We've worked with the tea farmers of Nyot Ou district in Laos since 2018. It started with consulting work for an NGO with the aim of increasing the quality of the teas produced in this town, bordering the famous Yiwu area.
We did a couple of training sessions in the villages and learned a lot from the locals. With the advent of high quality Pu-erh tea in the early 2000s, they started exploring their wild forests and found old tea trees, probably once cultivated hundreds of years ago. They mapped the area and developed tea cultivation around these old trees. New gardens were planted while older ones kept being discovered.
This tea was made by the engineer who works for the NGO and supervises the different projects and training sessions carried out in the villages. The teas from the area are of good quality but the processing is often disappointing. It took us time to be able to source well crafted tea.
To make matters worse, the coronavirus crisis struck the area in early 2020 and the border between China and Laos was closed, even the small roads used to smuggle tea into Yiwu.
Most of the producers in Nyot Ou District couldn't sell their tea to the chinese market and were stuck for the whole seasons with their production. Fortunately, we eventually found a way to ship our friend's tea to Yunnan with the proper paperwork.
The tea is a bit smoky. This is because it was stored for three months in Huey Wa village. Since this village has a scarce access to electricity, most households light a fire in their living room for cooking and lighting. Just like in the old days of Yunnan Pu-erh tea, the smoke slowly influences the tea stored in the house.
This is not as bad as it sounds, the tea was packaged in a way to limit contamination and the smokey fragrance is not overwhelming. The true character of this terroir pervades through the session. Just like good Eastern Yiwu tea, this one is enjoyed on the long run for the good buzz it provides. The mouthfeel is thick and each cup calls for another one.
The gardens are hard to access, you have to walk through the forest for two hours from the village. The tea trees are not the tallest ones, but this tea is made of older tea gardens, it is not clear when they were planted.