Lam Dong province possesses the largest tea area in Vietnam with 23,876 ha, of which 22,920 ha produces fresh tea buds; and its productivity reached around 192,806 tonnes in 2010. Mr Nguyen Van Thu, Vice Chairman of Vietnam Tea Association (VITAS) confirmed: Along with over 80 year-history of tea production and processing, Lam Dong tea has played a vital part in forming Vietnamese tea culture.
Tea production areas in Bao Loc, Lam Dong province
History of Lam Dong tea area
Before 1975: Tea plants first appeared in Cau Dat (Lam Dong province) in 1927 and were present in Bao Loc and Di Linh after1930, when National Road 20 from Da Lat to Sai Gon was basically completed. Tea is one of the industrial plants that appeared earliest in the B'lao area and soon confirmed its leading position in this land, starting from tea plantations such as Felit B'lao and B'lao Sierre.
“B'lao tea” appeared later, only in the 1970s and 1980s, when private enterprises took part in tea business, aiming to distinguish themselves from the tea of “the North”. The difference came from processing methods and flavours of tea between “the North” and “the South”. Just by the brand of product, consumers could select one that suited their tastes. Therefore, dealers could easily sell tea products. Later on, in an open economy, enterprises approached modern marketing, so they more clearly specified their products’ brands, and the words “B'lao tea” gradually disappeared in product packages.
During the 80s: Tea plants were raised and grown on land exploited by farmers. Tea breeds as well as planting techniques were mainly conveyed among farmers who had work experience in French tea plantations; breeding method was quite simple, mainly from tea plant’s seedlings to grow.
During the 90s: Tea plants were largely grown in Bao Loc upland, however breeding method and cultivation techniques had not been improved, and the F2 generation tea plant became weaker in antibiotic action and productivity. Cutting methods were another reason behind reduced tea productivity.
At the end of the 90s: There was new kind of tea appearing in Lam Dong, called “green tea”. This was a new tea breed, which required too much effort and money for planting techniques and care conditions, so only a few farmers planted it, although it gave much higher productivity. Farmers from upland and surrounding areas did not accept this new breed for three main reasons: First, support and propagation of agriculture development authorities was not strong; second, farmers’ mindset changed slowly; and third, investment costs were high.
From 2000 to date: With the adoption of Oolong tea breeds from Taiwan, China, the Lam Dong tea industry has developed broadly and become a method for local poverty reduction.
Vietnamese tea brand built upon Lam Dong tea
According to VITAS, Vietnam possesses 125,000 ha of tea, among which Lam Dong contributes about 21 percent (about 26,000 ha). Lam Dong’s annual productivity amounts to 162,000 tonnes of fresh tea buds, holding nearly 27 percent of nationwide tea production; Lam Dong tea earnings top the country at over VND 280 million per ha annually. Lam Dong is also the first province where enterprises apply biotechnologies to make tea products comply with safety standards; “Eco-tourism tea” also appeared first there and will have sustainable development. Lam Dong becomes the first province in Vietnam to organise a Tea Culture Festival.
From the early 20th century, Vietnamese tea products were available in the European market labelled by French facilities that grew, processed and exported tea. So far, Vietnamese tea products have been exported to 107 markets throughout the world. VITAS has been permitted by the Government to chair a program of establishing national brand of Vietnamese tea. Domestically, Vietnamese tea now has its own logo “CheViet” certificated by the Ministry of Culture and Information (Now Ministry of Information and Communications). The National Office of Intellectual Property (Ministry of Science and Technology) also has granted certification of trademark registration. VITAS has also registered its trademark “CheViet” under the Madrid Agreement directly with 73 countries and territories worldwide. Thus, the logo “CheViet” has been broadcast in many countries such as Britain, Germany, Belarus, USA, Dubai, Australia, Thailand, Ukraine, Russia and China. On the route toward building the Vietnamese tea brand, one of the most basic foundation authorities should lean on is the best points of Lam Dong tea.