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Shai Bao is not only a true tea artisan; he has the responsibility amongst his tribe called the Bulang, to be a guardian of the ancient tea trees in Jing Mai. He comes from a tea artisan family that works almost exclusively with ancient tea trees. His 92-year-old mother still hikes up the mountain every day to care for their ancient tea trees. He, along with his siblings was taught how to care for and protect the ancient tea tree forest. It is the most amazing ancient tea tree forest I have ever seen. The average tea tree that he tends is between 500-800 years old.
Sharing a Passion
The Bulang people have a deep spiritual connection to the ancient tea trees. They have alters beneath some of the older ones as they revere them as powerful spirits and protectors. They have annual sacred ceremonies for the ancient tea tree forest, which are powerful connections to the trees’ spirits. Shai Bao has one wish, “I only wish to share these beautiful teas with people of a good heart, who will respect and appreciate these tea.”
Shai Bao shared how many farmers are now over plucking the leaves on their trees to make a quick profit, but this damages the tea tree forests in the long run. He says that it is important to know the right amount of leaves to pick and never over pick. We asked him how he knows how much to pick from a tree and he told us he simply asks the tree itself.
Bulang People’s Tea History
The Bulang people are known throughout China for having a deep spiritual connection to the ancient tea trees. The Bulang are spread throughout Yunnan, Burma (Myanmar) and Northern Thailand. A story we were told is that hundreds of years ago one of the Bulang elders named Ba Ai needed to heal his village because they were dying of a disease that would wipe out the entire village if he did not act fast. After hiking across many mountains he came across a tree that communicated with him. The tree told him to brew its leaves in hot water to heal his people. He brought these leaves back and began to make a tea out of it. Soon after, the village was healed. He decided to relocate his village to the area where the trees were growing. He told them that these tea trees saved their lives and it was now their responsibility to protect and care for them.
As Ba Ai was on his deathbed he left one last message for his people. He told them “if I give you gold, you will spend it quickly and be left with nothing. If I give you cows, you will eat them and later there will be nothing. I will thus leave you with these tea trees because if you respect and care for them, they will be with you a long time and give you good health.”