It seems only fair that this first tea entry begins where the ‘green’ begins – tea’s humid and understated roots. Here, where tea has been nurtured virtually unchanged in all of the patient centuries and where still today the green leaf is treated with a reverence that speaks to a long and gentle union with both man and soil. Here it is a food, a friend and an essential. Asia’s great ‘commodity’ here, still retains its primary roles as unifier, cure-all, and simple beverage – though in a typical bit of tea-irony, these teas are prized above all others by the private buyers and purists, who will happily part with enormous amounts of life’s other ‘green’ (cash) to quietly add a few kg’s to their private stock.
In Yunnan province’s indigenous southern stronghold, where mists hold sway and heat pervades everything, tea trees have been allowed to evolve unencumbered, reaching metres into the heavy air. Rich soil, undulating terrain and a tea pedigree in its veins makes the area a ‘tea mecca’.
While the pace of life slows here, there is an increase in smiles. The wiry and tough Pulang, Dai and Wa peoples – tea’s ancient harvesters and care-givers, the Hani (Akha) and Lahu, (who have had the tea knowledge passed down to them), produce teas of stunning simplicity. Tea’s here are consumed green and potent with no insulting additions made. This is the dwelling place of Puer (Pu’erh) tea – big leafed, sun dried – and as this tea reaches ever-widening ‘sippers’ it is impossible to overstate how important the views of the indigenous growers are.