Monday, March 25, 2013

A pilgrimage to Yiwu(1)

-By Richard Zhang 

If you are a Pu Erh fan, Yiwu must be a name you frequently heard about. Yiwu Pu Erh is known for its gentle and mild character, in stark contrast with strong and pungent Ban Zhang Pu Erh and they are both seen as the best Pu Erh teas and sought after by Pu Erh lovers. For years, Ban Zhang Pu Erh is likened to the King and Yi Wu, to the Queen by people. I have dreamt about Yiwu for many times and wondered what an amazing place it was!  In March, 2013, we finally embarked on a pilgrimage to Yiwu.

On 17th, March, we set out for Yiwu from Mengla County(
勐腊县).  It was a nice day. Flowers bloomed on the mountains on both sides of the road. We enjoyed the scenery and felt excited. About 11:00, we arrived in Mahei village(麻黑村),  a place you must know if you are a Pu Erh fan. Our guide told us that it was about two kilometers away from Yiwu town. It seems undebatable that Mahei Pu Erh is representative of Yiwu Pu Erh. It is estimated there were 160 hectare ancient tea gardens and more than 340 hectare new tea gardens existing in Mahei.

We drove from Mahei and reached a place called as Zheng Jia Liang zi(
郑家梁子). Some people called it as Zheng Shan(郑山), one of the main producing area of Yiwu Pu Erh. It is said during the history, the famous tea businesses such as Tong Qing Hao(同庆号)Tong Xing Hao(同兴号) and Che Shun Hao(车顺号)all sourced their tea in Zheng Jia Liang Zi. As Pu Erh produced in Zheng Jia Liang Zi was very good in quality, it won great popularity and became more and more famous. Some dishonest tea dealers even sold Pu Eh of other places in the name of Zheng Shan(郑山). In Chinese, the two name(郑山,正山) share the same pronunciation and some people mistakenly thought Zhengshan meant" 正山" as such word was usually used by people to describe tea produced from the most prestigious core producing area in China. For years, such misunderstanding was widespread and deep-seated. In fact, there is no such concept of Yiwu tea existing in history and you aren't able to find a place thought by people as Zhengshan(正山)in Yiwu as you can do for such as Lapsang Souchong.

Mr. Liang lives in Zheng Jia Liang Zi. When we came, his wife and he walked out and warmly welcomed us. We got to know Mr. Liang at a Pu Erh Tea Exhibition held in Kunming in 2009. From then on, each year, he would send us a lot of Pu Erh Tea samples. Mr. Liang is passionate and knowledgeable about Pu Erh Tea. We see him as one of our good friends and we are excited to meet him here.

Mr. Liang can't wait and led us to his ancient tea garden right now after we had a little rest in his home. The ancient tea garden wasn't far away from Zheng Jia Liang Zi. We walked and arrived in about ten minutes. Between Zheng Jia Liang Zi and the ancient tea garden, there was a little stone arch bridge named as Wu Gong Bridge (Centipede Bridge). Legend told that caravan of horses carrying Pu Erh Tea  just set out and passed from the bridge, beginning their long, dangerous and arduous journey to Tibet, Mongolia or South East Asia during the ancient time. Big and tall trees are around the ancient tea garden of Mr. Liang. We crossed the tea garden and walked into a forest, finding there are many tea trees scattered around in it. Mr. Liang told us in fact, the ancient tea garden was much bigger but many of the tea trees were cut down, with the part of it remaining now. The tea trees look not thick but if you looked closely, you wound find they all grew again from the thick and bulky stumps left by the cut-down ancient tea trees. We found a very old tea tree about 30centimeters in diameter and 15 meters in height in the forest. I thought it could tell how ancient the tea garden was.

Mahei, Yiwu:

Wu Gong Bridge (Centipede Bridge):

The Ancient Tea Garden of Mr. Liang:

Zheng Jia Liang Zi | Zheng Shan:

To be continued

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The current prices of the 2013 first crops high end Chinese green teas:

West Lake Dragon Well:

1.Meijiawu(梅家坞)Cultivar 43, harvested on 12th March:  USD640/KG
2.Longwu(龙坞) Cultivar 43, harvested on 10th March: USD390/KG

3.Meijiawu(梅家坞) Qunti Cultivar(Native Mixed Cultivar), harvested on 21th March: USD650/KG(Updated on 21th Mar)
4.Shi Feng(狮峰)Qunti Cultivar(Native Mixed Cultivar), harvested on 21th March: USD900/KG(Updated on 21th Mar)
Dongting Biluochun:
5.Dongshan(东山)harvested on 10th March:  USD530/KG

Anji Baicha:
6. hengqianshan(恒乾山)harvested on 12th March:  USD350/KG

Pls note:

1. All the above teas are in very limited quantities especially Meijiawu Dragon Well (harvested on 12th Mar) which is now only of about 5KG. So if you need, pls pay to our PAYPAL account: (The amount equals to the price*the quantity, the minimum order quantity is combined 300grams, 100grams per kind) asap. For Meijiawu Dragon Well (harvested on 12th Mar), we suggest you pay prior to 20th Mar or it would be probably sold out.

