Village combines tea and tourism to prosper

A Monba woman picks tea leaves on a plantation in Metog, Tibet autonomous region, in April last year. JIGME DORJE/XINHUA

LHASA — In a garden in Geling village in Metog county in the Tibet autonomous region, the morning air is filled with the sweet aroma of freshly picked tea.

Tsering Yangdron, a 25-year-old Monba, one of the ethnic groups that inhabit this region, skillfully makes her way through the garden, deftly plucking tender tea leaves and tossing them into a bamboo basket tied to her waist.

Tea picking has become a habit for her over the past five years.

Geling was once inaccessible as a result of its rugged terrain and dense forests, but the opening of the Metog highway in 2013 significantly improved connectivity and created opportunities for economic growth. Prior to Huang Jiabin's appointment as the village's Party secretary, the scenic terraced tea plantation in Geling was a neglected and untamed piece of land. Huang realized that the valley was suitable for growing tea. "Since 2018, we have improved the management of the tea plantation, introduced advanced planting techniques and provided training for villagers," he said.

Picking is typically done in the morning when leaves are most tender and fresh, and mist still shrouds the terraces on the south bank of the Yarlung Zangbo River.

After she is done, Tsering Yangdron goes back home, where she also runs a homestay. Her rooms have been fully booked every day since March, so she has to clean rooms and prepare meals for guests. "We have come up with a dish of fresh tea buds fried with eggs," she said.

A kilogram of fresh tea buds sells for 300 yuan ($43.50). Once dried and processed to make green tea, their value increases significantly.

The village harvested nearly 15,000 kilograms of tea last year, generating 520,000 yuan in revenue, providing households with an average income of 18,000 yuan.

Around 75 percent of the county is forested, and Metog is known as an "outdoor animal and plant museum", which makes it an appealing destination for tourists.

Last year, an upgrade of the village's tourist infrastructure was completed with the construction of an observation platform overlooking the tea plantation. Geling received 15,000 visitors last year, generating revenues of over 600,000 yuan and creating around 30 jobs for villagers. To date, 103 organic tea plantations have been developed across the county, covering a total area of over 1,200 hectares.