Phongsali Tea

Ark of taste
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Phongsali Tea (Camellia sinensis L.) trees are hundreds of years old with 4-10 meters tall that grows in 70 hectors of forest at Ban Komen village of Phongsali province in northern Laos. The trees are gnarled, with tortuously twisted branches and having more than 400 years old, grown in the hills. The large root system of the old trees extends deep into the mineral-rich soil, with green leaves, The bulk of the harvest goes for tea processing. The part of the harvest that is kept in the village is briefly heated up in the evening in a deep metal bowl set in a stone hearth, which softens the leaves. Then the leaves are kneaded in a rolling drum. A tea picker picks four to five kg of tea leaves a day on average, though as much as 10 to 15 kg on especially good days. In the dry season from November to January, when no tea leaves grow, most of the village farmers sell rice, which they also grow. The prices peak from February to May, when the weather is comparatively dry and the quality of the tea leaves very high. During this season, the farmers can earn up to 40,000 Lao kip per kg, roughly $ 5. During the rainy season from late May to October, the price plummets to about 5,000 kip per kg, a little over 60 cents. It is tea – not edible on its own but the edible part of tea trees are leaves. It is processing and dried to become edible tea, consumed at all times of year and on all occasions, as is the custom in this part of Asian culture and most of the tea is exported to China. The tea trees are hundreds of years old and local community are believing these trees are grown naturally and there is no evidence that are planted before. It is not used in food but use to make a hard liquor which the locals call "Lao Khao" -while western sites may refer to it as being a "green tea whiskey" it would be fairer to describe it as a sort of Baijiu made with tea leaves and the best way of preservation is making it dry. The high-grade tea from Laos is not accorded great respect in China, it is usually used merely to enhance machine-harvested Chinese tea of inferior quality. This is one reason that tea grower farmers are keen on tapping other foreign markets, so many of the tea producers are preferring to work in rice fields or other activities, unaware that the local knowledge and traditional tea production even tea tree from this region as an important heritage has been endangered and maybe this product will no longer exist in the next few years.

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Production area:Phongsali province

Other info


Tea and infusions

Indigenous community:Phunoi
Nominated by:Jack Coulton