2. As all the above teas are in very limited quantities, no samples would be provided. Pls don't send sample request to us. We recommend you purchase small amount if you aren't familiar with them. For tea dealers, we suggest you do in a prudent way as the teas are very expensive and have a small target market. 

3. We will ship within 4-8 days after we get your payment by EMS Express of China Post.  It is expected to arrive in 7 days after the shipment. The courier fee will be covered by ourselves and won't be charged additionally on you. If the tea is sold out, we would refund your payment via PAYPAL.

4. The first crop Shi Feng Dragon Well(狮峰龙井) of Qunti Cultivars(群体种) are expected to be available on 23th Mar. We would make updates here.

5. The teas are by default to be packed in 100grams alminium foil bags.  The smallest packing size can be of 50grams upon your request.

6. You can send email to to contact us.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Journey to Lao Ban Zhang, Bu Lang Shan Mountain

-By Richard Zhang

Lao Ban Zhang, the small village located in the Bu Lang Shan Mountain, Xishuang Banna, became world-wide known by people because of Pu Erh tea produced here. Lao Ban Zhang Pu Erh has been the same word of the most famous Pu Erh in the eyes of Pu Erh fans. For years, Ban Zhang Pu Erh is likened to the King of Pu Erh.

Bu Lang Shan Mountain is mainly settled by Bu Lang Minority. That is why the Mountain got its name. It lies between Menghun, Daluo and Da Meng Long in the Southeast of Xishuang Banna, with its south tip bordering Burma. There are more than 50 ethnic Minorities scattered among the stretching and undulating hills and deep valleys of Bu Lang Shan Mountain.

We made a long and arduous journey to Lao Ban Zhang of Bu Lang Shan Mountain, wishing to get to know more about the secrets of Pu Erh in the early March, 2013.

Our car passed Menghai, drove on the Kunluo road for a while and turned to the left, then began to climb on a narrow, twisting and bumpy road. The road was so bad that your car would probably break down here if it wasn't good enough. We all held tight the handrail in the car to prevent our head hitting the roof. The road to Bu Lang Shan Mountain is characteristics of danger, steepness, twist and bumpiness. It is difficult to get into it even by an off-road vehicle when rainy season comes.

Time and time again, before I traveled here, I imagined what Bu Lang Shan looked like to be. I imagined big rolling mountains covered by dense forests and a paradise of wild animals and birds while what I saw here turned out to be far different from what I imagined. Forests are not dense here and mountains and gullies are nearly barren. I haven't even heard of singing of birds and found the trace of wild animal along the long and twisting road. It is obvious that the ecosystems here are fragile. Everything looked dull and grey when you looked far into the distance.

After more than three hours driving, a tea garden appeared in front of us. It is a "young" tea garden. We said it was young to compare it with the old ones. In fact, the tea trees in it are all more than 30 years old and they are in the productive age. Don't look down upon these young trees. We got to know the price of the tea here was close to that of Lao Ban Zhang village.

Lao Ban Zhang half-way down the hill is a village settled by Hani Minority. When we arrived in Lao Ban Zhang, it is about Am 12:00. It doesn't like the popular saying told there were many tea dealer gathered here. During the few hours we stayed here, there were only two groups of people coming from outside. One is the people coming from the township government.  The other, telling from their accent, are the people coming from Zhejiang Province. We finally got to know they came here just to buy 20KG Lao Ban Zhang Loose Pu Erh from the tea farmers here, staying with them from harvesting to manufacturing for several days.

Most of people staying in the village were the elder. The young people all came outside to harvest tealeaves. Currently, fresh tealeaves can be sold at more than USD60/KG. It is a big sum but when you came into the homes of the local people, you would find how poor they were. It is so strange considering the big money they can earn from tea each year and why didn't they improve their living conditions with the money?  It was obviously beyond our aim coming here so we didn't think it anymore.

