HANGZHOU, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Jia Wei, a second-generation tea cultivator, struggled for the right words to express his thoughts as he walked in an 800-hectare plantation in Huangdu Village and espied the beauty of green mountains.
"White tea has high climatic and geographical requirements, and as its source of origin, our region is ecologically advantaged," said a visibly emotional Jia.
The 35-year-old followed his father's advice and took over the family tea cultivation area in 2013 after working outside his hometown for several years since college graduation. He has since injected new vigor and vitality into the business.
Located in Anji County of east China's Zhejiang Province, Huangdu used to be one of the most impoverished villages in the county during the 1990s, when the region's annual per capita income was below 1,000 yuan (about 144 U.S. dollars).
Jia recalled that when he was a child, his parents often told him to study hard, get good scores and never return to the poor village.
For years, the local government had been striving to strike a balance between environmental protection and economic growth.
Hard work paid off. Tea plantation has bulged the wallets of local villagers and Huangdu is dubbed "No. 1 white tea village of China." Some 1,000 Huangdu villagers own more than 400 cars, and each earns about 49,000 yuan annually on average.
Jia's family, as one of the first group of local white tea planters, has been getting better off by engaging in this thriving industry.
Huangdu's green development has made the locals more aware of environment protection and energy conservation when processing and frying the leaves. They know that green mountains and pure water produce nice tea.
To promote his business, Jia standardized the production of white tea, applied for the food production license, redesigned the packaging and established his own brand. He also started online sales with customized tea products for clients.
More than 1,500 kg of white tea were sold in the first year since Jia took on the family business, a fivefold increase compared with the original sales.
The small tea leaves not only brought fortune to the locals in Anji but also played a big role in supporting poor areas of Hunan, Sichuan, Guizhou and other provinces in central and western China. Since 2018, Huangdu has donated 19 million fine white tea seedlings to those poor villages and sent experts to offer planting guidance.
"Three years ago, the mountains here were barren," said Tian Hongjun, a white tea planter in Dazhai Village, southwest China's Guizhou Province, who learned about the donation and started tea plantation in 2018.
The poor Dazhai villagers have become tea farmers and the mountainous village has turned into a scenic spot. The tea gardens in Dazhai currently cover 40 hectares.
The idea of "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets" has freed people from the clutches of conventional thinking of a trade-off between development and ecological protection, said Gu Yikang, chief expert with the Zhejiang rural vitalization research institute.
"It has made a good ecological environment, the most inclusive welfare for people's livelihood," Gu said.