QUANG NAM – People in Tam Son commune, Nui Thanh district, are recovering the Duc Phu tea variety, which was brought over by the French over a hundred years ago.
Nearly two years ago, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Lien, 60 years old, in Duc Phu village, Tam Son commune, Nui Thanh district, was granted 5,000 tea seedlings by the government, planted on an area of 1,500 m2. “In the past, tea spread on the hillsides, but I broke down planting acacia wood, now I do the opposite,” she said.
After more than 15 months of planting, Mrs. Lien’s tea garden was harvested. The first batch collected 30 kg of fresh, and sold 20,000 VND/kg to the Duc Phu tea cooperative. The longer it is planted, the taller the tree, the more branches, and the larger the harvest.
Similarly, Mr. Chau Van Diem, 64 years old, from Duc Phu village, also converted more than 5 acres of land for growing acacia wood into tea trees. Due to the low yield of newly planted trees, each year they can collect several tens of millions of dong, but in about 5 years, they can collect 100 million dong/year.
According to Mr. Diem, growing tea is not difficult because indigenous seedlings are available and suitable for this land. Compared with acacia trees, the growth period of tea trees is shorter, the harvest is stable all year round, and the risk of damage due to natural disasters is also less.
Mrs. Nguyen Thi Lien is cultivating a nearly two-year-old tea tree. Photo: Son Thuy
Tea trees have been grown in Nui Thanh since 1884, by a Frenchman named Maillard who found a suitable land and established Duc Phu plantation in Ky Tra commune, Tam Ky district, now Tam Son commune, Nui Thanh district. The plant variety was brought over by the French and sown in Duc Phu land, after many years, it was replicated to nearly one hundred hectares. Therefore, people used to call it Duc Phu tea.
During the French colonial period, Duc Phu tea was not only known to many generations of domestic connoisseurs but also famous in the West. This type has a lot of sugar, when drinking it has a sweet taste, not bitter like other types.
The French divided into lots numbered from plots 1 to 18. Each plot is about 5 hectares wide, and has its own management team, separated by rows of trees. In 1954, the French withdrew from Vietnam, and the tea plantations were divided among the people to take care of, harvested and sold raw to factories in Tam Ky city, but the income was not high. Therefore, people are no longer interested in tea.
In the last years of the last century, acacia trees gave a great income, the people of Duc Phu broke down tea to grow acacia, then switched to rubber plantations. Nearly a hundred hectares of tea in the French era, but only a few remained.
Mr. Nguyen Van Hung next to the remaining French tea tree in the garden. Photo: Son Thuy
In 2018, Mr. Nguyen Van Hung, 72 years old, was a local but left his hometown to earn a living at a young age. When he was old, he returned to his hometown to live, regretfully looking at the hundreds of years old tea hills being destroyed. Mr. Hung recalled his father’s last words before he died “trying to keep the name Duc Phu tea no matter what”. Because from his grandfather to his father, Hung clung to this tree to raise his children.
On the 3-hectare garden, there are still some scattered French tea trees scattered, Mr. Hung uprooted and planted them in rows and purchased ancient tea trees in the village to form a green garden. He wrote a project to establish the Duc Phu tea cooperative and traveled to many northern provinces to learn from planting as well as processing technology.
Mr. Hung’s work was responded to by the government. In 2020, Tam Son commune will finance the purchase of tea production machinery. Equipment is available, but raw materials are meager, so each year the cooperative produces about 500 kg and sells it locally for 300,000 VND/kg.
In order to increase production, Mr. Hung went to people’s houses to convince them, so far about 50 households have started to join cooperatives, and the purchase price of fresh tea is 20,000 VND/kg. “A hectare of 18,000 trees, an average of one kilogram of dry tea is harvested a year for each tree,” he said, adding that the income from tea is three times higher than that of acacia trees. He is calling for investment, buying more equipment, upgrading factories, and expanding scale.
Mr. Hung used to bring more than 30,000 tea plants in Thai Nguyen to trial, but many died. The plants that survived for harvest, when processed, are not like Duc Phu tea, drink lighter water, not naturally sweet on the tip of the tongue.
Mr. Hung put the tea into the tea processing machine. Photo: Son Thuy
Mr. Tran Cong Hieu, Chairman of Tam Son commune, said that Duc Phu tea products have been certified by the General Department of Standards, Metrology, and Quality of Vietnam, that the product meets the quality standards; January 2021, Quang Nam province granted OCOP certificate of 3-star standard.
“The government is implementing a project to support people to expand the area to restore tea trees. The policy of the commune is to develop tea trees into a commodity that brings income for people to replace planting acacia wood,” said Mr. Hieu and said that in the rainy season, people are very worried, because the acacia tree fell and caused great damage. While tea trees are sustainable, live for hundreds of years, for continuous harvest.
(According to vnexpress )
Keyword: Restoration of tea varieties in the French period