In Mahei, with the help of Mr. Liang, we visited a few ancient tea gardens and enjoyed fresh Pu Erh teas in the homes of several local tea farmers.
We got to know that a large proportion of good quality Pu Erh was still produced from the Ancient Six Great Tea Mountains such as Yiwu(易武）, Yibang（倚邦）, Youle（筱乐）in Xishuang Banna even now while high-yield terraced tea bushes have been grown in Yiwu on a large scale since 1980s. Tea bushes about 50cm in height were densely grown in parts of Yiwu. Compared to the traditional local tea trees, such tea bushes have a very high production and they can be harvested almost throughout a whole year. Although Pu Erh made of such terraced tea bushes differ much in quality with that of ancient arbor tea trees, it is still sold in the name of Yiwu Pu Erh at high prices and mostly, said to be of ancient arbor tea trees to meet the huge demand of the market. Such behavior severely ruined the reputation of Yiwu PuErh Tea. In fact, it is estimated that tea gardens of ancient arbor tea trees is no more than 30% of the total tea gardens in Yiwu now.
At an altitude of 1300 meters, Yiwu is a small town surrounded by mountains. During the prosperous time of Pu Erh tea trade, it was recorded that it had a population of more than 20000 while the corrupt Qing government and the competition of Indian tea directly caused the comedown of Yiwu town in late 19th. Century, plus pestilence that spread in this region and destruction inflicted by rebellious ethnic tribes, Yiwu became more and more desolate and less populated, by degrees finally passed into silence at the beginning of the 20th. Century. Now wooden houses are thinly scattered on both side of the only narrow street of Yiwu. With the resuscitation of Pu Erh Tea in recent 10 years, more and more people were attracted to the remote small town again. At night, it is quite and we soon fell into sleep in a small hotel in Yiwu.
In the next morning, enjoying the fresh air, we wandered on the old street of Yiwu town in a good mood. It is a street with a long history while it doesn't look antique. With many underway constructions, all was in a mess and dust was swirling in the air. As it hasn't rain for a long time, everything looked dull and grey.
The famous tea businesses such as Tong Xing Hao(同兴号)、Che Shun Hao(车顺号) and Fu Yuan Chan Hao(福元昌号)are said to have once been located around the place where Yiwu Primary School is now at. On right side of its playground once was an ancient temple while it has been replaced with the Ancient Six Great Tea Mountain Museum.
Crossed the playground was a bluestone road with old run-down houses on its both sides. Looked closely, the prints of the horses’ hooves left during the ancient time can still be made out in the bluestone road, reminding us it was the starting point of the famous Tea-Horse Ancient Route. More than 200 years ago, ancient Chinese people with simple and crude equipment travelled along the long and dangerous road on the risk of their lives to bring Pu Erh tea to Tibet, Mongolia or South East Asia. It is just so numerous ordinary people who made the brilliant history of Pu Erh Tea.
Luo Shui Dong Village:
Tea Tree King at Luo Shui Dong: