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* Ancient Forest Tea

* Ancient Forest Tea

How Globalization Turned Backward Minorities into Green Marketing Innovators

(p.239) 18 * Ancient Forest Tea
The Social Lives of Forests
Nicholas K. Menzies
University of Chicago Press

The region including China's Yunnan Province, northern Laos, and northern Thailand, best known as the Golden Triangle, has been globalized for a long time. This chapter focuses on constructing narratives of the different actors in one sector's rural economy—tea cultivation and processing—to examine how they are making decisions to securing and improve their livelihoods in response to the changing economic, political, and social dynamics of globalization. Although “official landscapes” comprise extensive tracts of intensively cultivated monocultures of tea, significant areas have a diverse patchwork of crops, including gardens of old, scattered tea trees grown for generations, primarily by ethnic minority communities. As demand for rare teas has soared, “forest tea” growers are challenging established categories of modern” and “advanced” in the discourse of development in China, showing themselves to be far more attuned to the subtleties of global marketing than official planners and development agencies. Entry into the world market has transformed “backward minorities” of the Six Ancient Tree Mountains into entrepreneurs defining the cutting edge of green marketing. This chapter explores how a land use formerly ignored or dismissed as backward has been recast as a sustainable, indigenous technology for the production of a marketable niche product.

Keywords:   Tea cultivation, Golden Triangle, Laos, Thailand, China, marketing of authenticity, indigenous knowledge systems, modernist land use planning, commodity development, green marketing

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