Why teas from wild and old trees?


Lire en français>>

The short answer would be: imagine plants are people. You are making deals with them, letting them inside your house and discussing with them for a while. Who would you rather han gout with? Cranked up edgy, easily offended and loud folks? Or mature and easy going folks, with an alkaline vibe, that put you at ease and with whom you can navigate in deep waters?

This is a stereotypical and imperfect comparison, but it is to illustrate that tea is a plant, and a plant a living creature. As we infuse and ingest it, we do make a sort of short term alliance with them. We let them in. The tea affect us, and it does so in different ways if it’s mass produced tea bag made of young and chemically stimulated plants, or if it’s a quality loose leaf tea made of mature and/or wild specimens. With that perspective, it appears obvious to care about who, or what, these guests we are infusing are.

Wild tea trees have the characteristics of strength, resilience, and potency. Naturally adapted to their environments, the human interventions on them are minimal, if existent. They grow and strive in a natural rhythm, and are surrounded by different plants and trees, not merely their clones.

Old specimens have had the time to fully develop, mature and ripen. Their root systems are deep, making them able to source more minerals from the ground and integrate them into their leaves. Just like a mature ecosystem, they have had the time to stabilize their chemistry and find peace within their environment.

Wild trees in Doi Mae Salong

I have found, throughout my tea discovery journey, that wild teas affect me differently: they tend to ground me and calm me – more than excite and irritate me. This is especially true with teas from old trees.

The Chinese say “Cha Xi”. “Tea energy”. The energy of the tea. This is something observable in the molecular components of the leaves (often more polyphenols, catechins and theaflavins and minerals in wild and old trees teas) for the more science orientated minds, and also in direct experience (calming effect for the nervous system while stimulating the brain gently) for the more intuitive types.

Wild tea bushes around Chiang Rai (used for the Wild white tea)

Also, teas from wild and old trees are delicious. Often more complex for wild trees, and fpfter and rounder for old trees (young plants tend to have a lot of theobromine and theophylline, responsible for caffeine level and bitter taste, and this mellows as the trees age).

Teas from old or wild trees belong to a higher-end market, since they are less convenient to harvest (often one needs to climb up the tree to pluck it’s leaves) and offer less material for the work necessary to the harvest. By valuing them, we also contribute to preserve the forests that would otherwise be replaced by plantations.

Artisan’s crafts, naturally organic, fine products, they have always interested me the most, and this is why I have look for them, here in Thailand.