Claims keep popping up here and there that such and such tea tree is the most ancient, so I thought it would be good to take a look at some of them.
What Is an Ancient Tea Tree?
Most tea vendors don’t seem to have a definition of what they mean by “ancient tea tree.” They give an approximate age, usually several hundred years old, for the tea tree, but don’t say how old is considered “ancient.” Certainly, this 6,000 years old tea tree root would qualify (but it could also mean that tea drinking goes back a millennium further than previously thought).
|Very ancient tea tree root (screen capture from site)|
A couple of years ago an article was posted about a block of pu-erh tea made of leaves from a 3,200-year-old tree that had a diameter of 1.84 meters and was growing at an altitude of 3,245 meters.
The most famous region of ancient tea trees is in the Mt. Jing Mai & Mang Jing areas. These trees tend to be quite tall (some as much as over 50 feet) and are harvested by girls who climb them at great personal risk.
Our friend Thomas Kasper of Siam Tees (see our selection of his teas on our store site) wrote this great article: “Bai Yai” – The Old Tea Tree of North Thailand. This tea tree is the Camellia Sinensis Assamica varietal and has been harvested for hundreds of years, even before Thailand was called Siam.
And finally there’s this ancient tea tree in Japan. It’s short since tea trees in Japan tend to be kept pruned to bush height.
A Couple of Ancient Tea Tree Groves
This article talks of a visitor to China getting to see these two ancient tea tree groves:
- Mount Nannuo (南糯山) — In Banna, which has a tropical climate that is very hot in Summer but rather mild in Winter. The grove has some very old tea trees, including one that is said to be 800 years old and still going strong.
- Mannuo Village (曼糯村) — In Menghai County and the most northerly of the ancient tea groves at an altitude of 1,200 meters. The village formed a tea cooperative, headed by the village chief, so they could negotiate better prices for their tea leaves and build their “tea brand” by processing the leaves into pu-erh cakes themselves.
Ancient Tree Tea as Cultural Preservative
One tea vendor’s site claims that “drinking ancient tree tea protects ancient tea culture.” They present a line-up of “ancient” teas, but give no definition of what that is. Nor do they explain how drinking ancient tea protects the ancient tea culture, but the motto sounds good. Their teas include Japanese teas such as Hojicha (Houjicha) and Sencha, classics such as Imperial Red Robe and Long Jing, and a couple of special teas called Supernatural Black and Supernatural Green.
So What Do You Think?
Ancient tea trees are said to produce a tea with a more interesting flavor. Time to try some maybe! If you do, please feel free to share your experience in a comment here.