21 June 2007
A Chinese beverage company has struck a US$20-million agreement with a South African firm to produce, bottle and market herbal tea in the country and the southern African region.
Hutchinson Whampoa Guangzhou Baiyunshan Chinese Medicine Company’s general manager, Li Chuyuan, told Chinese news agency Xinhua last week that his company had signed the deal with South Africa’s FHC Group to set up a bottling plant and promote the drink.
Guangzhou municipality reports that the same Chinese-South African partners have signed a $120-million deal on developing artemisinin, which is use as a treatment for malaria. However, no further details were given.
Chuyuan told the agency his company was optimistic that herbal tea sales would take off in Africa.
Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong province, China’s powerhouse for herbal tea products. The director of Guangdong’s food and drug industry association, Zhang Junxiu, told Xinhua that production of bottled herbal tea surpassed production of Coca-Cola in China in 2006.
With the domestic industry booming, and further incentives in the form of national recognition, China’s herbal tea makers are now taking aim at markets beyond the Pearl River Delta.
National intangible treasure
According to the People’s Daily Online website, residents in China’s Pearl River Delta, including Hong Kong and Macao, believe herbal tea is healthy because it cools the body.
The drink has a history of over 100 years in the area. In 2005 the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao successfully applied to have herbal teas named as part of China’s national “intangible cultural heritage”.
According to the website, a total of 18 brands from 21 herbal tea companies, and 54 secret recipes, are now under the protection of both an international cultural heritage protection convention and China’s own laws.
“The recognition will definitely enhance herbal tea brands across the country and the rest of the world,” Guangzhou-based Wong Chun Loong Traditional Herbal Tea Company’s general manager, Huang Changwei, told People’s Daily Online