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Experiencing Rain Forest's Tea Tour in March, 2016

Walking through tea mountains is an inspired experience which I love so much, so I joined the tea tour organized by Rain Forest, a well- established tea company built in 2012. Since I go to tea mountains often, the other reason why I joined them was to learn standard processing. I heard lots of rumors about Rain Forest, half good and half bad news before starting to Xi Shuang Ba Na.

I also invited other friends, including 8 adults and 2 kids, and Nicoline comes from Norway. The next day after I applied this tea tour via my friend who runs one Rain Forest chain store, the employee contacted me for more details and inquire special requirements like food or religion, in order to arrange accommodation, which impressed me well. Day 1: Reception & Checking In As Rain Forest arranged in advance, the drivers picked us up at the appointed place,then drove us directly to their hotel. They are supposed to pick you up mostly anywhere within Xi Shuang Ba Na. On the way to hotel, we had nice talk with the driver, who was our driver for the next three days.

As soon as we arrived Rain Forest Head Quarter in Meng Song, Meng Hai, we were welcomed warmly by the staff , we suddenly felt like five star guests. They, were well dressed with minority clothes, moved our luggage to our rooms after checking in.

The Head Quarter occupies 100 mu(6.67 hectares), has their office building the exhibition building near the big gate, and warehouse nearby. There is a big swim pool on the left side, and next to the swim pool, it is the restaurant and Communication Center.

Yes, indeed, they hotel seems like five star hotel, which we loved it so much. The guest houses are all made of wood with French windows, surrounded by tea trees, wow, it was my dream house, I whispered to my friends. Oscar, my 5-year-old son, ran everywhere checking excitedly as he always does when he’s in a new place, and told me loudly: Mum, I super like it !

After taking shower, and rested a little bit, we headed for the dinner, which started at 6:30 pm. We were pleased to take some light tea before dinner in the Communication Center.

The supper was mainly local food, totally organic. We all enjoyed the meal the next three days.What’s more, they have one waiter serving us when we were eating and asked for more opinion to improve service, I guess we could not asked more after have all those excellent service and yummy food. After dinner, we had a walk around, which gave us chance to see more and love it more.

Later we had chance to taste the new black tea named 流霞(flowing clouds). I liked its caramel aroma and bright golden color, very suitable for early spring.

Day 2: Visiting Meng Song We woke up very early the next morning, the morning was so beautiful with light fog , talented singers singing in the trees. Each breathing in seemed bring us so much fresh energy that we forget to breath out.

After breakfast, we were invited to visit the exhibition room, where represents all the teas they have made since 2012, till now they have launched over 60 collections of teas. With the vivid 3D map, we got to know the ancient tea mountains ranging in XiShuangBaNa. Till now Rain Forest has 100 primary factories all over different tea villages, with convenience to process fresh tea in time.

Then we could not wait to get on the pickup trucks , heading to the tea mountains. All of us felt surprised that it was so considerate of Rain Forest that they had even prepared us a bottle of tea, even for kids. We tried it right away, it tasted very nice without any bitterness. As usual I do not recommend brew any tea in such bottle because it may ruin the infusion. However, due to the good quality of ancient tree tea, Its flavor was out of my expectation although there lacked of much aroma. I heard that they prepared bottle for each one so we would not bring any water, which bottle will ruin the environment.

All the way to Meng Song refined factory, the guide introduced us Rain Forest company and further project via interphone which was installed in every pickup truck. Rain Forest was going to start their Project phrase II with total area of 400 mu(26.8 hectares), including conference room for 6,000 people max. There are 114 villages in Meng Song Town, and live mainly on tea. We also saw large sugarcane field for making sugar and banana trees all over one side of the mountain.

The uphill mountain road was very difficulty, Oscar enjoyed it a lot, he said he was taking roller coaster. It took around 1 hour to the refined factory, we had nice tea there before lunch, and especially enjoyed the little trail down to the primary factory, it is brilliant since people can have a little fun there.

It was too pity that we came early that we could not see the process of making tea, because last winter was too cold. Rain Forest adopted only Copper pots instead of iron pots , which are the most satisfactory of all to kill green due to the good character of holding and spread the heat well, and their tin lining does not discolor tea. They also take advantage of the whole traditional skill of making black tea Meng Hai Tea Factory sued , once Feng Shao Qiu invented.

