It’s dry here, really dry. We first enountered it upon arriving in Kunming – the streets were more dusty than normal, our noses filled with black dusty dirt & our skin constantly felt dry. Yunnan is experiencing the worst drought they’ve had in the last 50/100 years (depending upon which news sources you listen to). The result of this has been villages without water to drink, power outages (~70% of the electricity in Yunnan apparently comes from Hydro-electric sources), a shortage and subsequent rise in the prices of vegetables in the markets & a unfortunately a similar consequence for tea.
Xishuangbanna is also dry, but arriving here was a relief from the streets of Kunming. We could blow the dirt from our noses and it felt as though our skin was soaking up the humidity in the air, rehydrating from our couple of days in Kunming. We spent a few days in Nannuo visiting and staying with the farmer and his family who have been very kind to us in previous years. Their feeling is that it has been very strange for them weather wise – they picked their old trees for the first time in February – the first time they could remember the harvest beginning that early. Since then the buds have grown slowly, with a big decrease in quantity. Their plantation teas usually have 200kg at this time of year, but now just ~50kg, while his old growth trees produced around half their normal production.
The situation in Nannuo hadn’t prepared me for the sights we saw driving on the track down from Lao Banzhang – the plantations in Menghun had huge patches of brown. The plantation trees, with their shorter roots, weren’t getting very much moisture at all and whole areas were dying off. Apparently there was no chance for these trees to recover. This was reconfirmed for me today – we visited the Tea Research Station in Menghai. They have huge areas of plantation trees, each area divided according to the varietal of trees. Some varietals seemed to be coping with the weather and still producing good buds, some sections with newer varietals or hybrids had big areas where they’d dug up the trees that had died from the shortage of water.
Fortunately (at least for the moment), there still is tea around & the quality can be good. The prices are higher – Lao Banzhang has gone crazy again with prices of >1000RMB/kg being quoted (more than double the price from last year), but we’re off to the mountains again tomorrow to try to seek out some less famous places and to see what we can find.