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City to take name of its valuable tea

No specialties in China have ever been so flattered as to serve as a city’s name. That is until now, with a type of tea.

With approval from the State Council, Pu’er is to replace Simao as the name of the tea-growing city in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province. According to the city’s publicity bureau, the city will be officially renamed in April at the forthcoming Pu’er Tea Culture Festival.

Bureau sources have given two reasons for the name change.

First, it is a historical regression. The government of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) first established an administrative zone named Pu’er Tea zone in 1729, which gradually developed into Pu’er County until the central government named it Simao in the 1980s

The second reason is to promote production and sales of the local Pu’er tea in a bid to compete with several other cities including Kunming, which also produce Pu’er tea.

With half of the city’s population engaged in Pu’er tea production, the sales value of the Pu’er tea reached 80 million yuan (10.25 million U.S. dollars) last year in Simao.

The city wants tea sales to reach 500 million yuan (64.1 million dollars) by 2010.

It has even invested 100 million yuan (12.82 million dollars) to build a large-scale Pu’er Tea Garden a sort of a living museum.

Located in southwest Yunnan and bordering Vietnam, Laos and Myanma, Simao bridges China with the rest of Southeast Asia.

Tea from here is traditionally made with leaves from a variety of old wild tea trees known as "broad leaf tea trees", and it is typically available as loose leaf or as cakes of compacted tea.

It is enjoyed for its mellow taste and medicinal qualities, and is often referred to as a "drinkable antique". The older, the more fragrant and tasty it becomes, the more it costs.

Last month in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, 100 grams of the prized 60-year-old Pu’er tea sold for 300,000 yuan (38,400 dollars).

Pu’er tea has been popular among investors in China’s Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, and the Republic of Korea since the 1970s.

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