Lui da cha shan, or Six Famous Mountain Tea Co., of Yunnan, which manufactures premium pu’er teas in Menghai, Xishuangbanna prefecture, recently commemorated their tenth anniversary and I was honored to be invited. The company, whose name refers to the six mountains of Ban Zhang, Yi Bang, Nan Nuo, Bang Wei, Yi Wu, and You Le, is located near the far southwestern boundary of Yunnan province in China, not far from Shan province in Myanmar and the waters of the Mekong, locally called Jinhong, which regularly soak the soils of these lands. On April 10-11, 2012, we were included in celebrations during which we were taken to the Hekai mountains, where the Lohu minority has their wild tea tree plantations. One site, in particular, details all the 26 tea mountains of Yunnan.
Tea on this 1,000-year-old tea plantation is plucked by climbing tea trees, with the harvested green leaf sold locally at a profitable price. Seclusion from mainland activities and forest life has made conditions essentially organic and so near to nature that one gets transported back in time a few centuries. Anthropological studies seem to be attached to the tea industry here as nowhere else, where colonization was the source of labor. Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guizhou, along with Sichuan, were the cradle of ancient tea cultures and cha ma gu dao – tea horse trails – were the threads of life through them.
Celebrated from April 13-15, Po Shui Jie – water splashing festival – is the Dai minority’s main festival, coinciding (this year) with the 1,374th new year of their calender. The Lui da cha shan employees organized a similar event on the way back from the Hekai mountains on the evening of April 11. The event, filled with dancing, eating, and the chanting of “shui shui shui,” was an wonderful experience with lot of colorfully dressed women around. Shui means water in Chinese and is the basis of life in this area, allowing both trade and food.
From April 10-12, China Central TV (CCTV) covered the Indian tea industry and filmed my movements through this and other related events. Our project is a six-episode series about tea, tea people, tea stories, and tea history, including its influence on various areas and cultures across the world. The executive producer is Wang Chongxiao, who is one of the top documentary producers in China. The series will air in mid-2013 on the Documentary Channel on CCTV.
India certainly needs pu’er teas to take away the bad effects of sugar on the Indian body through the ages. Wellness tea is an appropriate name for pu’er tea to be marketed in India and we plan to do that.