Sunday, July 2, 2006

A Conversation About Pesticide Use in Tea Producing Areas in China

I just had a friendly chat with Sebastien of Jing Tea Shop in Guangzhou who was kind and patient enough to answer my question regarding the rampant and worrisome use of pesticide on tea farms. This of course is an issue of health concern whereby ingestion of unwanted / unnatural chemical may be detrimental to our health, whether the effect is felt within a short or long term period. Even the research essay written by Kathy Zhang (see my previous blog dated 7/1/06) mentions:
"[T]he over-use of pesticide in tea shrub planting is a common problem on many tea plantations. Even if it is true that “the older the better”, what is the point of storing for ages a raw brick which might have come from a plantation where pesticides have been over-used? And how can Puer tea enter the world market successfully?" 1
Please click on the read/post comment (or here) to read my conversation with Sebastien. While I understood the lack of independency for his opinion, I do believe his insight was bona fide and a useful thing to know.

1 Thai-Yunnan Project Bulletin 2006, "Why YIWU : A Puer Tea Home Town in Southwest China" by Kathy Zhang, The Australian National University

4 comments:

~ Phyll said...

[Format and flow edited for content clarity, but the content itself was not edited]

...[snip prior unrelated conversation]...

Phyll says:
I leaned that pesticide is a common problem in pu-erh producing areas...how can I avoid getting teas with dangerous pesticides? And is there a way to neutralize the pesticide (some say dumping the first 30sec brew will take care of this)?

Sebastien says:
Well...you won't have this problem with us since we sell the pu-erh only prior to 2003 or from factory that harvest their leaves in harvesting area that are good, and they do not need chemical because in the mountains the bugs are not a nuisance; not like for the harvesting area that are like fields if you wish. Do you know what I mean? In mountains, there are other bugs to take care of bugs. In the fields, they are not there so farmer needs chemical.

Phyll says:
As in man made cultivated tea farms, if I get your meaning right?

Sebastien says:
They are all man made cultivated tea farm, but there are the tea farms in the mountain and the tea farms that look like fields.

Phyll says:
Ah, I see what you mean...you mean farms that are not originally the habitat of pu-erh needs chemical to support the tea plants...and the ecosystem is different to that in the mountains, so pesticide is used in this unnatural pu-erh habitat (fields)?

Sebastien says:
It isn't "unnatural pu-erh habitat". It is just that in the mountains there are a lot more of bugs than in simple fields where all you got is tea tree. it is the same with Dan Cong, for example. The Dan Cong tree on Wu Dong mountains are among other tree and the farmer do not need pesticide. You can see bugs bite sometimes on some leaves. But not in the mountains, where the fields are only tea tree then they do use pesticide

Phyll says:
Yes, I guess I put my understanding in a confusing way [just now]. But I believe you mean that the ecosystem in the mountains is balanced (“there are bugs to eat other bugs”), while in the fields the ecosystem is not balanced, so pesticide is used to counter pests. This is similar to the idea of biodynamic vineyards.

Sebastien says:
That is what I mean, thank you.

Phyll says:
And that is how I understood it too...I thank you for your explanation, Monsieur!

Sebastien says:
You are very welcome

...[snip subsequent unrelated conversation]...

Anonymous said...

Sebastien is patially right. In high mountain areas there is less insect problems but this is because of the natural low elevation they exist at and not just because there are "more bugs to eat other bugs". In low lying areas actually breed more bugs which is why the pesticides are used, not jsut because there are only tea trees. Elevation is the major factor here (elevation also meaning cooler temperature) not just natural habitat.This is one of the reasons why true high mountain tea is cherished. Teas also need to be alot older than 2003 to be sure they are pesticide free. Biodynamic farming can exist in low lands too but it takes more work which often means more money. Previously pesticides were to expensive for farmers so they used tradtional biodynamic means, now that farmers are making more money and pesticides become cheaper some take the seemingly easy way out. But true pesticide free tea will come from only true high elevation farms or a farm that has never used pesticides or has replenished pesticide ridden soil with healthy soil. Why do people choose low lands for tea growing, because it grows at a more rapid rate and availabilty of land and convience of location, this of course has its negative trade offs.

~ Phyll said...

More awesome and insightful discussion on the subject of pesticide use is available at:

http://community.livejournal.com/puerh_tea/47059.html

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