Banpen

This morning we returned from a trip, staying for a few days in the mountains, in Banpen village (~4km from Lao Banzhang). This village is home to the LaHu minority – a minority which has been traditionally looked down on by surrounding minorities as being backward & lazy. As a result, these people have become distinctly insular, shunning too much contact with the outside world and with outsiders. I knew this before I arrived, and even though I’m well used to the stares I get as a westerner in the mountains, this village caught me a little off guard. Usually I manage to coax a smile out of at least the children, but this time it was just timid, blank stares. Luckily some kind farmers agreed to let us stay & as time wore on they began to open up a little more.

Although, like the nearby Lao Banzhang, this village has a lot of dogs, this minority don’t eat them but worship them, believing that their people were born from flowers and then suckled on the milk from dogs to allow them to grow. The LaHu people have 3 festivals each year to worship dogs and even feed the dogs before they themselves sit down for their meals, rather than throwing them a few scraps at the end.

This minority has been cultivating tea for hundreds of years and as a result, their villages are surrounded by many many ancient trees…

Banpen

Picked leaves – Wei Diao (resting the leaves – let the leaves wither slightly) …

Banpen

Sha qing (kill green)…

Banpen

Rou Nian (rolling the leaves)…

Rou Nian

Banpen

Shai Qing (I didn’t get a photo of them outside, but the leaves are left on these bamboo mats to sun dry outside. They are moved inside when it looks like rain is coming or to rest them overnight)

Banpen

The surrounding environment is very pure, with ancient forests surrounding the trees. Many parasitic plants such as orchids are a common sight on the old tea trees.

Orchids on ancient tea tree

  • Brandon

    How was the tea?
    Did it have the same potency as LBZ?

  • nada

    The tea was pretty good – there's a fairly steady trade from outside folk buying fresh leaves in Banpen and driving the few km along the track to sell them as being from Lao Banzhang. Luckily this village and the villagers didn't have the aura of greed and money that surrounds Lao Banzhang these days.

  • Anonymous

    I am curious how the villagers use the fresh tea. Do they use it as a green tea? Is the tea roasted before they use it?

  • nada

    They mostly don't use the fresh tea – they tend to sell it, drinking the huang pian (larger, yellowish leaves) themselves. They usually boil these in a large kettle on top of the household fire, adding more water as necessary during the day.

  • Maitre_Tea

    the anticipation for your 2010 pressings is slowly killing me…

  • Simeon

    I would have to agree with Maitre tea's comment !

  • Salsero

    Another great post. Thanks a million!

  • nada

    Sorry guys – you might have to wait a little longer. There's one small factory that I'd like to press the cakes for me. Their hygiene and attention to detail is far beyond anything I've seen in other factories. Unfortunately, due to the dry weather and delayed harvests, they're going to be really busy for another month. My feeling is that the pressing isn't worth compromising on by taking the leaves to another factory. So it looks like we all gotta wait just a little while longer πŸ™‚

    (another month for the leaves to rest after the processing should be good for the flavour of the tea anyway)

  • δΊ”θ‘Œι›²ε­

    I'm sure it'll be worth the wait…