Mystical Tea Trees of Yunnan
These ancient trees still grow in the primordial forests of Yunnan Province, and some are used for tea. Actually the smaller leaves from the top of the Snow Mountain region are used because the wild tea tree leaves aren’t always drinkable.
A friend of mine, Vicky, introduced me to the ancient tea trees and the ancient teas of Yunnan Province which is also known as “the land of tea.”
Yunnan is home to this primeval forest with its amazing, wild, old trees. I didn’t know much about Yunnan until I tried Pu-erh for the first time many years ago, and completely fell in love with the flavor. That’s when I started to truly appreciate tea for more than just black tea with lemon, Russian-style.
Yunnan’s tea species are known as the “Yunnan large-leaved variety,” and are included among the superb tea species of the world, along with Assam tea from India and Kenya tea.
Yunnan is thought to have a 2,100-year-long history of domesticating “wild tea.” There’s an 800-year-old tree still growing in the Nannou Mountains, a 1,700-year-old one in Bada, and a 1,000-year-old one in Bangwei, which is a transition between the wild and cultivation types.
They are believed to be the world’s oldest tea trees, and are considered to be “living fossils” of Yunnan’s first tea plants. Sadly, the Bada tree was declared dead in 2013.
As well as Pu-erh, Yunnan is also known for China’s Black tea or Golden Tip Dian Hong with its high-quality leaves covered in golden-orange bud hairs.
Vicky imports these teas to North America, purchasing a high-grade Ancient Tree Golden Needle Black tea from the same family every year. These families live off tea production in poor and remote parts of Yunnan, and it takes 5 hours of driving on mountain roads to reach some of the tea farmers.
You can purchase these ancient teas from the TanLong Premium Tea Collection in Canada which ships worldwide. Production is very limited, but I think it’s worth trying for every tea lover out there.
Some local tea farmers pluck wild tea leaves from the deep mountain forests. They take hours to hike there, and then climb up the wild trees to get the younger leaves. Usually, they spend a whole day in the forest harvesting these ancient leaves.
This job doesn’t come without danger, especially during the rainy season in spring.
Landslides happen very frequently and they can be deadly.
These trees are quite tall and grow in high altitudes ideal for optimal cultivation and natural drainage. For this reason, they never get sprayed with pesticides.
Vicky allowed me to use these great photos.
Eleonora Byron has been blogging about tea since 2011. You can sample tea with her in cyber-space at the Humble Tea Leaf.