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World Cup helps herbal tea makers
Latest Updated by 2006-07-04 08:52:34
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Beer might be the drink of choice for most people watching the World Cup, but not in the Pearl River Delta, where herbal tea is the favourite choice.

"Drinking herbal tea instead of beer is my way of celebrating the games," said Zhu Haifeng, who works at a logistics company in Guangzhou.

Residents in the Pearl River Delta, including Hong Kong and Macao, believe herbal tea, which has a history of more than 100 years, is healthy because they believe it cools the body.

For most herbal tea makers in Guangdong Province, the World Cup is providing a golden opportunity to boost sales of the drink, which was named a national treasure in May.

Zhu said drinking tea during overnight football games makes him feel less tired during the day.

Wong Lo Kat, which is widely regarded as one of the top herbal tea brands, is running a score prediction contest during the tournament to help build up its brand.

"We predict there will be another 'herbal tea fever' because of the World Cup and because of herbal tea's new status," said Huang Changwei, general manager of Guangzhou's Wong Chun Loong Traditional Herbal Tea Co Ltd.

Huang predicted sales revenue would hit more than 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million) during the World Cup period.

Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao's cultural departments jointly applied to have herbal tea named part of China's 'National Intangible Cultural Heritage' last year. This was later approved by the State Council.

A total of 18 brands from 21 herbal tea companies, and 54 secret recipes, are now under the protection of the World Cultural Heritage Protection Convention and China's own laws.

"The recognition will definitely enhance herbal tea brands across the country and the rest of the world, boosting development of the industry," Huang said.

Guangdong is the powerhouse for herbal tea products, with annual sales hitting 2 million tons.

It is estimated that there are about 1,000 herbal tea brands in Guangdong, of which about 500 are based in Guangzhou, the provincial capital. Herbal tea production is expected to reach 60 million tons by 2010.

After the national recognition, many herbal tea makers are expecting to increase their sales networks both inside and outside the Pearl River Delta.

Huang said his company plans to open 200 more outlets in Guangzhou this year.

The company, which was established in 1997, now boasts more than 800 outlets in the Pearl River Delta.

It is also seeking opportunities in North China and Southeast Asian countries.

"As more people become aware of herbal tea's benefits we think the markets will grow," Huang said.

Xu Xingquan, an official with the Xu Qi Xiu Herbal Tea Co Ltd, which is based in Foshan, said his firm would open more than 200 outlets in Guangzhou over the next two years.

Another producer, Jiang Sheng Tang, is planning 1,000 outlets in Guangdong Province this year.

The company moved its headquarter from Foshan to Guangzhou last year in a bid to improve profits.

At present, the company has about 400 tea shops in Guangdong, of which 40 are in Guangzhou.

Sources with the company said that it plans to open chain stores in Shanghai, and Zhejiang and Hunan provinces.

Herbal tea makers are also being urged to pay more attention to quality.

Guangzhou will establish a herbal tea testing centre aimed at protecting the quality of herbal tea ingredients.

Through testing, the centre, which is expected to be completed in January next year, will help protect the industry, said Zhang Junxiu, chairman of the Guangdong Food Profession Association.

"It means that companies with a history of less than 80 years that lack historically and culturally significant recipes, or that produce herbal teas that fail to conform to standard procedures, may be banned," Zhang told China Daily.

He added details of standard ingredients used in herbal tea products would be issued later this year.

There are some private brands that use Western medicinal ingredients in their products, said Zhang.

He said this reduced the effectiveness of herbal tea, which is usually made from traditional Chinese medicinal herbs.

"As herbal tea is usually combined with traditional Chinese medicine, those that use Western medicines will probably not have a big impact," Zhang said.

Some herbal tea outlets have met other problems, such as poor hygiene standards.

"Some producers do not wash their herbs after they buy them, and they also sometimes have unprofessional employees who know little about how to make herbal tea or how to guide buyers," Zhang said.

He added that herbal teas with sub-standard materials could harm people's health.

The new criteria will strictly specify materials, techniques, sanitation standards and testing procedures for herbal tea making, according to Zhang.

"We hope the new criteria will help protect legal brands and boost their development, as well to expand herbal tea drinking across the world," Zhang said.

Editor: Yan

By: Qiu Quanlin Source: China Daily Website
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