Visit to Ethnic Yi tea farmer Lao Ba in Jingmai Mountain, Lan Cang

We had the incredible opportunity to visit Lao Ba, an ethnic Yi tea farmer in Jingmai Mountain, who supplies us with the exquisite Jingmai Gushu Sheng Pu'er. Lao Ba's name, meaning 'No. 8,' reflects his position as the eighth child in his family. Coming from a long line of tea farmers, he has inherited the wisdom and knowledge of generations past.

chamoods_ethnic_yi_tea_farmer_gushu_sheng_puerThe area deep in the heart of Jingmai Mountain was once stricken by poverty until the recent surge in popularity of Pu'er Tea. As we ventured along the winding road to Lao Ba's humble abode, we marveled at the breathtaking sight of tea trees in varying stages of growth, their presence a testament to generations of tea farming expertise. The view itself was a treat, and we were grateful that Jingmai Mountain has retained its natural charm, relatively untouched by mass tourism.

chamoods_jingmai_mountain_gushu_tea_treesOur visit coincided with the beginning of the spring harvest, a time when the tea gardens come alive with anticipation. Led by our tea friend, Miss D, we exchanged small consumables from the city for a heartwarming dinner prepared by Lao Ba's wife. Lao Ba himself is a unique character—quiet and calm. He joined us for dinner, sharing the meal without many words. Before the feast, we took a glimpse downstairs at the withering trench, where the morning's tea leaves from both Gushu and Xiao Shu were laid out. The aroma was already intoxicating, hinting at the incredible flavors to come.


With skillful precision, Lao Ba ignited the traditional tea wok, his seasoned hands effortlessly navigating the flame. His preferred wok, the left one, bore the marks of years of tea oil infusion, glistening with a patina of experience. As the fixation process commenced, Lao Ba's bare hands moved with a fluid motion, a dance that only years of practice could perfect. We watched in awe as the leaves danced in the fiery embrace, their transformation beginning before our very eyes. 

Curiosity piqued, Lao Ba invited us to try our hand at the fixation process. Even with the protection of a cotton glove, the heat emanating from the wok was palpable, a reminder of the laborious nature of tea production. As we participated in this ancient tradition, the scents of orchid fragrance, reminiscent of the terroir of Jingmai, teased our senses.


Lao Ba's sister-in-law assisted with the fixation of the "xiaoshu" tea using a machine, while Lao Ba personally hand-fixed the Gushu batch. He playfully remarked that different teas required different treatment levels. Fixation involves heating the leaves in the wok to halt the oxidation process by killing the enzymes on the surface.


With fixation complete, the tea leaves were meticulously spread on bamboo baskets to cool and dry. During this time, Lao Ba carefully handpicked some "Huang Pian" leaves, slightly older tea leaves known for their mellow and sweet flavors. The tea-making process continued with the fixation, now performed by machines regardless of the tea's harvest level. 

chamoods_huangpian_gushu_sheng_puer_jingmaiAfter a long day of hard work, Lao Ba and his friends finally indulge in the true essence of their culture: singing, drinking, and dancing. They graciously demonstrate the warm hospitality of the ethnic Yi people, inviting us to immerse ourselves in their traditions.

After a long day of hard work, Lao Ba and his friends finally indulge in the true essence of their culture: singing, drinking, and dancing. They graciously demonstrate the warm hospitality of the ethnic Yi people, inviting us to immerse ourselves in their traditions.


Interestingly, despite being a tea farmer himself, Lao Ba's tea brewing technique is not his main focus. This holds true for many others in the tea production value chain. It becomes evident that each individual possesses their own unique specialty and skill set, contributing to the overall process of creating exceptional tea. It's a beautiful collaboration where every person's expertise comes together to bring us the finest tea experiences.

The next morning, as the sun rose, we eagerly savored the fruits of our labor. The freshly made tea, bathed in the gentle sunlight, carried the essence of Jingmai within its brew. Notes of orchid fragrance danced on our palates, accompanied by a delicate Yunnan olive taste, a signature of the young leaves. Umami flavors akin to a rich chicken broth embraced our senses, while the more aged batches presented a nuanced dry mouthfeel, offset by a lingering sweetness that lingered long after each sip. 


 The Jingmai Gushu Sheng Pu'er, freshly made by Lao Ba, is a tea that embodies the essence of its origin. From the moment we laid our eyes on the dry leaves, an enchanting orchid fragrance greeted us, promising a delightful tea experience.One cannot speak of Jingmai Pu'er without mentioning its signature orchid fragrance. This captivating aroma only intensified after the fixation and drying process, releasing a bouquet of floral notes that lingered in the air. It captivates with its balanced flavor profile, showcasing a harmonious interplay of bitterness, fruity notes, and a lingering sweetness. Each cup unravels a captivating journey of flavors that evolves and delights with every sip. As we sipped this extraordinary tea, its flavors took us on a sensory adventure, leaving a lasting impression and a desire for more. 

As we bid farewell to Lao Ba and embarked on our journey to explore more gushu gardens in Jingmai, we carried with us memories of a genuine tea experience and a deep appreciation for the rich heritage preserved within each cup. Until we meet again, Lao Ba, may your tea continue to bring joy and serenity to tea lovers far and wide.

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