In early October I got a call from my friend Mr. Whiskers. We call him Mister Whiskers because he’s one of the few Chinese we know who can not only grow a beard, but actually wants one. He’s a long time Lincang-hand and specializes in wild and ancient arbor tea! Mr. Whiskers invited me to come down to Mengku county and try out some of the mao cha’s that he and the locals harvested. I jumped at the chance and spent a sleepless night on a dingy bus that wended it’s way through the night to arrive in Lincang. I changed buses in Lincang and went to Mengku town where I was picked up by my friend. We had a long lunch in town… it was delicious, but Mr. Whiskers apologized saying that town food was just so-so at best and that tonight we will have much better in the mountains. He drove his rented jeep up into the hills with me as passenger. A brief rain soaked the winding mountain road just as we arrived at the end of the road, we parked there along with a couple of other vehicles and headed out by foot to Bang Ma village.
Arriving in town on a small dirt track Mr. Whiskers posed with a lovely old tea tree!
We meet our hosts who are sun-drying the just processed tea. The roof of their home is the perfect surface to process tea and sun-dry it.
Mr. Whiskers takes me around the village and surrounding mountains to have a look… The lower altitude areas are a wonderful mix of primitive agriculture and tea trees… Some trees are hundreds of years old, and many others between 60 and 150 years old growing helter skelter on the hillsides.
Something between ancient and plantation exists “old/wild plantation” 老太地！
As we head up higher in the hills the tea trees become bigger and taller… at this height they are not harvested effectively and large un-picked leaves are everywhere.
Just behind a tea tree we spot a little burro who has decided he’s had enough of mankind!