In our tea collection, there are four types of specialty tea from Thuong Son, Vi Xuyen, Ha Giang, including Spirit Cloud 3 (Linh Van 3 – white tea), White Cloud 3 (Bạch Van 3 – green tea), Green Cloud 1 (Thanh Van 1 – green tea) and Raw Puer tea. That’s the reason why Thuong Son is always the place I want to visit, so as to discover the tea trees, the soils as well as the people here. So, what makes this land different and special compared to other tea areas?
The journey to Thuong Son was the most challenge trip, compared to other tea journeys to Tay Con Linh mountain area that I’ve made recently with Bavantea team.
More than 7AM, after having a full breakfast, filling up full petrols for 2 motorbikes, we departed from Ha Giang city, followed the national highway to Vi Xuyen. Despite of being warned by local people about difficulties on the road, I still could not fully imagine the actual difficulties on the road here.
1/3 of the road is beautiful, I was still careless, but when we began to reach foot of the moutain and drove up, there were a lot damages and plenty of holes on the road surface, only small parts of the road enabled us to go, the rest had been damaged. Big rocks nearly blocked the road which made it difficult to go through, some places were at risk of landslides. After this journey, the driving skill of the two drivers should be upgraded automatically, without the need of training! After many hours of driving, our team finally reached center of Thuong Son.
Different from other places that I had visited during my tea journey, I only could see very few people attending the markets in Thuong Son, houses of local people were scrattered, mainly located around the streams. Some famous tea brand have workshop here, proving that Thuong Son is a special & potential tea area. Along the road, there are houses, mainly for tea processing. At this time of the year they focus on making smoked tea and yellow tea to perform purchase orders from China, some workshops also process green tea or black tea … to perform purchase orders from Vietnam. Tea season comes at the same time with rainy season, local people focus on growing rice, only a few people still go to pick up tea leaves, so, even if there are more requirements from workshops, tea material is still few this time.
Comparing to other tea areas that I’ve visited, the tea makers who supported us during this trip, are all very professional, honest, progressive, their workshops are clean, tidy, their tea products meet both hygiene and aesthetic requirement, the warehouses are equipped with shelves and classified carefully. I was quite interested when I saw the book Tea Story written by Mr.Tran Quang Duc in the workshop of a tea guide. Besides producing tea, they are very diligent in learning about tea culture, they also invested a full set of teaware, which is not as professional as those in the tea shop, but is enough to support the drinkers to feel and enjoy the taste of tea.
Regarding standard of tea material, a tea guide revealed that, with the same variety – shan snow tea, but there are different ways of classification: basing on different plucking ways to classify, or basing on the ages of tea tree to classify; material from young tea trees are different with those from ancient tea trees. Different tea material will provide different kinds of tea. High grade teas are required to be rich, thick and deep in tastes, which can only be found in ancient tea leaves; while the leaves of young tea trees are less rich, so no matter how good in technique the tea makers are, the tea taste is not so deep if material is from leaves of young tea trees. Here, they clearly classify tea products, which one is ancient tea, which one is newly planted tea, and their price, very clear. That’s why we said, buyers may not know, but sellers and producers must know clearly, of course, to reach to this level, they also have made a lot of efforts, spent a lot of time and learning fees. For high-grade teas with higher requirements, they will appoint workshop’s staff to come to tea farm so as to guide farmers and to ensure material to be picked from the correct ancient tea trees, and then deliver material back to the workshop on the same day.
Thuong Son has many tea areas, but Bavan tea team was unable to visit all of them in a few days, so we only focused on the tea areas that our partners were working on. This time our trip was made in summer and rainy season, the development of tea buds are also different from those in spring. After spring, the branches are cut down, so as to promote new leaves for summer harvest, from a rather far distance, only the tips of young leaves can be seen, growing in cluster with big buds. Depending on the time of picking, whether it is rainy or sunny, the substances of the tea buds will be different. We went to Thuong Son after a heavy rain, so apart from landslides, the tea buds then were not as rich as those picked up in the spring harvest that we used for our tea batches. Maybe on sunny days, the tea buds will be richer and more suitable for making Puer Teas.
Tea trees here also grow along the mountain slopes, refusing to grow under the shades of other big trees, create their own tea ecosystem. A few people sometimes also choose places where tea trees grow, to build their houses for conveniences in harvesting. There are small shrubs, ferns, mosses, small streams in the tea ecosystem, although it is not as dense as the forest, but you can truly feel the diversity and richness of the nutrients that the tea trees receive. In this area, the tea trees are quite old with big stem, however, they are a bit over exploited, as a result, the tree canopies are not developed well. If exploited too much, the disappearance of tea trees is predictable. The tea producer who accompanied with us revealed that, local people often concern about the way to havest the biggest quantity of tea. Knowing this, he has instructed local people on how to harvest tea sustainably and economically, but to do this, harvest quantity should be reduced and farmers shoud be paid more. If we can sell tea in Vietnam with good prices, there will be no need to make cheap tea exported to China, and people in Vietnam are able to drink good tea, all parties will have benefits, the tea trees will also receive more protection.
In our tea collection, many types of tea originated from Thuong Son. Our working principle is to promote teas made from good, rich material, by a professional and kind producers. There may be more new types of tea to be introduced by Bavantea in the future, but this principle is unchanged, our tea is always controlled for good quality as well as made by dedicated, reputable tea producers with their love of tea, with hope to spread our loves and efforts to tea lovers.