The Cultural Revolution’s Devastating Effect on Tea Education
In order to understand the current state of tea and the effect of the Cultural Revolution on tea, you must first learn a little China history. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong, China’s controversial leader since the communist party came to power in 1949, had the goal of wiping out any connection the Chinese people had to their traditional culture. He was just doing what he thought was the only way to save his country. At that time, China was being invaded by multiple foreign powers such as the US, Japan, and others. He thought that if he did not do something drastic, then China would be completely taken over. What he didn’t count on was how devastating his policies would be for his country. Since tea was a major part of traditional Chinese culture, he was determined to destroy its legacy. He ordered tea plantations to be burnt down and had old stores full of tea, such as really old puer, confiscated or destroyed. The loss of so many old puer stores was so devastating that the Chinese had to develop a way to ferment puer more quickly. This is how modern fermented (ripe) puer tea began. Fermented (ripe) puer tea is known in Chinese as shou, ripe or cooked, puer. It typically takes 7 years until puer starts naturally fermenting properly, as one of my most trusted traditional Chinese medicine doctors shared with me. In this new style of quick fermentation, they pour water over the leaves and pile them in an almost greenhouse-like room with something covering the tea so it can decompose more quickly. Just before it turns moldy, they dry fry it in a wok, or in a large scale factory they will use machines.
Tea has had very long history in China, but the first real tea course established in Chinese universities was in 1936 at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangdong, China. However, from 1936 to 1976, China went through a lot of tough times. After the 10 years of Cultural Revolution ended, China started to develop again. In 1977, Chinese universities started to open up again, and the first university students after the Cultural Revolution graduated in 1982. Those students’ jobs were all arranged by the government – they were required to do jobs that exactly related to what they had studied in the university, and every single student who graduated was placed in a job when they graduated. Many of them are still in important positions now.
No matter whether it is politics, economy, culture, education, or agriculture…..no matter which part of China, the first university students who graduated in 1982 are still controlling China. They have had more opportunities than any other graduating class, and as of now they have lots of influence.
From 1949 until the end of the Cultural Revolution, China had no private enterprises. From 1985 onward, the Chinese started a circulation market based on the agricultural organization revolution period. At that time, which was exactly when those graduated students started working and changing the Chinese economy, until 1994, China started to open up for tea export. At that time, each of the tea provinces like Zhejiang, Anhui, Guangdong, Yunnan, Sichuan, etc. all had tea import and export state-owned enterprises. The students who graduated from the tea programs in agriculture universities all went back to the provinces where they originally came from to work in those tea import and export state-owned enterprises. Because tea export required people who can speak English, those who could speak English and also graduated from the tea programs in agricultural universities were most likely to be in charge of tea export in the tea import and export state-owned enterprises. At that time, the tea import and export state-owned enterprises divided the international major tea import market as follows: Europe, the UK, the Middle East, Japan, the US, and Morocco. Those areas were all major tea export markets which were targeted. Those people who could speak English and graduated from the tea programs at the Agriculture University were sent to those different areas to establish the market for the tea import and export state-owned enterprises. Some of them stayed in those different countries over the years and got lots of customer information, and some never returned to China (at that time, a normal person being able to get out of China was an unbelievable opportunity) and found a new life overseas.
Some people started to control the particular markets that they specialized in. They had all the customer information and they started to use the tea import and export state-owned enterprises to sell teas to those customers, using their situation of information asymmetry, so that both they and the customers could earn commissions. This was a big time in the world of tea business. At this time, those Chinese who had the opportunity to go abroad and establish the overseas markets built up personal relationships with specific persons who worked in the import tea companies in those other countries, and both of them started to accumulate funds. Most of them have maintained this relationship to this very day, and they are mostly 50+ or 60+ years old now. They still have control over the business, and for some of them, when they retire, their children will inherit their business.
Around 1990 to 2000, some of those Chinese who were in that first graduating class after the Cultural Revolution and worked for tea import and export state- owned enterprises had already accumulated sufficient funds to start their own companies. Afterwards, more and more private enterprises started up during Deng Xiaoping’s time. Deng Xiaoping was the head leader of China and also established very open policies and opportunities for private enterprises, as well as for those people who had very close relationships with other countries’ tea import business directors. Gradually, the tea import and export state-owned enterprises were forgotten by the world, and the overseas market insiders with their current private companies were more in touch with the markets. These people had more power and money than anybody else. From the buying of tea plantations to exportation, the whole chain of production has been controlled by this type of people in China until today. Some of them became major shareholders of tea import and export state-owned enterprises, and some of them established their own export tea companies. Today, some of them are part of fair trade and organic certification entities, but their purpose is ultimately to profit from the tea export business. Essentially, nothing has changed in years.
So this can very clearly explain why after the Tea Research Institute of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences created new breeds of tea plants and chemicals, as the mass production tea industry could then easily expand across the entire country. From the source to the market, everything is in the exact same chain, and control lies in the hands of only a very few people.
Nowadays, most young students who graduate from agricultural university don’t even have the opportunity to see how a specific tea is produced, and some of them don’t have any opportunity to get involved with the tea industry, even though they graduated from a tea program in the university. Their only wish is to find a simple job. I had few friends who were young and full of energy when they graduated from the tea program at their agriculture university. They told me they loved tea and wanted to do something about tea, but when you really get to know them, you discover that some of them have beautiful wishes, but don’t even really know what they have learned at the university. A young boy who had just graduated from the tea program at an agricultural university came to visit me, and we drank tea together. I asked him if he knew how to process black tea, and he couldn’t give me even a basic answer. Then when we drank a normal white tea, he told me, “What a nice cup of green tea!”
I feel very sad that some of our young people lack the opportunity to get a good education in the subject of tea at the university. Most of them just memorized answers for exams, and when they graduate, they may not even have the opportunity to see what a real tea tree is like. But some middle-aged and elderly people (in that first class that graduated after the Cultural Revolution) still control the whole tea world and are letting those young people become their foolish slaves.
Nowadays, the tea world is still controlled by those types of people in China. The Cultural Revolution destroyed China’s traditional vibrancy, and nowadays, people are fully under the influence of those powerful personages from that first graduating class whose sole purpose is making money.
If you would interested in to know more how this situation could influence the world of tea industries, and how it can influence a cup of tea in your hand...
For more informations. Please check
• Tea Book The Wild Truth of Tea
• Tea book 5 Element Tea
• Tea Book Tea Poison
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