|The ancient tea trees, which are several hundreds years old, grow on the Hoàng Liên Sơn mountain range at an altitude of about 2,000 metres above sea level. VNA/VNS Photo Quý Trung|
Phong Thổ, a border district with China in the northwestern province of Lai Châu, is home to over 8,000 ancient tea trees, the largest number of such trees in the region.
The ancient trees are concentrated mainly in six communes - Mồ Sì San, Sì Lở Lầu, Pa Vây Sử, Tung Qua Lìn, Sin Suối, Hồ and Hoang Thèn.
Mồ Sì San Commune, about 80km from Lai Châu city and over 2,000m above sea level, has more than 1,700 trees, some of which are up to 900 years old.
The unique climate and soil conditions of the commune gives the drink made from these ancient tea trees a distinctive flavour.
|A villager in Mồ Sì San Commune picks tea leaves from an ancient tree.— VNA/VNS Photo Quý Trung|
In Mồ Sì San, the villagers harvest tea only once a year, from late February to April, when the ancient trees yield the best quality leaves. Additionally, due to the year-round cloud cover and low temperature at high altitudes, the trees here can only produce new leaves during this time of the year.
A specialty of the region is the wild Shan Tuyết tea that grows at altitudes from 2,000-2,500m above sea level. These trees are considered treasures and have been nurtured by the Dao ethnic community in Mồ Sì San.
The leaves of Shan Tuyết tea always have a fine and thick layer of hair, which when dried turns white, resembling a layer of snow.
|To harvest tea leaves and preserve ancient tea trees, the only way is manual plucking. — VNA/VNS Photo Quý Trung|
Phong Thổ District has boasted four tea products - white, black, yellow and green tea. Among them three are ancient tea products - Shan Mồ Sì San black, yellow and green tea have been recognised as a high quality specialty of Lai Châu Province.
With prices ranging from VNĐ2-3 million (US$81-122) per kilogramme, the dried wild tea leaves have brought significant income to local farmers.
|The locals start their journey early in the morning and have their lunch before reaching the ancient tea area. — VNA/VNS Photo Quý Trung|
According to Nguyễn Cảnh Đức, deputy head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Phong Thổ District, a project for the development and protection of ancient tea trees has been implemented in the region.
The district has successfully planted 25 hectares of new tea trees of ancient varieties in Hoang Thèn Commune, while continuing to preserve the existing 8,000 ancient tea trees. VNS
|It takes 3 to 4 hours for locals to trek up the mountains and reach the ancient tea trees that grow nearly 2,000 metres above sea level. VNA/VNS Photo Quý Trung|