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A little Yunnan trivia for you

We (heart) Yunnan

by on April 5th, 2013

Canton Tea Club Week 27

Following previous blogs on flora and history of Yunnan, we are now getting close to Ali and Jennifer’s departure on their sourcing trip to this heartland of fine tea. To mark the occasion here are some random bits of Yunnan-iana for ya.

Of course, the Cantonistas will not be the first exotic visitors to Yunnan. Venetian gadabout Marco Polo reputedly got his first sight of tattoos in Yunnan in 1283, observed the locals eating their meat raw with gold-sheathed teeth, and using shells as currency. 600 years later, the Australian traveller and writer, George Morrison gives a delightfully gentle account of his journey through what the locals call ‘South of the Clouds’. He describes Yunnan as a land of intensity and extremes: astoundingly beautiful landscapes, torrential rains cutting huge torrents through jagged mountains. He sees the finest gold and silver craftsmanship for sale alongside child slaves. And of course, he enjoys some fabulous tea, although this is not always served in the most salubrious settings. After one meal, during which he is watched by his usual large audience of curious locals, he gives some hygiene tips to the innkeeper:

I thought it only right to point out to him that it was absurd to expect that one small black cloth should wipe all cups and cup-lids, all tables, all spilt tea, and all dishes, all through the day, without getting dirty. Occasionally, too, I pointed out another defect of management to the innkeeper, and told him that, while I personally had an open mind on the subject, other travellers might come his way who would disapprove, for instance—he would pardon my mentioning it—of the manure coolie passing through the restaurant with his buckets at mealtime, and halting by the table to see the stranger eat.

Talking of coolies, Morrison remarks on the astounding strength of the Tibetan tea coolies who could carry almost 200 kilos of precious puerh on their backs over the 7,000ft high mountains for six or seven miles a day. We hope to get photos of Canton’s own re-enactment of these feats as Jennifer and Ali struggle through the savage beauty of Yunnan, bearing similar loads of net-enabled devices, cameras, fashions and beauty products.

Good luck, guys – we look forward to the postcards!

  1. adp3355 says:


  2. adp3355 says:

    The last two weeks teas have both, in their different ways, been very enjoyable.  They show the variety that comes from the use of different cultivars, and picking and processing methods.  Perhaps most interestingly I think I am beginning to understand the importance of  ‘terroir’ – the land.  In both I thought I could pick up a distinctive ‘tang’ that I have tasted in other Yunnan teas.  For me I don’t think either come close to the high-grown taiwanese teas, such as Ali Shan, or the lovely Dragon Wells I have bought from Canton Tea Co,  However, that’s not realy the point of the tea club, which after all is to taste, talk and explore. Looking forward to Georgia next week!

  3. markporter says:

    Last week’s tea was so beautifully fragrant that I’m struggling to work out what to make of this week’s. It is slightly melony and fresh, at least on the brew that I’m drinking at the moment but it is struggling to impress me in comparison to last week’s feast for the senses.

  4. mgoat says:

    I found this most interesting. It tastes much like a standard good quality green tea with nice vegetal flavours but is robust enough to withstand several high temperature steepings, presumably due to the use of the same tea varietal as puerh. What surprised me most was the effect of the tea – a feeling of energy but not a caffeine buzz.