I started writing this on the way up Xigui Mountain in Lincang Country to check out the condition of some ancient tea trees. We raced along a one lane winding road for about 80 kilometers starting in Lincang City, a thousand feet above the valley floor. Along the mountain roads there is plenty of incense to celebrate Qing Ming, the tomb sweeping holiday, pivotal for both ancestor worship and tea.
My first question everywhere has been how’s the weather? How has it affected the tea? In this area of Yunnan the weather has not been problematic. The old tea trees are producing excellently. The prices here have been doubling every year, and questions about a new bubble are met with exuberant denial even though the evidence is abundant a crash is coming.
A few weeks ago I was in Hangzhou in Zhejiang, and then traveled to Anhui, and Fujian. The harvest had just begun in Zhejiang, guaranteeing a very robust pre-Qingming harvest. I could not find any evidence that the hot, dry summer last year would have any effect on this year’s crop. I was a little bit early for the harvest to begin in Huangshan but there was no indication that there would not be a great crop this year. The same was true in the Wuyishan area where twice I was caught in the rain searching for shelter while up in the mountains.
The day before Qing Ming (April 5 this year) I got a much more reliable report from an old friend in Youle, on top of one of the ‘Six Famous Mountains’ of Xishaunbana. Yang Guanqi is one of my favorite producers in the area and my go to guy when it comes to any question about Xishuanbana. He noted that the drought that has been going on for years in Southern Yunnan will not be countered by a few days rain. It has drastically affected the old trees and over all production is way down and will be so this year. The trees will not be harmed, but their new growth will be small and has been decreasing every year. The younger bushes are going to produce more quality in contrast. Tea consumers should be very skeptical when buying any cakes being advertised as coming from old trees and the price of all puer will go up this year.