China News Service Nelson Mandela Bay, December 12 (Xinhua) -- Why are you optimistic about the prospects for tea culture exchanges between China and Africa?

——Interview with Chen Wu, an expert on tea culture in South Africa and a young overseas Chinese leader

China News Service reporter Wang Xi

With the increasing depth and breadth of China-Africa cultural exchanges, tea culture, as one of the representatives of Chinese culture, has also entered the African continent, including South Africa, attracting a large number of African "fans", and the tea cultural exchanges between China and South Africa and China and Africa have increased significantly. Chen Wu, an expert on tea culture in South Africa, an envoy of tea culture exchange between China and Africa, and a young overseas Chinese leader in South Africa, was recently interviewed by China News Service's "East-West Question", talking about the significance and prospects of China-South Africa and China-Africa tea culture protection and exchanges.

The transcript of the interview is summarized below:

China News Service: Could you please tell us about the history of tea culture exchange between China and Africa?

Chen Wu: The history of tea culture exchanges between China and Africa has a long history. Going back thousands of years, Chinese tea traveled to the rest of the world through the Maritime Silk Road, and reached the coastal countries of Africa during this period. In museums along the coast of East Africa, you can find artifacts about China and Chinese tea. The ancient Maritime Silk Road allowed the African people to come into contact with this amazing plant of the East, and the two sides forged an indissoluble bond that lasted for thousands of years.

In November 2021, visitors visited the exhibition "Green Gold – Tea Trade on the Maritime Silk Road" at the South China Sea Museum in Hainan, China. Photo by Mon Chung-de

Africa's unique natural environment and climatic conditions make it necessary to drink tea, and African people generally believe that drinking tea is good for their health. However, due to the limited climate and transportation conditions at that time, only a very small number of people in Africa had access to tea. With the impetus of the Industrial Revolution, in the second half of the 19th century, Europeans gradually introduced tea to Africa, and took root here, and tea trees unexpectedly gained the opportunity to flourish on the African continent, and thus led to the tea industry belonging to Africa.

So far, Kenya has become the four largest tea producing countries with China, Sri Lanka and India, and the widespread cultivation of tea trees has driven the economy of Africa. Tea is also becoming more common in the homes of ordinary people in Africa. People here love and cherish tea, and drinking tea at a fixed time every day has become a habit for many Africans.

In December 2018, the Chinese Food Night was held at the "Flower Festival" in the Free State Province of South Africa. The picture shows the on-site display of Chinese tea art. Photo by Wang Xi

China News Service: What is the significance of China-Africa tea cultural exchanges?

Chen Wu: One of the proudest tea products in Africa is Yehao from Kenya. The cultivation and production methods of this tea are almost the same as those of Chinese tea, and the taste is similar to that of Chinese Fuding white tea, but the unique natural conditions of Africa give birth to a unique flavor. At the 2021 China International Industry Fair, "Yehao" unexpectedly gained great attention, and thus drove a "Chinese tea trend" in Kenya.

Nowadays in Nairobi, Chinese teahouses have sprung up. Many Africans use Chinese tea utensils to make Chinese tea, and this process has undoubtedly promoted the exchange of tea culture between China and Africa. A piece of tea has given African people a deeper understanding and understanding of traditional Chinese culture, followed by love, and gradually developed into a cultural habit and identity.

It can be said that tea originated in China, but now it has also found a thriving opportunity in Africa, where China and Africa are closely linked. What is even more rare is that when African tea returned to its place of origin, China, a bridge of China-Africa friendship was born, writing a good story of China-Africa friendship.

Tea utensils on display at the Chengdu (Autumn) International Tea Industry Expo in China, October 2023. Photo by An Yuan

China News Service: In your opinion, what are the problems of China-Africa tea cultural exchanges?

Chen Wu: The problems existing in China-Africa tea culture today are mainly superficial and difficult to penetrate. For example, tea culture is an important part of the display of Chinese culture on various occasions in Africa. However, the content of each display is relatively similar, and the form is relatively simple, which is very easy to leave the impression of "Chinese tea culture is a good-looking show" to the African people, which is obviously inconsistent with our original intention.

Of course, this has a lot to do with the fact that Africa's economic conditions are still underdeveloped. In Africa, tea is still a relatively expensive or even luxurious daily commodity, and African people are not yet able to taste and access tea products on a large scale and in a variety of ways due to limited income conditions. However, in the process of tea culture exchange between China and Africa, the content of tea products is relatively simple, and the display content is small, which cannot fundamentally let the young generation of Africa come into contact with the essence and essence of tea culture.

In my opinion, there are many new and even novel ways of drinking tea in China that are quite popular among young people. This point is worthy of reference for China-Africa tea culture exchange workers. Making the presentation of tea culture younger, cheaper and more convenient is expected to attract more young "fans" for the exchange of tea culture between China and Africa. In this regard, the popularity of coffee culture on the African continent is worth thinking about and learning from.

In August 2018, tea performers from Jiangsu performed the tea art "Jinyu Tea Yuan" at the 8th International Tea Fair in Hong Kong. Photo by Zhang Wei

China News Service: What is the future prospect of China-Africa tea cultural exchanges?

Chen Wu: With the continuous development and deepening of China-Africa relations, the future of tea culture, as an important component of cultural exchanges, is worth looking forward to.

In recent years, with the increasing demand for Chinese culture in Africa, tea culture will be more widely integrated into all corners of Africa, and the display of tea culture is extremely diverse, such as a tea art performance, which can basically cover Chinese music culture, art culture, poetry culture and other content, which can be described as all-inclusive. Cultural exchange through tea will become an important window for Africa to understand Chinese culture in the future.

In November 2022, "Traditional Chinese Tea-making Techniques and Related Customs" was inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This news is undoubtedly a great benefit, which will have far-reaching significance for the promotion of Chinese tea culture, and will promote Chinese culture to better enter Africa and other countries or regions around the world.

In March 2023, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, tea farmers stir-fried the green leaves of West Lake Longjing tea. Photo by Qian Chenfei

The year 2023 marks the <>th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, and it is believed that with the Belt and Road Initiative driving and demonstrative, the economic and trade cooperation between China and South Africa and China and Africa will continue to deepen. As an important cultural communication medium between the two sides, tea will gradually become an important carrier to promote exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations. (ENDS)

Interviewee Profile:

Chen Wu, a young overseas Chinese leader, vice president of the Eastern Cape Provincial Peace Association, a famous tea culture expert in South Africa, and an envoy of China-Africa tea culture exchanges.