Exploring the 14 Big Puerh Tea Mountains in XiShuangBanNa, YunNan, China (2/2)

In a previous post written four years ago, we delved into the six major puerh tea mountains located east of the Lancang River, known internationally as the Mekong River on Google Maps.

However, there's an evolving challenge in the puerh tea industry. With increasing consumption, especially in the domestic market, the tea harvests from these six mountains are dwindling due to over-picking. Consequently, the primary harvesting area has shifted from the east to the west side of the Lancang River, where eight major tea mountains are gaining prominence. In this update, we'll explore these mountains, journeying from north to south, starting with the first one:

  1. ManNuo (曼糯)

ManNuo, located at the northernmost edge of MengHai County, falls within MengWang Village and is close to the borders of LanCang and SiMao districts.

Situated at elevations ranging from 1200m to 1300m, this region receives annual precipitation of approximately 1300mm to 1400mm.

Historically, ManNuo was a vital junction on the route from MengHai to LanCang and once a significant tea-producing area.

The opening of other routes led to a decline in ManNuo's tea prominence. However, this isolation also meant that many high-quality ancient tea trees were preserved until the 1950s and 60s.

A subsequent period of deforestation for agricultural expansion dramatically reduced the area, leaving only 1.33 km² of the original tea forests.

Characteristics of ManNuo tea include a clear mountain wild flavor and notable bitterness.

The Huigan (returning sweetness) develops slowly, yet the fragrance is rich and lingering.

  1. MengSong (MengHai) 勐宋(勐海), also known as Big MengSong

The name 'MengSong' translates to 'Village on the Mountain.' (Pic source: 中国普洱茶网)

MengSong Tea Mountain is part of MengSong Town in MengHai County. The NaKa tea area sits at about 1600m, while the BaoTang tea area ranges from 1700m to 1800m in elevation.

This region also sees annual rainfall around 1400mm. Old tea trees predominantly grow across seven tea areas: NaKa, DaManLv, BaMeng, DaAn, NanBen, New BaoTang, and Old BaoTang.

 



 

MengSong is one of MengHai County's oldest tea-producing areas, with NaKa Mountain being particularly renowned in XiShuangBanNa.

About a century ago, Han ethnic groups settled here, giving rise to the puerh tea business.

In the 1980s, the local government established new tea plantations in DaManLv, making the area a key supplier for the famous MengHai Tea Factory, also known as DaYi.

Today, MengSong still boasts ancient tea plantations covering about 2km². NaKa is celebrated for its high density of old tea trees, interspersed with small-leaf tea tree areas spanning roughly 0.2km².

BaoTang, known for its well-preserved tea plantations, features a lower density of old tea trees growing among shrubs.

Remarkable large old tea trees can still be found here, exemplifying the area's rich tea heritage.

 

                     



Tea Characteristics: The fragrance of this tea is exceptionally pure and alluring. It presents a strong, distinct flavor with pronounced bitterness. The Huigan (returning sweetness) develops gradually, adding to its unique profile.

  1. NanNuo (南糯)

The name 'NanNuo' translates to 'Bamboo Shoots Sauce'.





NanNuo is part of GeLangHe Town in MengHai County, situated approximately 24km from the center of MengHai's tea county. The area stands at an average elevation of about 1400m. It experiences annual rainfall ranging from 1500mm to 1750mm, with average temperatures hovering between 16-18℃.

Old tea trees in NanNuo predominantly grow in three villages: ZhuLin, BanPo, and GuNian, with BanPo being the most renowned.

The tea history in NanNuo is shrouded in mystery, but it is believed to span over a millennium. The 'King Arbor Tea Tree' stands as a significant testament to this rich history. NanNuo was also an early adopter of mechanized processes for making puerh tea. However, in the 1980s, the area suffered considerable damage during the rush to construct modern tea plantations.

Today, about 8km² of ancient tea plantation remains, making it the largest tea mountain in XiShuangBanNa. These plantations are distributed among 9 villages, each offering teas with distinct flavors due to the mountain's expansive reach. BanPo Village's tea is particularly celebrated among tea enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the quality of tea has somewhat declined in recent years due to a combination of factors, including the growth of shrubs among the old tea trees and various human-induced changes.

Tea Characteristics: The tea soup has a rich body, with Huigan (returning sweetness) that manifests quickly. The wild tea mountain flavor is moderately distinct. In recent years, there has been a noticeable decrease in bitterness, accompanied by a milder fragrance.

Below is a photo I took of the 'King Tea Tree of NanNuo.' I will share more details and photos in an upcoming article.



4. PaSha(帕沙)
PaSha means "A mountain and a river"
 

PaSha, another region within GeLangHe Town in MengHai County, is nestled between the NanNuo and BuLang tea mountains.

Its elevation ranges from 1200m to 2000m, with an annual average temperature of 22℃ and approximately 1500mm of rainfall.

The ancient tea plantations here are divided among several areas: NanGan, LaoDuan, and the new, old, and middle villages of PaSha.

The history of tea cultivation in this region dates back to the Tang and Song dynasties, about 1000 to 1300 years ago, when the ancestors of the HaNi ethnic group began planting tea trees.

Today, PaSha boasts around 1.93km² of old tea tree plantations, many of which are several hundred years old.

These ancient trees have been well-preserved and largely remain unpruned, especially those in PaSha's old village, which are more famous than their counterparts in other areas.

Tea Characteristics: PaSha's old tree tea is known for its distinct bitterness, followed by a pronounced Huigan (returning sweetness).

The flavor of the wild mountain is rich and robust.

Pictured below is the 'King Tea Tree' in PaSha's middle village, a venerable tree approximately 800 years old and now under protection by the local government.

