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  • Exploring Mae Salong, Thailand
  • Post author
    Hayley Stevens

Exploring Mae Salong, Thailand

In the remote woodland hill regions of northern Thailand, in the province of Chiang Rai, tea trees flourish in the tropical climate.  This area is part of the historical tea regions that anthropologists have found as the birth place of tea. This tea belt traverses through Yunnan Province, China to northern Assam, India, Laos and present day Myanmar, into Northern Thailand and Vietnam.

A little town, with a big history lies just south of the Thai border with Myanmar and in the province of Chiang Rai, and it is called Mae Salong. A little group of us, Joe, owner and operator of Saratoga Food and Ghost Tours, his wonderful partner Kim, ​Marcus my fiancé, photographer and videographer and I, set out on a four hour journey north of Chiang Mai in search of Mae Salong.  Though situated in Thailand, this particular village is home to people of Yunnanese (Chinese) descent.  Everything was written and spoken in Chinese and all of our communications were about to be with google translate and gestures.
 
A little on the interesting history of this area:  The ancestors of these people arrived at the conclusion of the 1949 Chinese Civil War as the 'lost soldiers' who refused to surrender.  For protection, they escaped China, settled briefly in Burma, and found their way to northern Thailand for asylum. In exchange for safety, the Thai government sought assistance to push back communist insurgencies at the frontier.
 

​This geographical region bordering Laos and Myanmar was known as 'The Golden Triangle' as it was a hot spot for the production of opium. Today, this area has been turned over by the Thai government to a more sustainable crop, tea.  Tea shares the landscape with cherries, coffee, lychee and wonderful citrus.

We discovered Mae Salong to be a quiet village, with many vendors of tea.  As we explored and stopped for tea tastings, we came across the production of Assam black tea at one of the villages producers.  It is always amazing to experience the fragrance of freshly harvested wilting tea leaves.  It is too beautiful for words.

Many of the tea varieties in this area were brought over from Taiwan decades ago and their style of tea is similar to that of the mountain producers in central Taiwan.  We tasted Jin Xuan No. 12, Oriental Beauty, Qing Xin No. 17 amongst others.  I decided to bring home a Hoarfrost, or winter frost harvest, oolong that has a unique sweetness and is unlike any tea I have tasted.  I also choose a Rose Scented Oolong, as its fragrance and delicacy was enchanting and unique.

  

Fresh Tea Leaves Withering

Women sorting through the fresh black tea, removing stems.

That evening, we were welcomed by the indigenous Ahka tribe just a few miles away.  Their children toured us around their little village, we dined on their local food cooked over a fire and slept in mud huts.  It was really a remarkable experience.

Ahka Children with Hayley and Marcus

I am excited to share some of their tea with you!
  • Post author
    Hayley Stevens