THE WILD TEA TREES IN LAOS
March 31, 2010
Greetings friends and family from Northern Laos!!!! What a place :)
For the past few days Jirka and I have really been roughing it. It's been a "raw, aboriginal" experience.
Laos is truly magnificent. As we have traveled up and around through many local village tribes, here we see people living off the land and constructing their homes out of raw materials and bamboo. The tribal people are dressed in traditional clothing, which consist of turbans, elaborate hand stitched fabrics, which they create by hand. It is truly stunning. Gold coins hand from their headpieces and the women were these decorative leg warmers and hand stitched sandals. They do not wish to have their pictures taken, as a local explained me that when you take their photo, you are taking a piece of their identity. I will hold these images in my heart, but was able to get a few photos before they threw stones at us. I was able to get some pieces of their handmade fabrics, which will hang in the Dobra Tea room. GGRRREEAAAT!!!!
The food in Laos is quite terrible really. We went to a market where, no joking they sell rats, bats, snakes and this weird flying dog creature which all the locals eat. They make kabobs out of this meat and it is local tradition. I can't bring myself to taste this, so I stick with white rice, some cooked vegetables and my greens powder :) he he the food is very spicy and salty yet its very bland.
I prepared some wild tea for us this morning, which helped us sink into the local flavors!
We traveled 7 hours by a van we rented up to the mountains of Pongsali, where we find magnificent wild old growth tea trees in Korman village that are scattered throughout the village. Her the culture of tea is really something. The locals pluck the tea and leave it out into the sun to wither and eventually try. They can leave it loose like this for loose leaf green pu er style tea.
We were on the hunt for "Sa Bang" style tea. The tribal people created bamboo pieces, which they stuff with the wild tea to oxidize more and create bamboo, style puer "Sa Bang" which means Bamboo Tea. Once the tea is packed they cook it again so it dries into this shape.
The taste is super smoky, similar to green puer Qing Bing. We searched for a while in this village because the markets were closed to purchase some Sa Bang and were finally successful :) As we were leaving a woman came out of her home with a bag full or rolled, and tied with fresh bamboo stalks Sa Bang. GRRREEATTTT The tea ladies were coming down the hill for the afternoon to sell their fresh pickings to a Chinese man who then pays them per kilo This was stunning to see. See attached pictures. We laughed with them and were dancing with excitement. They thought we were crazy.
Going down the mountain we find "young tea" gardens, which are not wild tea trees but are still very raw looking and produce big buds. I purchased some "young tea" style loose tea along with loose wild tea so we can taste and compare these!!
This was a very challenging experience to reach this area of Pongsali being on a set time schedule, we almost skipped this because of the distance but are now sooo thankful for this magnificent tea discovery. It is a blessing to witness and taste tea, which are part of everyday drinking and their culture. Tomorrow early morning we will travel to the border of China by bus.
As my friend Matthew mentioned who has traveled to this area Laos before told me before I left, "if you don't die in Laos at least 3 times you weren't actually there" Jirka and I counted 4 times :)
Today we relax in a small village of Udomxai to visit markets and do some emailing. We are tired.
LOVE AND ANCIENT TEA TREES!