Yunnan Province-Home to King of Tea Trees The World’s Oldest Tree

China’s Yunnan province is primarily a mountainous region with twelve tea
mountains calling it home, among them to the north of the Lancang (Mekong)
River:  You Le, Ge Deng, Yi Bang, Mang Zhi, and Man Zhuan, and to the south,
Nan Nuo, Jing Mai, Meng Hai, Ba Da, and Meng Son.
Amid the mountains, grow-
ing within the lush forests
are ancient tea trees reportedly 500 and
1,000 years old. There’s even said to be one
tree on Nan Nuo Mountain called “King of Tea
Trees,” over a hundred feet tall and reputed-
ly 1,700 years old, making it the oldest plant
on earth.

black teas are lush and assertive
with a  delicious combination of full body and
maple sweetness, and even a hint of pepper
that’s evened out by plenty of sweet tips.
Both the

Keemun’s chocolate flavors and
Yunnan’s sweet maple flavors are formed by
the Maillard reaction, that occurs during firing.

It’s caused when amino acids and glucosides in the leaves combine to form compounds called
pyrroles and pyrazines, both chemicals with sweet roasted flavors.
Yunnan and Keemun leaves both have different levels of amino acids.
Those in Yunnan leaves form pyrazines that have a flavor reminiscent
of cooked maple syrup, while those in Keemun leaves have pyrroles,
with the flavor of unsweetened cocoa but without the bitterness.

Yunnan province is home to 260 of 320 subvarieties of tea known in

China.  Some of China’s most flavorful teas come from the remote area including Yunnan Buds of
Gold and Yunnan Golden Needles, the highest grades of Yunnan black tea with plenty of long
tips that give them a creamy, sweet, and
malty flavor.
Like their Keemun cousins, Yunnan black
teas contain plenty of sweet glucose laden
buds.  Starting off a light green, the buds
turn gold during oxidation, the same pro-
cess that turns the tea black.  That’s why

China black teas have the words gold
or golden in their names, such as Yunnan
Buds of Gold and Yunnan Golden Needles.
Both teas are made from an indigenous
variety of large, broad leaf tea bushes and
trees known as dayeh.  This large leaf vari-
ety of tea was discovered by British botanist
and adventurer, Charles Bruce in the 1930’s.

Dayeh is classified as a sub-variety of Camellia sinensis var. assamica, with large
leaves that are a golden reddish color both before and after

Yunnan’s black teas have only been in production since 1939,
but today Yunnan province is China’s largest black tea pro-

As the crow flies China’s Yunnan province is not far from the

Assam region of India which touches on the Tibetan Himalayas as does Yunnan.  Both
regions also grow the same sub-species of tea, Camellia sinensis var. assamica, to 
         black tea.
This is a perfect example of two regions growing the exact
same plant, but with two very different tasting teas.
That’s due to many factors, not the least of which are the
varied manufacturing techniques, but climate, soil condi-
tion, wind, rain, altitude-that and more combine as the

terroir, determining what the final product will taste like.Moving from the northwestern corner of Yunnan province, to the hot and steamy south-
western corner where China’s medicinal

pu-erh teas are grown.  The town of Puerh is a
small market area located in central Yunnan.  Oddly enough pu-erh teas aren’t produced
there, but in nearby Xishuangbanna.
The town of Puerh was important, though, as it marked the
beginning of the Tea Horse Route as a distribution and coll-
ection point of goods for those caravans travelling north and

Xishuangbanna has a mild climate allowing for early spring
tea harvests beginning in late February.  In this more trop-
ical area the dayeh tea bushes are actually tea trees that
have been producing tea for hundreds of years, many of
which have grown to heights of 20 to 30 feet tall.

The exact manufacturing process of China’s pu-erh teas has been kept secret for hund-
red hundreds of years.  With little knowledge of pu-erhs outside of Yunnan the tea was
mainly collected by wealthy Hong Kong and Taiwanese businessmen.

                                                   Today pu-erh tea is popular and in demand worldwide, from Japan and Southeast
Asia, to Europe, especially France to Germany, and Eastern Europe, and America.
Pu-erh is touted for its medicinal qualities, especially in regard to 
weight loss, known
as the “slimming tea.”
Pu-erh is available as loose leaf or compressed bricks or cakes known as beeng cha
or zhuang cha, or in other shapes such as pyramids, mushrooms, or inverted bowl
shapes called tuo cha, and more.

To learn more about pu-erh teas visit our

sheng pu-erh and shou pu-erh pages, as well as China’s puerh teas page.