At a 1840m elevation, Banuo is the highest village in the Eastern Mengku tea region, even rising above the well known Bingdao village just miles away. The region enjoys ecological conditions that any pu erh tea maker can dream of: an average annual temperature of 19℃, 1750mm of annual rainfall, and extremely fertile land.
Teng Tiao Cha (藤条茶)
The ancient tea trees of Banuo are different in form from those of other villages in Mengku, their branches resemble vines, hence the name Banuo vine tea (Teng Tiao Cha).
When observing a tea plantations from a distance, the tea trees consist of vine-like branches, with no visible trunks. The longest vines can be up to three or four metres long, and only the tips of the vines have young leaves and buds. There's currently 1500 mu (approx. 1km²) of wild vine tea plantations in Banuo.
What is Vine Tea: Way of Cultivation?
Vine tea has been cultivated in Yunnan for hundreds of years. It is a unique method of tea tree cultivation developed by tea farmers based on the distinctive climatic conditions of Yunnan, the characteristics of the large-leaf varietal tea trees, and the traditional Yunnan pu erh production methods.
While the local Banuo tea trees do differ from other regions, the term 'vine tea' or 'teng tiao cha' do not refer to a specific varietal. Instead, it's a way of tea cultivation.
For vine tea, only the main branches and their top few leaves are kept, while other subbranches are removed. As a result, the nutrients can be concentrated on the top few leaves, creating apical dominance: a phenomenon in which the main branches of the tea trees dominate and prevent outgrowth of other branches.
This method of cultivation is known as stay-picking (留采法), which increases the thickness of the leaves, and allows the top tea buds to fully absorb light and obtain richer nutrients, so the quality of the tea leaves is superior to that of ordinary tea trees.
Due to the stay-picking method, the branches of the tea tree will grow longer and longer, and over time they will take on the shape of a long vine, hence the term vine tea.
Vine tea branches are abundant but not messy, soft as vines, charming as willows. The top buds and leaves move with the wind, which is why the Banuo locals calls it them "dancing tea trees".
Teng Tiao Cha: Benefits of Stay-Picking
A downside of teng tiao cha cultivation is a very low yield. However, the harvested tea leaves are of exceptional quality: The leaves are very tender and neat, the buds are thick and hairy with silvery colour after drying.
Stay-picking ensures that every branch and leaf of every tea tree can be evenly and fully ventilated and exposed to light, which greatly increases the photosynthesis of the tea tree while reducing water transpiration, and also helps to concentrate the supply of nutrients to each growing point of the branch.
What does Vine Tea Taste like?
The fresh leaves of vine tea are plump and full, which makes them ideal for processing into sun-dried maocha with thick and beautiful strands. The tea flavour is rich and has a well-rounded taste, with good ageing quality.
Banuo teng tiao cha tastes pure, sweet, mellow and delicate, with a rich nectar aroma and a strong sweet aftertaste. The steeped leaves are fresh and tender, the soup colour is golden and translucent.
Want to taste Teng Tiao Cha yourself? Then consider buying a sample or a full cake of our Ancient Banuo Pu Erh Tea.