Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Meng Hai Tea Factory: A Very Short History


[[EDITOR'S NOTE: This history was originally posted to teemann.blogspot.com on 23 March 2006. It is republished here with the author's permission.]]

1938 – The China government assigned Zheng Hechun (郑鹤春) and Feng Shaoqiu (冯绍裘), two employees of the China Tea Corporation (中国茶业公司), to Yunnan to map its economical potential as a tea producing region.

1940 – Fo Hai Experimental Tea Factory (佛海实验茶厂) was established under the management of Mr Fan Hejun (范和均).

1941, August – The basic production line was completed, and the experimental 1st batch of Fo Hai Tea Factory Dian Hong (black/red tea) was produced.

1942 – The start of the Pacific war forced the closure of the factory under the orders of the head office, and all its employees relocated to Kunming. The employees managed to complete the construction of the rest of the factory within a week before leaving for Kunming, but had to take down the machine room lest the Japanese find use for it as a power source. In the oral records, according to Mr Fan, Fo Hai Tea Factory could not produce tea on a large scale at the time. Its major role was to act as guarantor to the small tea farms and makers in Yunnan, to assist them in the final stage of the production, and to help with export documentations. During that time, they managed to export 78 crates of Yunnan green tea to India, and 56 crates to Myanmar. The factory also exported a shipment of pu’er to Siam.

1944 – Fo Hai Tea Factory resumed business, only to close again after a year. During this time, the factory produced only Dian Hong.

1952 – Fo Hai Tea Factory resumed business once more, and produced the famous Label brands (印级) under the unified Zhong Cha tea brand (中茶牌); the first batch was the Red Label. Green Label replaced the rest of the label colours in the late 1950s.

1953 – The autonomous state of Xishuangbanna was established. Fo Hai Tea Factory changed its name to Meng Hai Tea Factory (勐海茶厂).

1973 – Both Kunming and Menghai Tea Factories managed to successfully create cooked pu’er, and produced their first cooked pu’er brick teas. The ones produced by Menghai Tea Factory are known as “73 Thick Brick,” or “Later Period Cultural Revolution Brick.” These bricks were overly cooked, and have lost their pu’er qualities, yet they remain a favourite among pu’er lovers.

1976 – CNNP (China Tushu) urged all three factories: Kunming, Menghai and Xiaguan to increase their production of cooked pu’er, and assigned identification codes to the factories. Menghai Tea Factory’s production code would be “2.”

1976-1979 – Menghai Tea Factory’s main export product was loose leaf pu’er; of the compressed cakes there were only two: 7452 and 7572 (both cooked pu’er).

1979 – Export demand for Menghai Tea Factory increased, with more blends appearing in the market: 7542, 7532, 7582, etc.

1981 – Menghai Tea Factory accepted its first private consignment (through CNNP) from Hongkong’s An Li Tea Company (安利茶行), and produced the 7572 raw pu’er cakes – the only one that is different from the cooked version.

1985 – Menghai Tea Factory made the first production of 8582 pu’er raw cakes for Hongkong’s Nan Tian Tea Trading Company (南天贸易公司), through CNNP.

1988 – The Dayi brand (大益牌) of Menghai Tea Factory made its first appearance, on tea bricks:

1989, 20th June – Dayi brand became the registered brand under Menghai Tea Factory, which began major export production of pu’er tea.

1994 – Menghai Tea Factory produced the Dayi brand compressed bingcha, and the factory began preparations to go private.

1996 – Menghai Tea Factory privatized, and the Xishuangbanna Menghai Tea Industry Co. Ltd was established (西双版纳勐海茶业有责任公司).

1999 – The factories were allowed to deal directly with tea traders (i.e. without the mediation of CNNP).

2004, 25th October – The Bowin company (博文投资有限公司) bought out Menghai Tea Factory and Xishuangbanna Menghai Industry Co., Ltd.

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