Bo farmers harvest 3 tea crops - 4 if the weather is good. The first harvest is in the second or third lunar month, which often turns out to be the best tea, worth between 25 and 40 USD a kilo.
Hoang Tinh Kiem, a tea grower in Tham Ve commune, recalls: “My family has about 3 hectares of Shan Tuyet tea. After three years of growing tea, our income has significantly increased. We have purchased a car. Each harvest turns out about 400 kilos, averaging 13 USD a kilo. The village and district administrations have established support programs for tea growers. For instance, a farmer can borrow 4,300 USD with no interest to build a workshop or participate in marketing courses. We are being helped to develop brands and barcodes and geographical indications for Shan Tuyet tea. The commodity-oriented poverty reduction program will help us sign a distribution contract once the production process meets the required standards.”
|Tea production at Hoang Tinh Kiem’s facility (Photo: Ngoc Anh/VOV5)
To encourage farmers to conserve their ancient Shan Tuyet tea trees and expand production, four tea production teams have been established in Cao Bo village with 10 to 20 households on each team.
Dang Thi Phuong, Deputy Chairwoman of the Vi Xuyen district People’s Committee, says: “The tea region in Vi Xuyen district has been recognized as meeting VietGap organic standards. Cao Bo organic tea has been exported to China, Belgium, Russia, and Turkey. Our goal is to make Shan Tuyet tea qualified for the standards of the One Commune-One Product (OCOP) program. Experts are regularly sent to help local farmers adhere to VietGap standards to ensure product quality.”
Each year Cao Bo village exports 200 tons of Shan Tuyet tea to European and Asian countries with prices starting at 6 USD per kilogram of black tea and 8 USD per kilogram of green tea.