Alliance to build strong foundations for industry
Workers pack milkvetch tea at a plant in Hengshan Tea Corp in Hunyuan county. [Photo by Song Rongxiang for China Daily]
To promote Shanxi's herbal tea industry, the Shanxi Herbal Tea Alliance was established on April 21. It aims to represent the interests of the province's 100-plus herbal tea enterprises.
Responsible for the promotion of herbal tea products, drafting industrial standards and helping members register their trademarks and design corporate identities, the alliance has been hailed by businesspeople as a milestone for the industry.
Li Anping, secretary-general of the alliance and board chairman of Zhendong Health Industry Group based in Changzhi city, said the goal of the alliance is to help promote Shanxi's herbal tea products to the domestic and international markets with strengthened collaborations in research and development, branding and marketing.
One of the initial moves of the alliance is its cooperation with Shanxi University of Chinese Medicine in building a herbal tea institute.
"The institute will focus on the research of recipes and production techniques as well as products R&D, helping foster a herbal tea industrial cluster with core technologies and its own intellectual property," Li said.
He noted that Shanxi is home to many unique medical herbs. However, the rich resources didn't bring much benefit to local farmers, producers and dealers in the past.
"In the past, most of the businesses in the field focused on selling herbs to medicine producers as raw materials for producing medicines,"Li said, adding that there were only some small firms engaged in herbal production and sales.
He said the institute and the alliance will offer R&D services to producers, helping design "sought-after products" for consumers with better taste and better uses.
Like Li Anping, many producers in Shanxi are now attaching more importance to the teas' taste and uses.
Hu Pingping is an eighth-generation tea-making technique inheritor of the time-honored firm Hu's Rong Tea in Taiyuan, the provincial capital of Shanxi.
The veteran tea maker admitted that "most herbal teas don't taste as good as traditional teas".
"Only when we improve the taste, can the herbal teas with many health benefits become more popular among consumers," Hu said.
She noted that the R&D team of her company is planning to cooperate with the herbal tea institute to develop more "delicious teas".
In addition to the herbal tea institute, secretary-general Li said the alliance is planning to establish more partnerships with entities inside and outside the industry.
Guo Yanjie contributed to this story.