The journey began in Xishuangbanna in Yunnan province, then to Dali, and culminating in Lijiang.
Xishuangbanna sits in the Southwestern part of China bordering Myanmar and Laos and is one of the most tropical like regions of China. Think jungle, bananas, mountain treks, and tea. It’s also home to the Dai people. While in Xishuangbanna we began exploring and drinking tea at the many tearooms along the river walk. A gorgeous evening meant the river walk was full of people out for a stroll, exercising, dancing, and conversing with others.
Following a delightful evening we embarked on a trip to Menghai to learn about the differences between shou puerh and sheng puerh. First stop was teashop in the town on Menghai, which had many things to see and tea to taste. We bought a little something to remember the place but quickly moved on.
Second stop was Nannou Mountain; one of the famous tea mountains of Yunnan. The road is long and windy and takes us to approximately 1400m but the view was worth the wait. We stumbled upon a villager drying tea so we struck up a conversation and was invited into his tearoom. We sampled many of his shou puerh and toured his 100-year-old tea trees. One would have to do a little bit of climbing in order to pluck the leaves. Shou puerh is cooked to help speed up the aging process while sheng puerh takes green leaf and ages naturally.
The next part of the trip brought us to Dali, where we stayed in a traditional fully restored home in an ancient village. Part of the activities at the home were learning calligraphy, how to cook traditional food, touring a village that makes hand dyed fabric, and visiting a tea garden. Visiting a tea garden was first on our list and despite the heavy misting, we went. To this day we still have fond memories of walking to the waterfall and plucking tea in the rain.
We were out there plucking tea in the rain and plucked as much as we could in an hour. Put it this way of the tea the three of us collected only 20 grams of finished tea was produced. While the green tea we produced wasn’t the best, it was nevertheless our first foray in tea processing.
The last city we visited was Lijiang. Nestled high in the foothills of the Himalayas this village played an important role in trading tea and other wares. Tea would be loaded onto horseback and be carried across the mountains. With the foothills standing at 10,000+ above sea level, crossing the Himalayas required knowledge and precision.
Yunnan a place of wonderful people, many cultures, and lots of great tea will forever go down as one the best Chariteas tea travels.