Ya Kou Village – Nan Nuo Mountains

This trip was made in April 2010. I went to Ya Kou village (丫口寨) for the 2nd time to collect the mao cha for our production. Ya Kou village is in the southern part of the Nan Nuo mountain range. Ya Kou Village lies at about 1600 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest altitude villages in the Nan Nuo area. Ya Kou village like most other Nan Nuo villages is inhabited entirely by Aini people and relies heavily on tea harvesting for its income.

As I headed up into the mountains, the vegetation became thicker and I began to notice natural tea gardens. I asked the driver to stop just outside Shi Tou Xin Village, and I headed downhill a little ways to a lovely tea garden with a mix of old plantation bushes and hundreds of year old trees.

I spend about 20 minutes hiking around this area making a note of the area and pleasant conditions. Although there is a small hut for processing, there is nobody around. I head back to the road and ask my impatient driver to head higher up into the mountains. After another 20 minutes winding through the mountains on a thin ribbon of a road we arrive in the area of Ya Kou village. Since my local friend (and supplier) is not at home I head up into the surrounding tea gardens for a look.

Lots of lovely tea trees, a mix of 50 years to 200 year old trees growing naturally amongst larger and even older (non-tea) trees which have never been cut!

I come across and old guy picking tea and chat with him briefly… I ask him what he is selling his mao cha for and get his phone number. I will visit him in the fall, and try his fall teas. Nearby he has a bag of freshly picked leaves.

I head back to my friend’s place and find that he is at home. He is arranging the mao cha on bamboo mats for a second round of drying. To keep from over-drying it he spreads the tea not too thinly on the mats.

As my friend is busy with his sun-drying task, I walk around his homestead and take in the scenes.

The area under his house is where does the kill-green (杀青) and rolling (揉捻). A large wok and a stock of firewood are the key ingredients for traditional kill-green tea processing.

I head back to check in with my friend who is just finishing up his sun-drying task. He loads the dried “mao cha” into a sack.

We each grab a sack and make the brief trek back to his warehouse where he has in storage his own mao cha as well as those of a couple of neighbors. He tells me that most of the tea in his small warehouse will be pressed by a Guangzhou tea seller.

After this we sit down for some tea, drinking the tea he processed for me. Aging more than 15 days in his small warehouse has removed most of the grassy and vegetal notes that very very new “mao cha” has. It’s got more complexity than before and I look forward to tasting it in the months and years to come.

I bid my friend farewell and tell me we will meet again in the autumn. He helps me load the sacks of mao cha into my hired pickup truck and my driver and I head down the mountain to the highway which leads us back to Jinghong.

10 thoughts on “Ya Kou Village – Nan Nuo Mountains

  1. Great pictures and captions explaining the most interesting day in a tea village. Thanks for taking us along and sharing. It is facinating for me just seeing the small estate tea harvesting process and different tea villages bringing the business as the business it is to a westerner who is totally in love with sheng puerh teas. Please keep up your blog as everything about the Yunnan tea areas is facinating to me. Everything. The best, Ken

  2. Thanks!! It’s been a long time since I have written anything other than a tea description for my website, so my writing is a little weak. That’s why I hope the pictures will do most of the work for me.

  3. I agree with Ken; it’s great to see how (and where) pu’er is grown and processed.

    How about some pictures form the pu’er marked? Or your own (and presumebly enormous) tea collection?

  4. Thanks so much for your beautiful pictures and descriptions. I find it surprising how many people live off of the cultivation of tea… How pure the air must be on top of those mountains…

    Keep the posts coming, i love the pictures and the nature.

  5. Nice to read those posts and look at those nice picture! Nannuo Shan…Jing Gu…
    Missing Yunnan so much…
    We are waiting for Jin Gu tea, it looks really nice!

  6. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for the sample, my wife and I tried it earlier this afternoon and we loved this yummy tea. I used only 6 grams in a 150ml yixing pot with short infusion time (2~5 secs). The tea broth is a pale-gold-yellow color with honey-like sweetness and nice clean floral notes. Interestingly, it also has a faint hint of aftertaste saltiness and a bit astringent only on the 4th + 5th infusion. After that, its all good and thumbs up for the hui-gan as it lingers in the mouth for a good while. Alas we have to stop at the 12th infusion because our friends came over for dinner, otherwise I am sure it can go more than 15 infusions. I will be saving the rest of the samples in a small paper bag and try it again in the next few months. Cheers!

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