Continued from Pu’er-Like Teas From Southeast Asia – Part 1
Hatvala, in Vietnam: one of my favorite vendors for selling an interesting range of different local teas at a good value. Vietnamese sheng is something of an anomaly, but really the tea traditions in this region extend back to well prior to when modern country divisions were settled as they are now. Vietnamese versions vary, but they’re similar to Yunnan pu’er and in general a good value – from the right sources. I have reviewed versions of their sheng but citing a description of one I’ve not tried might give some insight about the sources and into how unique those can be:
“…from Y Ti in Lao Cai province. Produced in a Red Dao community where families live either side of the Vietnam/ China border which is separated by a simple stream here. This is another complex tea with a broad range of flavours – green plum, raisin, moss, stone, floral, mild spice and dried hay – that take turns to explode in the mouth. Pleasing bitterness and a very long sweet aftertaste make Forest Genie an extremely refreshing tea.”
That’s marketing content of course, but it adds depth to how flavor range can vary a lot in teas from vastly different sources. That “Dao” reference relates to an indigenous people who live throughout the region, including in China. I’m mixing themes a bit here but this Farmerleaf (Yunnan source) video about a Laos development project sheds more light on how local producers in SE Asia aren’t necessarily as well organized and compensated as Yunnan pu’er producers. This NGO reference covers more about that from a non-commercial perspective; the images communicated alone make that worth a look.
Tea Side, Thailand: this is the main source for well-above-average Thai tea versions, selling a much broader range of sheng and shu than I’ve encountered across all the rest of the sources (and Myanmar versions, just not as many). Again Thai versions can be distinctive, but aren’t necessarily uniformly different than those from Yunnan. I own what’s left of a 2006 sheng cake from Tea Side; Hong Tai Chang was an old Chinese producer who processed local Thai teas some time ago. They’re also working on small-batch shu production (well along with that, since 2013 per this 2017 article on the subject), and their newest sheng product line expanded a lot, so production of that must have changed recently too.
Lamphang Tea, Thailand: a real exception – a very small local producer. There are actually a lot of these sources through Facebook pages — especially out of Vietnam — since tea culture and production is more mainstream there. Such teas would be compressed less often, but this vendor does sell versions as tuochas. Lamphang isn’t in the remote North — where the older trees would tend to be found — so I’m not clear on how a producer from there makes sense; but the tea is nice.
To be concluded in Pu’er-Like Teas From Southeast Asia – Part 3
All images used with permission