Travel restrictions and confinement policies due to the novel coronavirus pandemic have hindered many Hangzhou tea plantations when it comes to recruiting labor. After weeks of organization, Hangzhou government was able to charter buses to pick up 546 skilled workers from Quzhou City in western Zhejiang Province.
A tea garden on hill slopes
On March 22, another cavalcade of charter buses carried about 900 pickers from Anhui and Jiangxi provinces to Hangzhou.
Meanwhile, subdistricts, including Wengjiashan, Yangmeiling, Manjuelong and Shuangfeng Village, are set to pick up about 6,300 out-of-town workers in the coming days.
The Longjing tea harvest officially started on March 15, and the most tender leaves must be collected within about one month.
The harvested tea leaves go through 10 hours of processing, including ventilating, drying, screening and frying before being packaged in tins.
Freshly produced Longjing tea
To promote efficiency, some farms are using drones to transport tea leaves from picking sites to processing workshops, instead of waiting for pickers to carry them down hill slopes.
The drones can cut transportation time by about 2 hours, which will help maintain the freshness and aroma of picked tea leaves.
Stringent pandemic control measures are still ongoing in Hangzhou’s tea plantation areas. Local authorities have developed an online service platform to monitor the health of out-of-town pickers on a daily basis.
At the same time, tea companies and farms that plan to resume production can submit applications to do so on the platform. Local authorities will issue approvals online, cutting down face-to-face contact.
So far, the platform has already gathered data from 3,025 farms, 17 tea companies and 6,105 pickers.
Zhu Hongbao boasts around 20,000 square meters of tea trees. He has operated an outlet at Jiefang Road Tea Wholesale Market for 25 years.
“I haven’t worried about the staffing situation, since the village committee helped me pick up workers from other provinces. Before entering the village, every picker must show a health code and get their temperature checked,” said Zhu. “Now they lodge in my house and I cover all expenses.”
The wholesale market has cut two months’ rent for merchants like Zhu. At present, 101 outlets have reopened with official approval.
Most villagers in Hangzhou’s hilly area earn a living from growing Longjing tea. Leaves picked before the Qingming Festival (which falls on April 4 this year) are said to be of the highest quality. Traditionally, these leaves are known as mingqian Longjing.
Due to recent sunny weather, Hangzhou is expected to produce high-quality Mingqian Longjing this year, with prices running between 6,000 yuan (US$856) and 10,000 yuan per kilogram.As China’s coronavirus outbreak winds down, tea houses in Hangzhou are also starting to reopen. These establishments not only serve fresh local tea, but many of them also perform traditional tea ceremonies for visitors.
Source: SHINE Editor: Su Yanxian
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