From SANG KONG to HONG KONG.
was invited to Laos again this year to see another area with ancient
tea trees. The government (and other non-governmental organizations) are
keen to identify projects that indigenous people can do to increase
their income and also have their communities benefit as well. Value
added agricultural products are one of the most important areas of focus
as the climate is subtropical, and suitable for many plants.
the tea forests are similar to those just to the North in China, there
isn't as much cultural interest and recent history with the tea in
general. This wasn't always the case as parts of Northern Laos used to
be part of China before being ceded to French Indochina in 1895.
years ago there was a huge boom in pu-erh prices and many Chinese
traders got into the tea market. The interest of these Chinese has
lessened as the pu-erh prices remain lower now. When the prices were
inflated, traders came across the border to buy maocha, the raw material
for pu-erh. They also made forays into Burma and even Thailand where
they bought leaf from the oolong plants (which are totally the wrong
varietals for making pu-erh).
time I was in Bokeo Province, which is bordered from Thailand and Burma
by the Mekong river. The jungles have been clear cut in some areas and
left alone in others. My day involved a grueling hike of seven hours to
get to the old trees.
trees are in good shape and I'm looking forward to getting some tea
after the harvest season this spring. They make a compressed tea in
bamboo tubes about 24 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter as well
as producing maocha.
also sampled a black tea that was a bit like a tippy Yunnan. It had the
flavor of a Fujian black tea followed by the malty finish common in
Assam teas. I also found some pu-erh cakes which have been being made
for the last few years from these same old trees. Later this spring we
will offer some of both for you to try. Until then we still have some of
the Banglaa in stock.
Travel Diary, Laos 2010