A HOTSPOT OF NATURAL & CULTURAL DIVERSITY
Bokeo province is situated in the northwest of Laos, bordering northern Thailand and Burma in the Golden Triangle on the Mekong River. Bokeo’s forests are a biodiversity hotspot, and home to many types of rare species of wild animals and plants, as well as to some of Laos’ biggest and oldest tea trees, from which the local ethnic groups harvest seedlings and seeds for propagation in the tea gardens.
These trees belong to the ancestral large-leaved tea variety Camellia Sinensis var. assamica, but show varied expressions even within a few kilometers of distance: green or purple buds, smooth or hairy tips, different leaf shapes and sizes – sign of a rich and unique genetic heritage.
Meung’s terroir is defined by its lushly forested mountains, the highest of which reaches 1850 meters above sea level. The areas where the wild and ancient tea trees grow are situated deep in the forests at an altitude of about 1400-1700 meters above sea level, sometimes requiring long walks and climbs through rough terrain and vegetation.
The producers mainly pick seedlings of tea plants from ancient forest, and transplant them in gardens formerly used for rice cultivation, closer to the villages for more convenient harvesting. Meung farmers use a unique and beautiful pruning style, trimming the trees into spheric arbor shapes, allowing them to develop strong and healthy root systems which tap into deeper layers of soil for water and nutrients, making them resilient to stresses and to climate change.