A recently published "Forbidden City Tribute Tea Collection" catalogs 50 kinds of Tribute Teas from 11 provinces in the Qing Dynasty. For the first time, a group of experts analyzed the teas and examined their origins one by one – their findings were unexpected. Among the 50 tribute teas, selected from the best tea regions all across China, an impressive 11 are from Sichuan Province, and 8 of these are from Sichuan’s Mengding Mountain.
The esteemed Mengding Mountain 蒙顶山, located in the remote city of Ya’an in the Sichuan Province, is a significant site in regards to the history of tea culture in China. The cultivation of tea on Mengding dates back more than 2000 years. The teas collected from this mountain have served as Tribute Teas to Emperors for over 1000 years, spanning five Dynasties: Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing.
Mengding Mountain is the highest mountain range in Sichuan Province. It has 5 peaks, with the highest standing in the clouds 4800 ft above sea level. Due to its altitude it receives a high amount of rain compared to other mountains, and the peaks remain covered in mist and fog all year round – Mengding is nearly always wet. This aqueous climate, combined with the unique red sandstone in its soil, make it an ideal environment for tea trees, which favour a great deal of moisture, but require good drainage. Soil like this comes very slowly, from the gradual weathering of ancient rocks – there are few undisturbed places old enough to offer such perfect conditions for tea.
The particular qualities of Mengding can be felt as much as they can be understood. Looking down from its peaks the visions are stunning - waves of cresting mountains surround wide plains marked by intersecting streams, all covered in a perpetual and slowly transient mist.
The Emperor’s Tea Farm still stands on top of Mengding Mountain, where Tribute Teas have been grown since the Song Dynasty in 1186. It is demarcated by a tall stone wall, where 2 stone tigers guard the front and back entrances. These walls surround 7 ancient tea trees, each more than 2000 years old. Every year, on March 27, a ritual for the “ tea gods” is performed at this site. As a form of reverence, no one makes tea from these 7 ancient trees.
Cultivate is fortunate to carry 3 teas from Mengding Mountain. The tea garden they come from is located at the highest peak of the mountain, at 4800 ft altitude. The tea trees, an heirloom varietal called laochuancha 老川茶, grow scattered between ancient temples, gigantic rocks, and towering conifer trees. The tea trees are harvested once per year in the spring, and are otherwise left to grow on their own, where they are nurtured by the constant mist, diverse growth, and the passing shadows of Mengding.
We are fortunate to offer three teas from Mengding Mountain. They are a special opportunity to taste for the terroir and particularities of Mengding Mountain, and its conditions and traditions that continue to yield such unique teas.