February 1, 2011

Pang Kahm: Tea Village in No-Man’s-Land

Our trip to Pang Kham, Northern Thailand, near the Burmese border, is closely connected to our Project Shan Tea, where we buy greater amounts of a fine, traditional Pu Errh style tea as it has been grown for hundreds of years by Northern Thai and Shan people from small farmers along the Thai/Burma border, providing them with a sales market and a livelyhood... They grow a tea species that is local to the area, and produce a dark, delicious tea, with a high degree of fermentation... Amazingly, the first thing we see is a pile of tea spread for sundrying in the yard... In Shan language (again with our escort, who speaks an excellent English, translating), the tea farmer explains his processing method to us, which is for a large part similar to what we saw the Chinese doing in Doi Mae Salong. Just the “machines” used here appear to be a bit more old-fashioned... Only on second sight I realize that we are actually right in the middle of a tea plantation. All around us, there are tea trees seemingly randomly scattered, with coffee plants and other trees dispersed between them in irregular patterns...Our host tells us that his father, a tea farmer himself (who supposely lived to become 99 years old), passed the skills of tea cultivation on to him, when he was a kid joining his father growing tea in Shan State... What impresses me most is that the tea is grown here without any addition of fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides whatsoever, meaning this tea really is 100% organically grown... The tea trees, which are partially up to 2 m high, with trunks up to 15 cm thick, are regularly cut back to keep their leaves accessible for harvest and promote the formation of new tea leave sprouts. READ MORE...