Lao Banzhang is a strange place. I don’t really enjoy going there so much – there’s an air of greed and duplicity about the village. For some reason though, I ended up going there 3 times this year. I didn’t plan it, it just worked out that way. I just happened to be around people who were going there and, having no real reason to decline their offers to tag along, I went.
Last year Chen Shen tea factory was building their new factory in the village. This year it’s finished, shiny and new. Given that the village is surrounded by old tea trees, and that there’s not much available space to build a factory, they cut down a lot of old tea trees to build their new premises. I find this type of thing so sad. Trees that have been growing for hundreds of years being cut down for profit.
They are processing maocha on a larger scale, buying fresh leaves from the villagers and processing it themselves. This, in itself, isn’t a bad thing – it’s the only way to get the consistency in processing that they need, but they’ve done away with the hand processing and installed one big machines. Out with the old, in with the new. No more hand based kill-green, no more hand rolling.
Equally as disturbing, if not perhaps more so, was the view across the village that greeted us as we entered Lao Banzhang. Another area, also previously filled with ancient trees, had been bulldozed and flattened to make way for new homes to be built for newly rich villagers. The greed of a big factory, and lack of immediate concern for the old tea trees in just one of it’s locations I can kind of understand in a despairing way, but this really shocked me – villagers bulldozing the very trees that brought them this newfound wealth. I really can’t comprehend it.
I don’t have much hope left for Lao Banzhang. Unless something drastic happens to cut the greed of the farmers, the factories, the producers, vendors and consumers, I fear that this area and people in it are well on the way to self-destruction.