Two barriers have been set up to prevent Pu Erh tea outside coming into Lao Ban Zhang. It seemed to be a good idea while if you paid attention, you would find it wasn't same as what you thought. Great profit can urge people to take risk and change everything. It seems that if you wanted to drink authentic Lao Ban Zhang Pu Erh, the most reliable way would need to be like, as I mentioned previously, what the Zhejiang people did.

The photos taken on the road to Lao Ban Zhang, Ban Lang Shan:

The Photos taken in the Lao Ban Zhang Village:

Monday, March 4, 2013

"Six Great Tea Mountains" and Their History

Six Great Tea Mountains were the most famous producing area of Pu-erh Tea in historical recordation. The first time they were mentioned was in Qing Dynasty, early 18th. Century, when development of Pu-erh Tea reached an outstanding position in its history, described by Tan Cui in his book as “ Pu-erh Tea is famous through whole country, produced in the region of Six Tea Mountains that belong to Pu’er Prefecture, of which the first mountain is called You Le, the second is called Ge Deng, the third Yi Ban, the forth Mang Zhi, the fifth Man Zhuang and the last is Man Sha, covering total an area of 800 square kilometers. ” 

The geographic locations of Six Tea Mountains are all in territory of today’s Xishuangbanna, on the east side of Mekong River, among the rest You Le was located around Ya Nuo Village, Ji Nuo Township of Jing Hong, Ge Deng, Mang Zhi, Yi Ban and Man Zhuang were situated in Xiang Ming Township of Meng La County, Man Sha usded to have its position around Man Sha Village of Man La Township, Meng La County, but Yi Wu, a former part of Man Sha Tea Mountain was marked off to be an independent township when county was regionalized. On the map of today, Six Tea Mountains are actually connected with each other; they form an integral region in the northeast of Xishuangbanna.

The first time Six Tea Mountains were mentioned was in 18th. Century, but it doesn’t mean the history of Six Tea Mountains started so late, early as 1000 years ago, Pu, who were the ancestors of Bulang Nationality living in Xishuangbanna today, began to domesticate wild tea plants for daily consumption, and 800 years ago, started mass plantations, but during that period, ethnic people undertook production mostly for self-sufficiency, not for trade, this situation remained unchanged till the end of Ming Dynasty, approximately 380 years ago, as the central government strengthened exploitation and control on frontier region, intercommunion with inland China got promoted, tea from this region gradually became known by more and more people. During the middle of Qing Dynasty, about 250 years ago, tea production and trade in Six Great Tea Mountains area reached the height, their products gathered and acted as leading role in tea market of Pu-erh, a town which used to be administrative capital of south Yunnan as well the distribution center of tea from this region, then spread around to Tibet, other provinces of China or southeast Asia. Salability of these tea products gained great fame for their producing area; Six Great Tea Mountains became the acknowledged cradle of famous Pu-erh Tea, even had the responsibility of supplying tribute tea to Chinese emperor on shoulders. From 19th. Century, British colonists began to develop tea planting on a large scale in India, intensive farming and efficient management achieved high yield at low cost, big quantity of cheap tea entered Tibet to vie for market, owing to behindhand way of production and primitive way of transportation, Pu-erh Tea couldn’t match against its new competitor from India, gradually lost the most important traditional market it had occupied for hundreds of years; on the other hand, countries around south Yunnan, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand or Myanmar became colonies of European, those countries once offered the shortest courses from origin to harbor, but under control of European, the former exporting routes of Pu-erh Tea were totally blocked; moreover, corrupt government officials of late Qing Dynasty laid exorbitant taxes and levies upon tea trade, farmers and merchants couldn’t bear the increasingly strengthened exploitation, changed professions and moved out one after another. These reasons directly caused the comedown of Six Great Tea Mountains in late 19th. Century, plus pestilence that spread in this region and destruction inflicted by rebellious ethnic tribes, Six Great Tea Mountains became more and more desolate and less populated, by degrees finally passed into silence at the beginning of the 20th. century.

For very long time in history, green tea produced in central China had been absolutely the dominant role on the stage of tea industry development, Pu’er Tea from Six Great Tea Mountains changed this situation, it offered tea drinkers a different option and step by step gained its own place in Chinese tea culture. Besides, prosperous tea trade of Six Tea Mountains attracted numerous Han people to move in, they brought advanced production technology and civilized culture, which greatly improved the productivity of frontier region and effectively helped ethnic people to develop local economy, it’s the first time that Han immigrants took part in construction of Xishuangbanna in great force, in a sense, Six Great Tea Mountains are a monument about intercommunion between Han and border ethnic groups.

As Pu-erh Tea is regaining popularity on the market in recent years, Six Great Tea Mountains are also recatching people’s attention.