Thailand (formerly Siam) is moving into the tea export arena. Through hard work and diligence they are transitioning from poppy fields to tea fields. A key area for this tea production is Doi Mae Salong in the northern Thai mountains, now surrounded by tea gardens. The town was established by ethnic Chinese in the 1950s. This one-time opium smuggling nest is now a town focused on tea, including shops, a factory, and opportunities galore to try the tea.
Tea-drinking in northern Thailand is a Chinese tradition, not something the Thai would normally do. The Shan, a large Chinese ethnic group, continued their tea drinking habits and applied their tea knowledge to harvesting, processing, and drinking the wild mountain teas already growing in the region. They produce a pu-erh style tea from wild tea trees (ones that sprouted from seeds wherever they fell versus ones that were planted). Also, they process some of the tea leaves as green, oolong, and red tea types (what Westerners call “black tea”), using both Chinese and Taiwanese traditions. The Thai Royal Development Project is now spending time and effort to expand on this tea production by importing tea cultivars from Taiwan.
Tea tourism is alive and well in Doi Mae Salong, with tea producers happy to show their gardens and how the teas are produced. But no need to hop on a plane. You can start that journey by ordering a tea or two to try — all special and handpicked to assure the best leaves.
From a Taiwanese tea plant species originally grown in the Alishan mountains and imported to Thailand in the mid 90s. Harvested only once a year. “Cha Nang Ngam” is Thai for “beautiful female”, with “beautiful” in having a larger connotation of diligent, demure, and gracious, while “Beauty” hints at the kinship with the Formosa Oriental Beauty.
Imported to Northern Thailand by local producers a few years after the millennium change from Taiwan’s Dong Ding region. Harvested there for the first time in 2011. The tea has a prevailing milky note, characteristic for this tea, and a mild sweetness like milk sugar and honey. The beautiful, carefully handpicked, rolled leaf that opens up fully within half a minute in the hot water, gives a clear caramel and golden yellow color in the infusion.
A top Oolong made from the No.17 Ruan Zhi hybrid originally from the Taiwanese Alishan Highlands, imported to North Thailand in 1994. Grown at an altitude of 1200 to 1800 meters where seasons change from rainy, hot, and dry, to a cool period in a 4-months rhythm.The beautiful, carefully handpicked, rolled leaf will, when infused in hot water, open to its full size within half a minute and give a clear jade-green to bright yellow cup, mild, yet rich in aroma, with a velvet-fruity touch of sweetness and a charming flowery note.
Harvested from a tea plant species developed in the 1980s in Taiwan’s Alishan mountain region and imported in North Thailand first in 1994. Characterized by two features: 1. produces virtually four “spring” harvests in a year, where other tea plants after the spring harvest, which is usually considered as the year’s best harvest, will show a gradual decline in quality; 2. relatively altitude-indifferent, producing the same high quality tea leaves in lower altitudes as it does in higher ones. The liquid has the fresh and tart taste of a beautiful Green Tea combined with typical earthy and nutty Oolong note. Intensive, rich scent in the first infusion, already telling quite a good bit of the taste experience to expect.
This is a highly aromatic black tea from the North Thailand region. It is a novelty in an area known for Oolong teas. Handpicked and processed in a rolled form. The liquid is a clear rust brown color in the cup, and the freshly infused tea’s fragrance courts our olfactory senses with cocoa, nutty and bloomy notes and already anticipates the mild and still provides substantial aromatics and well rounded taste which is often compared to a Ti Guan Yin.