Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
A Comparison of Tea Production in Hangzhou, China, and Rungwe and Mufindi Districts in TanzaniaThe Romeo/Gilbert Intercultural Endowment from CIIS allowed me to take a week out from the Shanghai abroad program to travel to Zhejiang province in China to carry out research on tea production. Then in summer ‘08, I travelled to two tea-producing areas in Tanzania to do the same thing using the Fred Kars Grant from the Global Studies Department. The results of these trips will form a large part of my Senior Project as a Global Studies major, to be completed in April 2009.
Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, is sometimes described as the tea capital of the world. I was struck by the importance of tea to the city and surrounding areas. The area is famous for the specialty Longjing green tea and many tourists come to the historical town and buy tea. Longjing tea is among the most famous teas in China. It is processed by farmers and fetches a considerably higher price than ordinary green or black tea. The area has been popularized as a ‘tea destination' and even Chinese government officials travel to the area to buy tea or visit the ‘teahouses' and drink tea. So a ‘tea tourism' has developed whereby tourists visit teahouses, drink and buy tea, and relax with their friends in the beautiful surroundings. The government has helped develop certain areas to foster this tourism. It was interesting to see how dependent these people are on the tea industry for their livelihoods.
Whereas in Zhejiang the farmers only cultivated tea, in both Rungwe and Mufindi Districts in Tanzania, there was a variety of crops grown on the smallholders land. This included maize, beans, and bananas. Some farmers had livestock too and there were numerous farmers not cultivating tea. People were not as dependent on tea as in Hangzhou. It is important to note that most tea in Tanzania is produced on large commercial estates; however, my focus was on the smallholder sector. Tea in Tanzania is mostly processed into black tea, and this is done at factories. Smallholders and casual laborers pluck tea and carry it to ‘pick up points' where lorries transport the green leaf to the factory. The farmers are paid every two weeks based on a predetermined ‘price per kilogram' method.
The tourist aspect of tea culture was absent in Tanzania except for Rungwe Tea and Tours which gives visitors a ‘tea tour' and offers trips to visit beautiful natural scenery in the area. These tours are part of the Rungwe Smallholders Tea Growers Association which is a fairly recent development to the tea sector in the area. It acts like a farmer co-operative with over 15000 members, owns shares in the Wakulima Tea Company, and is involved in the fair-trade movement. Smallholder tea in Mufindi was on its way to fair trade certification too, with the help of TechnoServe, an NGO.
At this point, my research has focused on the history of tea as a commodity. This is key to my project as the experiences of China and Tanzania differ vastly. Tea is indigenous to China while it was brought to Tanzania at the beginning of the 20th century. This has important implications if one is to understand the nature of the tea sector in each area.
Eric Kinsey '09