History of Chinatea (Zhongcha/CNNP/COFCO) – Kunming Tea Factory
As one of the four main Pu erh tea factories, Chinatea (Zhongcha), also known as China National Native Produce & Animal By-Products Import & Export Corporation (CNNP), has been through a series of significant changes.
1944 – The Yunnan Tea Corporation was founded on December 16.
1950 – In August, the company was taken over by Kunming Military Control Commission and changed its name to Yunnan China Tea Trading Company. In September, Yunnan Branch of China Tea Company was founded. Mr. Wu Juenong, who was considered the contemporary tea saint and the first manager of China Tea’s head office.
1951 – Zhongcha (Chinatea) became a registered trademark on September 14.
1952 – The famous logo of Chinatea was born. One green character of “cha (tea)” was surrounded by eight red characters of “zhong (China)”, that’s why it was called “ba zhong” (eight china) label. It’s today known as the most classic logo in the Pu erh tea history.
1972 – After several mergers, China National Native Produce & Animal By-Products Import & Export Corporation Yunnan Tea Branch (CNNP) was founded.
1973 – The manual piling fermentation technology for ripe Pu erh tea was successfully developed in Chinatea’s affiliated company – Kunming Tea Factory. It was the revolutionary innovation of Pu erh industry.
1976 – For export needs, Pu erh labels were standardised. Four digits were used for tea cakes. The first two digits referred to the recipe’s origin year. The third referred to the grade of the processed tea leaves (mao cha) used, and the last one is the number of the tea factory. 1 meant Kunming Tea Factory, 2 was Menghai Tea Factory, and 3 was Xiaguan Tea Factory.
1988 – After the second stage of China’s foreign trade system reform, the company name changed to China National Native Produce & Animal By-Products Yunnan Tea Import & Export Corporation.
1996~2003 – It was a chaotic period for Chinatea. Kunming Tea Factory suspended production in 1996. Since then, the company licensed it’s Zhongcha (Chinatea) brand to tea factories. Among those factories, there were big and well-known factories like Menghai, Xiaguan and Guoyan as well as small scaled ones. At the same time, a good deal of fake Chinatea appeared in the market too.
During this period, it was a challenge to find real Zhongcha cakes. However, for Chinese collectors there’s a higher possibility to find a good cake at better prices. Teasenz recently launched a CNNP tea cake from this period.
2003~2006 – The company took serious measures to work on the management, and discontinued the brand “Chinatea”. During this period all the tea that produced used the brand name “Jixing”, and Kunming Tea Factory gradually resumed production. The company stopped licensing its brand to other factories, and owned its own ecological tea gardens.
2006 – The company regained the brand Chinatea. Since then, it has been a member of China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO).