pondělí 7. května 2012

A journey to Longling (autumn 2011)

In the September of 2011, when travelling through Baoshan, we visited the county of Longling, a beautiful and somewhat forgotten place. I do not know why, but Baoshan (保山) has really attracted me, I wanted to explore it, all the more as when I said to my chinese friends that when visiting my father, I would like to look around in Baoshan, they said "Baoshan? Why? There is nothing interesting there". And that was a challenge!

We have friends in the Longling county (龙陵县) who own a small tea factory there, in the Mengmao village, therefore we had some footing there, as well as information. We got the best possible guide too - the owner of Menglong TF himself. 
After visting the gem market in the Longling town and short visit to local tea clerk (and tea expert in the area), we depart to the mountains:

The gem market:

The scenery is, as one might expect, quite scenic, a valley with a small river, we see "Da Shue Shan" (Big snow mountain) in the clouds. Sometimes, we see taidi (terrace tea gardens). 

The Mengmao village:

The Mengmao village is charming - old buildings and surprised people. The village is inhabited by chinese majoriy Han who live here for many generations (they remember 17 generations) and originally came from the area of today's Shanghai as a part of an army, as the area is very close to Myanmar (Burma). 

Locals still produce and use traditional raincoats

The area is extremely poor these days, rice and corn being harvested, occasional high quality stillrooms of rice alcohol are present. Of course, tea is present too. Longling is known as one of the less explored areas by small tea merchants. Low prices and know-how of the area are kept secret by big factories, e.g., Xiaguan who buy tea from the region frequently.

The Mengmao village:

A storehouse for the rice alcohol:

Tea merchants are more interested in older wild tea trees - "ye sheng cha" - which grow here with mostly dark green or even purple leaves. We were lucky enough to visit several very old trees. We saw 5 old trees close to each other, we did not visit two more because of bad weather.

The road to the old trees:

Old trees themselves:

The maocha from these 7 trees goes to Malaysia every year, as well as as further tea coming from wild tea trees around. I met these malaysian merchants in the spring of 2011 - they spend more than three weeks evvery year buying maocha from wild trees in Longling and they are very happy about the material. The combination of clean environment, no chemicals used on any of planted crops (too expensive) and cheap and attractive tea is perfect.

I personally do not seek purple varietals of "yeshengcha", e.g. from Da Shue Shan in Lancang, nor from Menghai (Bada, etc.). These are often bitter, dim and except for being wild, pretty uninteresting. That is why I understand these customers who dislike these teas. However, they are often pleasantly surprised by their performance in Longling. The best material from there we bought was this spring maocha, which is currently not available anymore as most of it was pressed into these minicakes. The tea is unusually rich in taste, floral in a sort of Nannuo way (purely my subjective feeling), full, sweet and pleasantly surprising in every way.

It is worth noting that there are two taste varieties of ye sheng cha in this area - one is which I just described, the second type is maybe richer in taste, but extremely bitter - this type is sought after by these malaysian merchants. I myself haven't found a way to this tea, but I believe (it is confirmed by long experience of these merchants) that the tea has good potential for aging.

A green tea factory in a village nearby Mengmao. Chunmei and Luzhu are produced here mostly.

In the  Mengmao village, we were received and hosted by local patriarch, the eldest person (95 years) in the village. He gave us tea prepared by baking in the ceramic jar "Kao Cha Guan".

Another interesting thing was the visit to villages around, in one of these, we were a big attraction, as we were the first "white noses" to visit the place!
We experienced many more things and I definitely recommend a visit to this forgotten county. However, the journey may be more difficult than in other areas of Yunnan without a good car.

The owner of the seven old tea trees and I.

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