Centuries ago, the best tea from the Leigong Mountains would be sent to the imperial palace as tribute. Rarely available outside the region, Cloud Needle tea from the Leigong Mountains has been regarded as locally kept secret. As time passed, the craft was slowly abandoned and natural treasure forgotten, but today Leishan Tea has been revived with the help of Geely and local farmers.
The Leigong Mountains in Guizhou, Southwest China benefit from subtropical monsoon climate resulting in a unique natural environment and vibrant ecosystem. The area has been named a national nature reserve and protected from pollution. With its pristine landscape and natural resources blessed by nature, Leigong Mountains is regarded as a priceless green emerald in the area.
The tea gardens here are located in the heart of the Leigong Mountains at an altitude between 1,100 and 1,400 meters which offers marvelous tea growing conditions including low latitude, high altitude, low sunlight, abundant fog, and pristine natural ecology. The unique conditions result in tea leaves which grow slow and thick, accumulating amino acid, tea polyphenols, and catechins.
As the spring breeze blows and sunlight peek through the foggy sky, the harvest season has arrived. With the sweet fragrance of tea in the air, local Miao farmers fill the high mountains, hand picking high quality tea leaves. These farmers have plant and processed the renowned tea in a traditional manner for generations. Centuries ago, the best tea from this region would be sent to the imperial palace as tribute. Rarely available outside the region, Cloud Needle tea from the Leigong Mountains has been regarded as locally kept secret.
However, as time passed, it has become harder to survive just on tradition alone. An excellent harvest brought new challenges and difficulties to the local ethnic Miao farmers who did not have the means to process and sell all they’ve harvested. Many who once made their livelihood producing and selling the renowned Cloud Needle tea, gave up on the trade and the fields left deserted. Li Tongping, a villager from Sanjiaotian village, Leishan County, influenced by memories of his father’s generation, decided to save the tradition and make his living in tea. Looking back at his decision he reminisced “The uncultivated tea fields going to waste brought sorrow to my heart.” Mr. Li gathered the rest of the villagers together and formed a local tea cooperative in order to find a way to preserve their tradition and at the same time better their lives. However, the cooperative’s inexperience in industrial production and marketing held back its development, causing much stress to Mr. Li, who didn’t want to disappoint his fellow villagers.
In 2018, Geely Holding Group came to Leigong Mountain region and gave its support to Mr. Li’s tea cooperative. Geely’s Targeted Poverty Alleviation Program, “Geely Timely Rain” provided the cooperative with advanced industrial equipment and technologies as well as Geely’s expertise in business. Combining modern technology and business acumen with the cooperative’s traditional tea processing method and spirit of the local farmers, tea from the Leigong Mountains was able to reach a broader consumer base and open up more channels for the distribution of their high-quality tea.
To guarantee and improve the quality of Leishan Tea, Geely invited an expert from Zhejiang Tea Group for the technical support. Bao Xingwei is a senior tea assessor from the National Tea Standardization Committee, who believes that advanced equipment and technologies are essential to consistently produce high-quality tea. However, before advanced equipment and technology can add any more value to a tea, the foundation must be good. Bao Xingwei comments: ”Good tea must come from a good environment, with the essence of nature here, I can taste the pure flavor in Guizhou tea, exactly as it should be.”
The expert invited by Geely will stay in the village in the Leigong Mountains to help the cooperative adapt to the new technologies, further develop their quality control management, cultivate the local tea brand, and lift themselves out of poverty. Geely will also help to expand the cooperative’s sales channel and develop the Leishan Tea brand, helping achieve sustainable development in the local tea industry.
Yu Ying, also known as her Miao name Wo Ye, one of the thousands of ethnic Miao villagers living around the Leigong Mountains. Her sole source of income is her work and participation in the local tea cooperative. Although it’s tiring to harvest and process all the tea in April, Yu Ying feels very happy this year, she said: “Our lives have gotten better after Geely Timely Rain came.” Geely spent over 20 million RMB through this program and established the Leishan Tea Culture Project, developing the local tea industry and helping more than 5,000 impoverished farmers. Instead of purchasing tea from the farmers directly, Geely donated advanced tea processing equipment, helped the tea cooperative develop and expand, and created a new tea brand.
For Geely, this was not the first time to the company has integrated tea into their corporate culture. Based in Hangzhou, a historic city famed for its Longjing tea and tea culture, Geely has inevitably been influenced by the ancient heritage of tea. While other automakers offered coffee or other drinks to their guests during the events, Geely has always treat them with tea prepared in a traditional manner. Even Geely’s dealers follow a strict policy of offering customers and guests high-quality seasonal tea at their shops. In promoting Leishan Tea, Geely has joined with the Forbidden Palace Cultural Project to create a limited edition Palace’s Grace tea, named after tea gifted to guests by the imperial palace in the past as a sign of the emperor’s grace, the same tea that in the past the came from the Leigong Mountains as tribute.