 

This photo shows another ancient tea tree in the region. While it doesn't have the same official protection as the 'King Tea Tree,' local residents believe that this tree is almost as old, showcasing the rich tea heritage of the area.

 

5. HeKai (贺开)

The name 'HeKai' translates to 'The First Place to See the Morning Sun.' It is located in HeKai Village within MengHun Town, MengHai County, with elevations ranging from 1400m to 1700m. The old tea tree plantations here are distributed among several communities: New ManNong Village, Old ManNong Village, Old BangPen Village, ManMai, ManBeng, and ManLong.

The local LaHu ethnic people, descendants of the ancient Qiang ethnic group, have a rich history in this region, having moved here and started cultivating tea trees over 1500 years ago. HeKai is renowned as one of the most famous tea areas in XiShuangBanNa.

The region still boasts about 6km² of old tea tree plantations. Notably, more than 10 ancient trees, nearly 1000 years old, are found in New ManNong Village and Old ManNong Village.

Tea Characteristics: The tea from HeKai is known for its rich-bodied soup and distinct bitterness. The Huigan (returning sweetness) emerges promptly, accompanied by a pronounced mountain flavor.

Pictured here is the 'King Tea Tree' of HeKai.

 

6. BuLang (布朗)

 

BuLang is named for the BuLang ethnic people who reside in the area. It is part of BuLang Town in MengHai County.

The region receives an annual average precipitation of about 1300mm to 1500mm, with average temperatures ranging from 18 to 19℃.

The elevations of Old BanZhang Village and New BanZhang Village are approximately 1600m to 1700m, while LaoManEr Village is situated at a lower elevation of around 1200m.

Old tea trees are found in Old BanZhang Village, New BanZhang Village, LaoManEr, ManXinLong, ManNuo, and other areas.

The BuLang ethnic group, descendants of the ancient Pu ethnic group, have a long history of tea cultivation in Yunnan Province, dating back more than 3000 years to the Shang and Zhou dynasties.

Today, LaoManEr Village still harbors extensive old tea tree plantations. Old BanZhang, also known as LaoBanZhang or LBZ, gained prominence at the start of the 21st century. Its tea is highly regarded for its distinct appearance and taste, earning it the title 'King' of puerh tea.

Currently, the price of LBZ tea serves as an important benchmark in the puerh tea market.

The combined area of the old and new BanZhang villages covers more than 1.3km², with the trees in the Old BanZhang Village being older than those in the New Village.

LaoManEr Village encompasses over 2km². Although the local community and government are aware of the importance of environmental protection, the quality of tea has been affected by over-picking.

Tea Characteristics: The tea leaves from Old BanZhang are full-bodied and robust in flavor.

The bitterness is pronounced, with a quick Huigan (returning sweetness) that outlasts other teas and a rich ChaQi.

LaoManEr's tea shares similarities with Old BanZhang but has more bitterness and a slower-developing Huigan.

Pictured here is the 'King Tea Tree' of LaoBanZhang.

The 'Queen Tea Tree' of LaoBanZhang is situated approximately 10 meters to the left of the 'King Tea Tree,' both forming a majestic pair in this revered tea-growing region.

7 . MengSong (JingHong) 勐宋(景洪)

This region is also referred to as Small MengSong, distinguishing it from the larger area known as Big MengSong, which was mentioned earlier as No.2.

MengSong (JingHong) 勐宋(景洪), often referred to as Small MengSong, is located in MengSong Village within DaMengLong Town, JingHong City, in another district of the XiShuangBanNa state.

The area is situated at elevations ranging from 1500m to 1800m.

The local population primarily comprises the AiNi ethnic group, a subgroup of the HaNi ethnicity. This region is home to many ancient tea trees, some dating back between 900 to 1200 years.

Currently, MengSong is in the process of applying for recognition as a United Nations natural and cultural heritage site.

Historically, during the Qing Dynasty, the local tea was a prized gift offered to local chieftains.

Approximately 3.33 km² of old tea tree plantations remain, well-preserved to this day.

MengSong tea can be categorized into two types: sweet tea and bitter tea. The bitter variety is known for its strong bitterness, so much so that even locals tend to avoid it.

Tea Characteristics: The tea from MengSong is distinguished by its pronounced wild mountain flavor and high fragrance.

The tea soup has a rich body. The sweet tea variety offers minimal bitterness, with a quickly emerging Huigan (returning sweetness).

In contrast, the bitter tea is markedly bitter, with a slower and less pronounced Huigan.

8. BaDa (巴达)

The name 'BaDa' translates to 'Footprints of the Immortal.' (Pic source: Pu'er China)

 

BaDa is situated in XiDing Village within MengHai County, boasting elevations ranging from 1580m to 2000m. The region is home to ancient tea trees in areas like ManMai, ZhangLang, and ManPaLe.

BaDa rose to fame in 1962 with the discovery of a wild, large tea tree, which has since been regarded as crucial evidence of the origins of tea in the world.

Old ZhangLang Village, with a history exceeding 1400 years, saw its tea trees planted by the ancestors of the BuLang ethnic group.

Spanning nearly 1.3km², these ancient tea plantations coexist with wild forests and have remained unpruned to this day.

Tea Characteristics: The tea from BaDa is characterized by its intensely rich mountain flavor and pure fragrance.

Both its bitterness and Huigan (returning sweetness) are notably pronounced.

<End>

In the next installment, we'll explore the old tea mountains in the PuEr tea area, one of the three major tea regions.

We'll discover the over 2700-year-old 'Wild King Tea Tree' in QianJia Village, AiLao Mountain, ZhenYuan County, and a more than 27m tall tea tree in MengMa Town, MengLian County.

The vast wild tea tree groups in WuLiang Mountain cover over 1102km², and JingGu County's WenShan Mountain boasts the largest manually planted tea plantation, spanning more than 74km².



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