“Be always flexible.” I told my friends before we started this tea tour. We decided to visit tea mountains in early May because spring tea was almost done, and we would not be crashed by those innumerable tourists or tea business men.
(Jing Hong airport)
It ‘s a nice trip that we caught some more sleep on the plane, and arrived at Jing Hong on time, thank god, it was not too hot.
As we planed, we took a van, heading to Yi Wu Town directly. Jacky, Matylda and Karina were so excited since It was their first time to tea mountains. After another 3 hours’ driving, we finally arrived at the destination, where I could smell tea far away.
(Yi Wu Ancient Town in Early Morning)
Yiwu, in Dai language, means the place where pretty snakes live. It locates in the north of Mengla County, Xishuangbanna Prefecture. It was once the most important trade center of puerh tea, and the starting town of the Ancient Tea-Horse Trail (Road) . Even in early Tang dynasty, there’s documentary about Yi Wu’s prosperity, recorded it was one of the famous tea mountains (银生城界诸山yín shēng chéng jiè zhū shān).
(Drinking tea in Chen Sheng Fu Yuan Chang)
We were supposed to visit Chen Sheng Fu Yuan Chang Tea company(陈升福元昌），and they had already been waiting for us. After leaving our luggage, we just sat down, and could not wait to drink cups of tea. Although I had tried many other Yi Wu tea, no doubt it’s the first time that I got the authentic impression of YiWu puerh: high aroma, soft infusion, rich taste and last-long lingering flavor. Of course, Fu Yuan Chang was once the famous brand in Qing dynasty, all the puerh cakes they’ve produce now represent the traditional sophisticated tea skill and artistry, which have been inherited by their children generation and Chen Sheng Hao(陈升号). In 2013, one tube of puerh cakes(7 cakes) made in 1920s hit 10.35 million RMB for auction, you can image how precious those cakes are. Of course, those antique cakes means a lot , much more than its taste, I always tell my friends so.
(New building of Fu Yuan Chang)
We never planed to waste any minute, and heading to tea mountains as soon as we finished lunch with Mr Wang leading us. The first village is Luo Shui Dong(落水洞 luò shuǐ dòng), where we had chance to worship an old tea tree. They still did not believe what they saw were tea trees.
(Tea plantation in Ma Hei village)
We met Mr Wan’s friend, so we decided to visit his family in Ma Hei village（麻黑 má hēi）. They just finished spring tea, and there were a few tea farmers sorting loose raw puerh（毛茶 máo chá）. It’s a time-consumed job, we wondered why didn’t they play any music. And of course, we would love to try this year’s new tea. It’s fresh and brisk, after many cups, we could not hold its power any more. So we continued our tea journey.
(Sorting of Mao Cha)
The tea area of Yi Wu is the biggest in the six old tea mountains, including Yi Wu Zheng Shan(易武正山), Man Sa Cha Shan(慢撒茶山), ManLa Cha Shan(曼腊茶山), and among which , there are over 7000 Mu(equals 467 hectares) of preserved ancient tea park, distributing in Luo Shui Dong(落水洞), Gua Feng Zhai(刮风寨), Qiao Tou Cun(桥头村), etc, with average age of over 100 years old. Too sadly, local people cut most of the tall trees in 1970s and 1980s with purpose to pursuit high production, that’s why it is rare to see many tall and big trees, while if you pay attention to those tree base, it’s no hard to figure out that they are actually very old. There live Han(汉族）, Yi（彝族）, Dai（傣族）, Yao（瑶族） , Hani （哈尼族）and other 8 minority people, among which, Han and Yi people are the majority, occupy one third respectively.
(Villages in Yi Wu Town)
Yi Wu ancient town is like an old man, full of gorgeous stories, those preserved ancient houses tell us its flouring history again and again. During Yong Zheng and Qian Long era in Qing dynasty, lots of diligent Shi Ping people moved to Yi Wu, had created its prosperity. Till now you are still be able to visit Tong Xing Hao（同兴号）, Tong Chang Hao（同昌号）, Fu Yuan Chang（福元昌）, Yin Chun Hao（迎春号）, Shou Xing Chang （守兴昌）and Che Shun Hao（车顺号）. And Dao Guang emperor especially granted Che Shun Hao a plaque, written Rui Gong Tian Cha（瑞贡天朝）, to praise the tribute puerh from Yi Wu. Since then Yi Wu tea gained its fame more widely.
(The Old Buiding of Che Shun Hao)
The history of Yi Wu looks just like tea in the cup, there were always ups and downs. Yi Wu tea was once in another decline in 1930s because of war and other reason, now we are witnessing it’s glory age again, and we believe that Yi Wu tea will go further and further under the effort of new tea generation , who have inherited the craftsmanship.
(Group photo with Mr He Tian Neng and His wife)
We said farewell reluctantly to Yi Wu, “Be flexible, I always tell my friends.”We changed our schedule and set out on the next tea journey.
(The Documentory of Yi Wu Ancient Tea Town by CCTV 4)
(Mabol@Kunming, May 8, 2016)