Yunnan Province is located in the extreme southwest corner of China, the point at which the Mekong River ( known in China as the Lancang Jiang or Turbulent River ) ends its journey through the historic tea-growing region of Yunnan Province. As you sip a fine Yunnan black tea, it is easy to image the great Mekong River as it winds its way south, starting on the Tibetan Plateau and coursing through the tea mountains that are home to the famous Pu-erh tea. Ultimately the river leaves Yunnan Province, entering Laos, in a sub-tropical climate so very different than the terroir of its source waters on the Tibetan Plateau to the north.
Yunnan Province is home to many diverse peoples, from Tibetans in the north, where you are very aware that you are in the Tibetan Himalaya, to the many ethnic minorities throughout the more populated southern regions of Yunnan Province in which the feeling is much more Southeast Asian than either Tibetan or Han Chinese.
The enormity of this tea-growing area encompasses a varied topography and climate, making Yunnan an important supplier of diverse black and green teas, and the true, historic origin of Pu-erh.
Yunnan is one of Tea Trekker’s favorite places in China, and so is its tea.
Yunnan’s tastiest and most distinctive black teas (dian hong) are derived from tea bushes that have been cultivated from indigenous tea trees and wild tea bushes. These bushes are related botanically both to the sub-variety Camellia sinensis assamica grown in India and Burma to the west (in fact, Assam is quite close by ‘as the crow flies’!), and the sub-variety Camillia sinensis sinensis found throughout the rest of China, and which forms the backbone of the tea industry for the mainland. This uniqueness in Yunnan fresh leaf gives its black teas richness, softness, and a creamy mouth-feel that distinguishes it from most other Chinese black teas.