History Of Yunnan Tea

Located in the Southwest frontiers of China, Yunnan Province features rough terrain which is dotted with cloud-veiled mountains and crisscrossed with meandering rivers. The Province has abundant rainfall, mild climate and fertile land, all of which prepare ideal conditions for tea cultivation, and Yunnan is the homeland of tea trees.

According to historic records, Yunnan has a history of 2,100 year since it domesticated the aboriginal tea (known as the 'wild tea'). In Yunnan province, the 800-year-old cultivation type ancient tea tree is still growing in the Nannou Mountain of Menghai County, the 1,700-year-old ancient wild tea tree now growing in Bada of Menghai County and the 1,000-year-old ancient tea tree now growing in Bangwei of Lincang Prefecture which indicates the transition between the wild and cultivation types. They are praised as the 'Three Ancient Tea-tree King' of the world. Those ancient tea trees are regarded as the 'living fossils' of Yunnan's aboriginal tea plants.

According to historic records of China, the ethnic Pu people in Yunnan began to grow tea and served it as tribute to the emperors as early as in the Chinese Shang and Zhou Dynasties. In the west and East Han Dynasties, tea was grown in river valleys and by the mountain trails of Yizhou. In the Three Kingdoms Period, The Nanzhong tea-seed was widely popularized. In the Tang Dynasty, tea produced in Xishuanbanna was marketed to Dali area and became the favorite drink of the noblemen of the Nanzhao Kingdom. In the Song Dynasty, Pu-erh County became a famous market for trading tea and horses. In the Yunnan Dynasty, tea had become the most important commodity in the transactions undertaken by people of all ethnic groups. In the former part of the Qing Dynasty, reputation of the Pu-erh tea reached its climax. The years starting in 1926 and ending in 1936 which were on the eve of the War of Resistance Against Japan marked the most prosperous period of production and sales of Yunnan tea, during which more than 5,000 tons of tea were yearly sold to Sichuan and Tibet, while over 500 tons were exported to foreign countries.

Yunnan's tea export to foreign countries started more than 200 year ago. According to annals recorded during Emperor Qianlong's reign in the Qing Dynasty, Yunnan's tea export was stared as early as in 1763.

Tea processing in Yunnan Province began in the early 20th century in hand-operated workshop, and modernized tea processing in Yunnan did not begin after the establishment of China Tea Trade Company (Yunnan) Ltd.

Yunnan is a treasure land of China for developing the tea industry. All the tea-producing areas of the province are located at elevations from 1,200 to 2,000 meters. The annual mean temperature ranges from 12 C to 23 C, effective annual heat cumulation is between 4,500 C and 7,000 C, and annual rainfall is 1,000-1,900mm. The monsoon season is concentrated in May through October, during which the rainfall constitutes about 85% of that of the whole year. The monsoon coincides with the hottest months, and there is a very high value of effective rainfall. In the dry season which starts in November and ends in April, There are sufficient sunny day. There is adequate sunshine, and the tea trees have a long growth period. Under normal conditions, the tea-leaf plucking period may last for 8 to 9 months. The tea-growing areas are generally covered with red, yellow of brick-red soils with the pH value ranging between 4 to 6. Comparing with other major tea producing countries, the climate of Yunnan is more suitable for growing tea trees. Therefore, Yunnan has rich varieties of tea trees and excellent tea species.

 Up to the present, Yunnan has registered a total number of 199 species of local tea trees, the good ones among which are 46 asexual-propagation species and 153 sexual-propagation species. Overall, Yunnan's tea species are known as the "Yunnan large-leaf tea", which, just like the ideal Assam tea of India and the Kenya tea, belongs to superb tea species of the world, and is the ideal raw material for producing the black tea and Pu-erh tea. Comparing with the small-leaf species, Yunnan tea has higher polyphenol by 5-7% than the average value, catechin by 30-60% higher than the average value, and water-soluble substances by 3-5% higher than the average value.

According to the different method used in tea processing, Yunngn tea is made into over 100 kinds of products. Yunnan Tuocha Tea is famous for its medicinal properties, it was proved to be an efficacious beverage with the functions of eliminating fat, reducing weight, strengthening body and lengthening longevity, stimulating metabolism, and balancing and regulating the level of cholesterol. Yunnan Tuocha Tea is also highly reputed as slimming tea', 'beauty tea' and 'healthy tea' in more than twenty countries and regions including France, Spain, Japan, Hong Kong and so on.