After lunch we had little break and continued to go further. We had to walk after the pickup trucks drove us to the trail. We walked through an ancient tea park, any tea tree at hand can be a few hundred years old, and we were happy to see that it was well preserved and managed.

After that we kept walking, and stopped by a transitional tea tree with age over than 1000 years. There is different from planted tea trees, and the yellow skin has self-protective function of driving bugs away. The famous one is in BangWai village, along Lan Cang river.

Our destination was to visiting the real tea king, it is a planted tea tree with age of 1300 years old, owned by Rain Forest. I heard lots of rumors that tea from such trees is super expensive, and it was almost impossible to buy such tea. While Rain Forest seldom sell it, they reward to the whole seller or the most wonder employee, that is really encouraging. Such trees are so rare and precious, protecting them is the only way to show our gratitude nature has gifted us.

The trail was very tough and steep sometimes, no hard to see that it’s new path which Rain Forest explored lately especially for the Tea Tour. The environment is very nice, totally primeval, Nicoline was every so excited, she said she wished to bring everything home, and climb all the trees.

The whole trekking took around 2 hours, we almost were exhausted but all liked it a lot. We had a little break after coming back to refined factory, and visited the refined workshop. Those workers were busy, seemed not interrupted by our visiting. We noticed that they put better tea on surface of cake and curious about how could they grantee the consistent quality since they declaimed that the whole cake the same quality, and were told that they actually picked the better-look tea leaves from same blending loose tea, which makes sense.

It was near 5 ‘ o clock after we went back to the head quarter. After dinner, we tried the cake name tea tour(茶山行), which was made especially for the activity. This cake had flowery flavor, long-lasting sweet and thirsty quenching mouth feeling , making the tea trip more memorable.

Day 3: Visiting Bu Lang Tea Mountain and Factories.

The third day we proceeded to visit BuLang Mountain, where there are legendary puer teas, like Lao Ban Zhang, Lao Man E.

Today we spent lots of time on pickup trucks, passed by the seventh primary factory at Ba Ka Nan village. There was one of the three biggest flatland in Meng Hun, where most of the Dai people live. The way to BuLang was quite nice that Oscar felt even bored, thanks to precious ancient tea, most of the tea farmers have better life now, and government also built concrete road for them.

It took another hour till arrived at Lao Man E village, where the twenty third primary factory located. We all felt hungry after 2 hours’ driving, and could not wait to grab some lunch.

Lao Man E is the oldest village on BuLang mountains, the earliest record about it can be dated back to 1300 years ago, it is the origin of the whole villages at Bu Lang mountain. Right now there are over 140 families there, and believe in Buddha. The village had changed a lot, new buildings were everywhere, and some of them were under construction.

Lao Man E puer tea is very rare, special and limited. It is powerful similar as Lao Ban Zhang, and has very good long last after-taste sweet,clear and golden bright infusion. The average price of ancient tea tree is around US$ 200 for one cake(357 grams).

On the way to Lao Ban Zhang, we passing by Xin Ban Zhang, we could see that there changed a lot because of the ancient teas last years. I agree with Rain Forest that they do not build any factory in Lao Ban Zhang village, it is too costly. Can you image there even has bank in such deep mountains, I heard that the cash flow could be over one million RMB each day during tea - picking season. Their story of getting rich can be a miracle, the only reason is the unique tea. You would never forget its taste flavor if you tried one, I mean the authentic pure tea. Of course, few common people could afford such luxury. The buyers mostly seek Lao Ban Zhang for collection, chasing its future value. It is typical edible antique.

We were supposed to visit Ban Pen village, and just stopped by this time since they had not started to making tea. We had a break at He Kai, walking into the deep ancient tea park.

He Kai owns the largest ancient tea park with area of 16,200 mus(1,085 hectares), at elevations between 1400 - 1750 meters. Tea tress range 300 - 1400 years old. The environment is well - protected that crab feet, a Chinese medicine, lives on those tea trees.

Such a long day’s driving, it was a pleasant time to drink cups of tea after dinner. We discussed about reluctant departure tomorrow, and all hoped that we would join them processing tea next time.

Thanks to Rain Forest, we had an memorable and meaningful tea tour, which helped us understand ancient puer tea better, and cherish each cup of tea more. As an super puer lover, I understood the receipt was the key, while I still wished to get more information about the teas which they were reluctant to reveal. If there would have some tea ceremony , or tea food, or tea festival, that would be perfect although it was almost be.

(Mabol @ Kunming, March, 2016)

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