Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tea In Laos Part Six: Tea And Coffee, Friends At Last




It is amazing how tea production in Laos is inextricably tied to the coffee industry on the Boleven Plateau. This is perhaps most apparent in the gardens and fields that line the roads on the Bolaven Plateau. Besides the flourishing rubber plantations, there are also thousands of coffee plants that fill the fields here. The tea plants that are found are usually mixed right in with the coffee plants. Often there seems to be little logic as to why the plants are growing where they are growing. There seems to be a natural fluidity, a peace, between the coffee and tea plants grown here…

As the guide’s old Suzuki 4X4 rumbled up rough roads past peaceful fields of neighborly coffee and tea bushes, he pulled his jeep in front of Paksong Tea Product’s tea production facility. A friendly man emerged from the shinny new, open-air building to show us around and explain how tea is grown and produced in Paksong.

First, he showed us the walls filled with nylon sacks of black, oolong, and some green teas all produced in this facility. We then checked out some of the machines used in production of the black and oolong teas. There was a guest speaker delivering a speech to village reps about how to maintain organic farming practices- a welcome sign. Out back we witnessed the production of green tea which was all done by hand. The aroma of leaves drying over wood burning stoves filled the air.

The guide explained how this is a grassroots village project involves buying high quality tea from the small gardens of locals. He explained how the locals only use the organic compost produced here as he pointed at large heaps under black tarp. The special compost, he contends, is what gives Paksong tea its distinct taste. We could see the composting in action as men chopped up old coffee plants and other local vegetation. The guide also told us the secret of the compost mixture, lifting the tarp back. He said that most of the matter is actually the unused shell from coffee beans.

Latter as one sipped some tea in the soon to be cupping and taste-testing room of the new facility, one couldn’t seem to override the underlying coffee nuances in the freshly brewed tea. Who would have thought coffee and tea could be such close friends?

Peace

4 comments:

Rob said...

Very cool, I've been trying to figure out a summer trip to take somewhere, and don't know why I haven't thought of a tea tourist trip earlier...if you have any ideas or input let me know.

Matt said...

Rob,

One HIGHLY recommends Lao. If you do go there, you can contact Mr. Phonesay at Phou Fa Hotel in Phongsali at tel +412057. He’ll set you up with trekking tours of Korman village, the birthplace of tea in Northern Laos.

You can contact Mr. Kouant at Savanna Guesthouse in Paksong tel +5790613. He’ll take you around to the tea facilities around the Southern tea producing areas on the plateau.

Peace

Tom said...

Mat, do u know where they make tea like this http://tea-village.com/black-tea/56-traditional-thai-black-tea.html ?

Matt said...

Tom,

Haven't a clue. Maybe one of the smart readers can ID this tea?

It doesn't really look like traditional Thai tea anyways- seems a bit gimmicky.

Peace