Mengsong is a captivating tea region in the most remote areas of Yunnan province, China. Its name means "tribe on a high mountain" in the local Dai language, which reflects its location at an elevation of up to 2219 meters. Unlike other tea regions in Menghai county, such as Nannuo and Bulang, Mengsong is less accessible and more isolated due to its underdeveloped infrastructure. In fact, the area is covered by forest for 80% of its land.
Mengsong enjoys a favorable climate for tea cultivation, as it belongs to the southern subtropical monsoon zone. It has an average annual temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, abundant sunlight, moderate rainfall, and fertile soil (mainly red soil). These are ideal conditions that any tea farmer would envy.
Characteristics of Mengsong Pu Erh Tea
Mengsong Pu erh tea leaves are thick and strong, characterised by a long shape and stalks. The tea is golden and bright and full of wild mountain flavour. The bitterness is obvious, but the sweet aftertaste is persistent and the mouthfeel is refreshing.
Teas from Mengsong are also known for lasting many steeps when prepared the traditional way. Our perfectly aged 2007 Meng Song raw pu erh tea cake is no different.
Tea Villages of Mengsong
The ancient tea plantations of Mengsong are widely distributed. The main villages are the ancient villages of Naka, Da'an, Nanben, and Baotang. In total, the Mengsong region covers approximately 3.800 mu (253 hectares / 2.5 km2) of ancient tea plantations.
Naka Village is well known for producing excellent quality ancient tree tea material, and considered the most representative tea of Mengsong. The village is home to the Lahu minority group. Before Lao Ban Zhang became popular, the most famous hilltop teas were from Nannuo and Naka. The tea trees in this region are between 300-500 years old.
The Naka tea tastes overall mellow and smooth, with a short period of astringency, noticeable bitterness, long-lasting sweet aftertaste, striking aroma and bright soup colour.
Small and Medium Leaf Varieties
The Naka ancient tea plantation has a mixture of large and small/medium leaf varieties. Small leaf varieties growing in the Menghai tea region is in fact quite rare, as the region is mainly famous for its large leaf varieties.
Bamboo Stick Tribute Tea
In Yunnan, there are many ethnic groups that make pu erh tea in bamboo sticks. But only tea in bamboo sticks from the Lahu people in Naka have once been sent to the King of Myanmar as a tribute tea.
Baotang Old Village
The original inhabitants of the old village of Baotang were the Lahu people, and most of the tea trees in the ancient tea plantations were planted by the Lahu, who believe that everything has a spirit and that the ancient trees have a soul, so they do not cut down the ancient tea trees.
Tea, alcohol, salt and rice are the items that the Lahu sacrifice to the spirits in their rituals, so tea is one of the mediums through which the Lahu communicate with the spirits.
Biggest and Oldest Ancient Tea Tree in Mengsong
The old village of Baotang is close to the ancient tea plantations, covering an area of more than 1,000 mu, with tea trees growing very densely. The thick tea trees have trunks that need to be hugged by two people, while the smaller ones are as thick as a bowl, with varying ages, looking like a natural museum of ancient tea trees. The biggest and oldest ancient tea trees in Meng Song are concentrated here, with more than 10 big tea trees with a diameter of over 150cm.
The "Prince Tree" in Baotang Old Village
The ecological environment of the Baotang Ancient Tea Plantation is among the best in the Pu erh tea-producing region, with ancient tea areas coexisting with mixed forest trees. There is a "prince tree" with a trunk diameter of 1.83m at its thickest and located at an altitude of 1836.3m.
Of the 3,800 mu of ancient tea plantations in Mengsong, the most famous are Naka and Baotang, but the richest in ancient tea tree resources is Da'an Village. Da'an is a Bulang ethnic village with 1,300 mu of tea plantations, spread out in lush mixed woods, with tea trees between 100-300 years old.
Most of the ancient tea plantations in Mengsong are planted by the Lahu people, and there are Lahu villages all around the ancient tea plantations, but there are also Hani, Bulang and Han villages scattered around some of the ancient tea plantations. The Da'an village is home to the Bulang tribe.
Where the Bulang people live, there are usually ancient tea plantations. We do not know when the Bulang people of Da'an moved to this area, but we do know that they have a deep-rooted love for tea trees, which has created the largest ancient tea plantation in Mengsong, and the exceptional quality of Da'an ancient tea.
Da'an tea is unique among Mengsong teas for its distinctive characteristics such as intense taste, dominant chaqi, pronounced bitter undertone, long-lasting sweetness and crisp mouthfeel.
Some people say that there are no large ancient tea plantations in the Mengsong tea mountains. In fact, this is without really knowing Mengsong, there are whole dense ancient tea plantations in large areas in Baotang, Da'an and Nanben.
Nanben, in the south-east of Mengsong, was originally a Lahu village, but at the end of the Qing Dynasty the Han people moved into Nanben, and after generations of reproduction, it has now become a village dominated by Han families.
There are three large ancient tea plantations in Nanben. At an altitude of 1,920 metres above sea level, there is an ancient tea tree 6 metres high and 1.25 metres thick, known locally as the "Prince of Nanben".
Nanben ancient tree tea is aged, higher in altitude, although the aroma is not as lingering as Naka, but the sweetness and delicacy is greater, with honey and orchid fragrance.
Ancient tea trees connect people to nature, and to the culture. For ancient tree tea, we will savour it with cherish and reverence.