Big Old Tea Trees in Ban Komen

In this article I’m going to tell you how we got excellent tea leaves from big old Puerh trees for
the first time. It’s about people, who pick tea leaves, about the tea itself and, of course, about
big old tea trees. You’ll see many photos and not much text here, a lot of smiles and good sunny
mood on the pictures.
19 March

Sometimes it’s much easier to show than to tell. Or, for example, to write a comment «this is tea» under a photo with tea. Of course, this is tea; it’s clear for everyone. And if it’s not clear, there is no need to comment on this picture, it’s better to delete it at once. Besides, I must say I’m not a professional photographer, though I have a relatively good photo camera. In fact I’m far from being a specialist in photography and I understand only a few words from photomaniac lexicon. So, if the photo is beautiful, it’s just because I’m lucky and my camera is good enough, and if it’s not — well, we are here to make good tea, not professional photos.

Today my publication is going to be in the format of a photo trip. These are the pictures to illustrate one of our long eventful days. Of course, I will comment on some of the photos to give you the feel of this atmosphere and to describe my personal experience. Everything here is going to be very subjective. While you are looking through this page, just try to imagine that it’s you, walking here in this beautiful place, breathing here, speaking Russian to people, who understand only Lao. This communication is full of good emotions and smiles. People smile sincerely here, with their heart and soul. It’s not just «keep smiling» to be polite; these smiles are true!

Well, let’s begin our trip:

We leave the tea factory and go to the village Ban Komen, famous for its big old tea trees.

I’m sorry, if the word combination «big old tea trees» will be repeated too often. But these trees really deserve it.

On the way to Ban Komen.

The distance is about 20 kilometers but it’s a road in the mountains and sometimes it gets really tough. So it takes us a little less than an hour to get to the village.

Our arrival. People of the village are waiting for us with freshly picked tea leaves.

Selling tea leaves is among the main events in the life of the village.

People who pick tea leaves are mostly women and the old.

Young healthy men do other things. Many women work on tea plantations with little babies. This is the usual thing here.

These eyes are so kind.

Eye contact with this people gives a very pleasant feeling: they always answer with a sincere smile. But many people don’t want us to take pictures of them and try to avoid photo cameras. The reason is some superstitious belief, I suppose.

She picks tea leaves. Such a positive little old lady!

Tea leaves weighing. The tongue of the weigh-scales makes a great figure in the life of local people.

Kip - the currency of Laos. This is what we give here for the excellent tea.

Tea pickers.

Eyes, watching the tongue of the scales again.

At an average one person brings up to 8-9 kilos of leaves.

He picks tea leaves too.

He doesn’t pick tea leaves and he isn’t a sailor. He is my friend Alex.

Roman – our tea manufacturing technician from Abkhazia.

Village life.

Passing by this house, we decided to stop and have a rest in the shade. The host of the house appeared with a bottle of bright sunny yellow liquid in his hands, very tasty and with pleasant finish, so…

«Drunkards», — Alex thought…

We went for a walk in the grove of big old tea trees. This beautiful tree grows parallel to skyline and perpendicular to the slope of the hill. Looks like bonsai.

Alex is glad. This place is really great!

Roman is looking for seeds of these trees, he wants to plant his own grove in Abkhazia.

These trees grow on a slope, that is rather steep. Not many flat areas here. Mountains are everywhere. Only 1% of the land in Laos is suitable for agriculture.

My guess: this tea is so good and tasty, because, while growing here, it sees such beautiful mountains and clouds and drinks the water, which is so pure. Neither chemical nor organic fertilization is used on these tea plantations. The tea here is very natural.

Very-very beautiful tea.

While walking in this grove we met a young hunter with a kind smile. He had a huge old gun with an unusually long barrel with him.

This is probably the only photo with me on this page.















This is a super gun! And it still works and is used to get food for the family.

Firing pin design. I’ve seen nothing of this kind, even in Tula Armory Museum. And this gun is still in going order.

Trees again.

Just flowers in the tea grove.

On my way back to Ban Komen I entered the local Buddhist temple, situated on the skirts of the village.

I don’t know what it is. A small ring fence, the plants inside are the same as outside, but there are several stones arranged in some special order in the centre.

Some stones have pots with burned through bottoms on them.

Inside the temple. The temple was closed, so I didn’t dare to go inside it and took some pictures through its windows. I was alone there. It was slightly creepy and I felt somewhat uncomfortable.

Something of great nonmaterial value must be inside. So many locks on this box.

Christian altar analog.

I made an attempt to take a picture of a Buddha statue. He has unusually long ears.

A big drum and a small one on the territory of the temple. Functional analogs of our church bells.

Flowers in the temple.

This thing is hanging above Buddha. Decorated with banknotes.

A pole with multicolored scraps of cloth.

We’re back in the village.

This flowers smell so good.

Houses here have thin wicker walls.

Wood to cook food.

The tea, we bought.

Tea picker.

Village life.

Showing my camera lens to an old lady.

Village youth.

Tea picker.

This little boy brought with him a small bag of leaves.

The boy came with his father, who was the first young man among those, who brought tea. He brought us tea leaves and his son also did. The father teaches his little son to get money from his work.

A nice shot. The little boy’s bag is on the scales and the tongue of the scales isn’t moving. Very little tea in his bag… The boy is looking at the scales so sadly.

But everyone understands, how important it is for the boy to get his own penny for his work. He has earned his honest penny and is happy to hold it in his hands.

Another youngster is spying upon me through the wall of our temporary tea warehouse.

And this is a Buddhist talisman, that can be often seen in villages above house doors and yard entrances.

On our way back we visited another village, which is a very remote one. This is what a village school looks like.

Tea-pickers. Women with little babies again.

Village children are afraid of photo cameras. They smile and hide.

Smiles! Look at this picture: the girl is hiding from me, I’m following her with my huge camera, and everyone is laughing.

A woman from the village with a very kind smile brought us tea leaves.

Childhood. Perhaps she is a little older than my younger daughter.

Flowers again.

The local guy under the influence shows me, how Boogieman looks here.

Back at the factory. 180 kilos of fresh leaves from old trees are spread out on bamboo trays for withering.

Later at night Alex and I took a motorbike and went back to the factory in order to rake up the leaves to wither them evenly and not to let them burn. For that purpose we had to get over a fence and to find the watchman. Then it took us a long time to unlock the door. Finally, we were walking with a flashlight between the rows of tea, stirring the leaves. Tomorrow we’ll begin to make green tea of these leaves, the unique tea that nobody has ever made or tasted. This will be our exclusive product: green tea from big old Puerh trees.

P.S. All the events, described in this article, happened yesterday. Today I’ve spent nearly half of the day, writing this text and choosing photos for this post, while Alex and Roma were busy at the factory, making our first tea. As soon as I finished my work, Roman came with freshly cooked green tea, which had been made 15 minutes before. And now we are sitting together on the veranda of the factory and drinking our first tea… Feel good…

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