Lao villagers taste success through Chinese tea


Rural residents bring tea they have grown to sell at the 36 Manor plantation in the Paksong district of Champasak province in Laos. [Photo/Xinhua]

A tea garden in the Paksong district of Champasak province has been good news for local people, providing them with a better lifestyle than they have ever known.

The plantation, which is owned by Lao Manor, a China-Laos venture, is one of the largest tea companies in Laos.

"In recent years, local people have built many new houses by selling tea to us," says Hu Xiaofeng, head of the plantation's factory. The factory not only processes tea from the 36 Manor plantation, but also encourages nearby villagers to plant their own tea, which the factory purchases.

"I can pick as much as 10 kilograms each day. I make 10,000 kips ($0.8) per kg," says Joy Keoduangta. The 24-year-old has been working in the 36 Manor plantation for four years. She can earn more than 100,000 kips ($8) a day from picking tea, about double the amount that is earned in nearby factories.

In the Bolaven Plateau of southern Laos, 484 km south of the capital Vientiane, many tea trees in the garden are more than 100, or even 1,000 years old. The tropical climate and loamy volcanic soil combine to give the tea a unique delicate flavor.

"Pesticides and fertilizers have never been used here," Xaiy Buaphaivan says. Xaiy is delighted to be working with organic products and has been in charge of the garden for four years.

"I used to work in a coffee garden and earned about 7 to 8 million kips ($601-687) a year. Now, I earn more than 20 million kips," he says. "And the tea tastes very good, too."


Staff members of the plantation process tea grown on the Bolaven Plateau of southern Laos. [Photo/Xinhua]

Governor of Paksong district, Phimphone Phannanouvong, says that the company has made a great contribution to the local community. The 36 Manor tea from Paksong has been selected by the Lao government as a national gift to share with the world.

"The company not only makes Paksong tea famous, but also promotes the advanced planting, care and processing of the tea, creating employment for local people, improving their standard of living and raising the quality and value of Paksong tea," says Phimphone.

Bounyadeth Thongsavan, director of Champasak industry and trade department, says 36 Manor has created a lot of jobs and driven the increase of the regional GDP. "I hope the company will keep improving and planting more, and create more jobs," he says.

There are only 800 people in the village that is home to the plantation, and before the garden opened, more than half of them lived in poverty. Khamchan Phetbuachan has been the chief of the village since 1999.

"After the 36 Manor company came, villagers switched to planting tea and working in the tea plantation. We're quite well-off now," he says. There are very few, four or five, poor households remaining.

Paksong 36 Manor tea won first prize in the black tea category at the 2021 World Tea Championship in the United States.

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