‘Tea road’ takes a Sri Lankan to Chinese home
 updatetime:2017-04-21 17:16:53   Views:0 Source:chinadaily.com.cn

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Anura Banda, CEO of Beijing Heavenly Trade Co Ltd, points at a globe showing the 'Tea Road' from Sri Lanka to China at his office in Beijing, China, on April 19, 2017. [Photo by Li Xiupeng / chinadaily.com.cn]

Anura Banda has been in China for over 20 years but he will never forget the fragrant aroma of his first sip of Chinese tea.

"Chinese tea is very famous in Sri Lanka. The first Chinese tea I ever had was green tea. The aroma was very pleasant. Although it was tea, it tasted like something totally different."

After learning more about Chinese tea, Anura founded Beijing Heavenly Trade Co Ltd to do tea business between China and Sri Lanka in 2003.

However, Anura faced great challenges due to different business environments and perspectives on high-end tea in China and Sri Lanka.

"Chinese people love leave tea and consider them high-end tea products. On the other hand, Sri Lankan people crush tea leaves and package them into tea bags for office people in the high-end market," Anura said.

When Anura tried to sell top-class Sri Lankan tea to Chinese customers, he struggled to find any buyers. It took him about a year to sell the first shipment of 480 boxes of Sri Lankan tea in China.

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Anura Banda, CEO of Beijing Heavenly Trade Co Ltd, talks to a staff member about the tea business between China and Sri Lanka in Beijing, China, on April 19, 2017. [Photo by Li Xiupeng / chinadaily.com.cn]

But there have been major changes in the market since 2013 when President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative. More Chinese people began discovering Sri Lanka and its culture and started trying tea from Sri Lanka, according to Cao Zhiwang, marketing manager of Beijing Heavenly Trade Co Ltd.

"Sri Lankan tea is like a baby who was born in China, traveled abroad and returned to China. Few Chinese tea lovers knew about Sri Lankan tea before, but thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, the sales volume of Sri Lankan tea in Shenyang and Harbin markets has increased a lot since 2013," Cao said.

Transportation between China and Sri Lanka has also become more quick and convenient, which has reduced major costs, said Anura. In 1995, it took about 15 hours to get from Beijing to Sri Lanka and people had to transfer in Hong Kong. Due to direct flights starting in 2014, the travel time now takes only eight to nine hours.

"For the sea freight, it used to take about 28 days. Now it takes us 14 days. There are direct vessels from Sri Lanka to Guangzhou, Tianjin and also Shanghai. It takes only 14 days," Anura said.

After years of development, Anura's tea business in China has increased very fast. His company now imports 20 to 40 containers of Ceylon tea to China and sells Chinese tea to 65 countries all over the world every year.

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Anura Banda, CEO of Beijing Heavenly Trade Co Ltd, does tea business between China and Sri Lanka in Beijing, China, on April 19, 2017. [Photo by Li Xiupeng / chinadaily.com.cn]

"I think it [the Belt and Road Initiative] is a great step forward. It is not for Sri Lanka but for the whole world. I used to think that relationship between China and Sri Lanka started from [the establishment of a] new China in 1949. Now I know that our relationship dates back to ancient time. We are not only selling tea but also communicating culture," Anura said.

Anura felt lucky to experience the fast economic development in China and benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative. He heard about Chinese business people selling tea, silk and porcelain in ancient times, but didn't expect he could bring tea back to its home in China.

With a Chinese wife and two sons, Anura considers China his hometown and he is also very glad to follow the 'Tea Road' to his Chinese home and also bring tea back to China. He would like to do more to spread tea culture and stimulate people-to-people communications between China and Sri Lanka for future generations.

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Anura Banda, CEO of Beijing Heavenly Trade Co Ltd, makes tea at his tea shop in Beijing, China, on April 19, 2017. [Photo by Li Xiupeng / chinadaily.com.cn]

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Anura Banda, CEO of Beijing Heavenly Trade Co Ltd, examines tea at his tea shop in Beijing, China, on April 19, 2017. [Photo by Li Xiupeng / chinadaily.com.cn]

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Anura Banda, CEO of Beijing Heavenly Trade Co Ltd, poses for a photo with his wife Pan Xia and two sons in Shanghai, China, in January 2017. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

 

Web Editor:MXJ