Shan Tuyet Tea Value Chain in Vietnam Community Forest Management

Shan Tuyet (snow mountain) tea grows naturally at nearly 1,000 meters above sea level, under the forest canopy of the Bieu mountain range in Vietnam’s northwestern Hoa Binh province.  Shan Tuyet is an ancient tea, with local trees dating back two centuries. When brewed, the Bieu Mountain Shan Tuyet tea has a characteristic yellowish-green color with a honey-luster and a deep, sweet aftertaste.

Local households in Sung Village, in Cao Son commune of Da Bac district of Hoa Binh have been harvesting and drinking Shan Tuyet tea from their forests for generations, using traditional collection and processing techniques that create a unique taste—appreciated by novices and experts alike, even from the first cup. However, due to the lack of processing facilities and access to markets, tea processing was historically done by only one man in the village, Mr. Ly Hong Si, a local leader who bought fresh tea leaves collected from the forest by other community members. The low price of fresh tea did not provide a strong incentive for others in the village to care for and sustainably manage the tea trees. To promote the care and management of ancient tea trees, local community members needed to realize greater returns on their time, through processing, packaging, branding, and marketing of the processed tea, as well as skills in management of their tea forest. They also needed secure tenure to these trees, giving them confidence to invest in the resource with the knowledge that they would benefit in the long-term.

Supported by MRLG under its Customary Tenure (CT) workstream, the civil society organization Research Initiatives for Community development (RIC), supports ethnic minority people of Sung village to develop a sustainable Shan tea value chain. To do this, RIC also focuses on a high-level priority of resident communities and local authorities—the conservation of local protection forests through forest contracts.

Under the CT pilot, RIC has thus been working together with Ly Hong Si to support the Sung community by setting up the Shan Tea Cooperative and building its capacity. The group has been officially recognized by Cao Son Communal People’s Committee, consisting of 21 members, 9 of which are women. Members have worked together, learning tea processing, composting and management of the tea trees. Over the next several months, the group members will be trained on harvesting, packaging, branding and product marketing.

With support from the project, the ancient Shan Tea Cooperative will produce their first tea crop in 2021. Already, the Shan Tea Cooperative has introduced samples of their tea at trade fairs in Hanoi and elsewhere. With state certification—expected in June 2021—they will be able to directly brand, trademark and sell their tea professionally on the market.

At the same time, the project is facilitating the involvement of local people in the co-management of forest protection where the Shan Tea trees are growing,and ensuring that their tenure rights are recognized and protected by local authorities. The forests have been associated with local people since their settlement in the village and their resource claims have been recognized by neighboring communities. In the past, Sung villagers also cultivated food crops in their upland field in this forest area. Since the forest was classified for protection and placed under the management of Da River Protection Forest Management Board (DRPFMB), local people have ceased to cultivate annual crops in the forest, but continued to rely on Shan Tuyet tea collection.  Involvement of local people in the co-management of such forest allows local people to take care of the tea and protect the forests, while also enjoying economic benefits from tea sales.  

Women participating in the review of the forest quality for the development of the forest management and protection plan, a basis for the proposed co-management model between the Forest Management Board and the community of the Sung village

Previously, tea accounted for 50% of household income for tea collectors. When compared with other cash crops such as maize, cassava and potato, Shan Tuyet tea gives 2 to 3 times higher income when properly managed. Even better than these alternatives or many commercial tree species, Shan Tuyet tea is a natural part of the forest ecosystem and a perennial, offering numerous ecological benefits by enhancing local agrobiodiversity and habitat for other species. This makes Shan Tuyet tea an ideal species for management under the forest canopy. 

MRLG’s CT workstream in Vietnam is supporting three other pilot models in Hoa Binh, Quang Binh and Dak Lak provinces that aim to enhance understanding and improved practices for community forest allocation and community forest management, influencing local and national forest policies and ensuring access to, and control over, lands and forests by local communities.

Scroll to Top