After several attempts I have now managed to travel to Yunnan. On the recommendation of experienced Yunnan travellers from my circle of friends, Jing Hong was chosen as my starting point. This is because Jing Hong is very central between the famous tea mountains. But the actual journey already started in Thailand where we spent our annual holiday. From Mae Salong (Thailand) I travelled via Huay Xai (Laos) to Mohan and then on to Jing Hong. The Mekhong Hostel, which I wanted to book, was already fully booked and so I had to switch to another hostel. I chose the Hello Guesthouse because of the many positive reviews.
This turned out to be a stroke of luck for me, as I met and became friends with Tea Master Panda. Together we went in search of tea to the surrounding tea mountains. But first we tasted other specialities of Yunnan in a Dai Restaurant…
The first tea mountain we visited was Nannuo Shan. This tea mountain is located about half way between Jing Hong and Puer and has many old tea trees. The oldest tea tree is over 800 years old. Unfortunately there were no tea leaves available from it.
In remote areas, Gushu tea leaves are cooked and processed into maocha on the spot to ensure optimal quality. Moreover, processed tea is much lighter than fresh tea leaves.
The next destination of the tea trip was Yiwu with the surrounding tea mountains. Furthermore, the Yiwu Tea Competition 2016 was just taking place and tea farmers from the different mountains flocked to Yiwu with the best tea leaves.
Tea Master Panda really knows everyone here. A great advantage! I think I have never drunk as much tea as I did this weekend.
Of course we did not only wait for the tea to come to us but also actively searched for it. Since Tea Master Yang knows most of the tea farmers since his childhood we did not have to search for a long time. However, a large part of the Gushu was already bought by speculators. In some places we still found what we were looking for…
In Yibang. A small village on a mountain ridge and the famous “Ancient Tea Horse Route” which runs right through it. Once upon a time, tea caravans with packhorses passed through here and did barter trade. Nowadays there are no more caravans and the barter trade has been replaced by cash. But the old cobblestone road, the traditional houses and tea have remained.
Further stations were Mansa and Manzhuan where we also found what we were looking for. However, only the tea from Mansa met our requirement profile.
In order to be able to classify the tea correctly, a visual inspection is first carried out. Later the different samples are then tasted. The water for brewing was always taken along to have the same conditions everywhere. In Xishuangbanna it is customary to fill the gaiwan completely and then make many short infusions. In this way the many facets of the tea can be judged better. The tea is always infused with boiling hot water.
The tea journey is not over yet! In the second part we show how the tea leaves are transformed into Pu-erh cakes and we also take a look at Yang Ming’s boutique tea manufactory which is located in the center of Yiwu.