It is believed throughout the tea world that the Chinese province of Yunnan, which borders Laos, Vietnam, Burma, and Tibet, is the birthplace of the world’s first tea plantations. However, in direct contrast to the soothing qualities of a cup of freshly brewed tea, the Yunnan tea plantations, if legend is to be believed, were the byproduct of a terrible war.
According to ancient Chinese military texts, during the ancient period of the Chinese three kingdoms, (220-265 AD), a marauding army led by a General Kong Ming, (at the time one of the most feared men in China), conquered Yunnan province after invading it from nearby Hunan. Kong Ming, besides being a brilliant military strategist, was also a man of science, and specialized in botany. After conquering the province he conducted a thorough survey of its topography and biology and deemed it to be perfect for the cultivation of tea. Subsequently, the general ordered 1000 of his men to plant tea seedlings they had brought with them from Hunan and plant them throughout the highlands of Yunnan.
Whether or not the legend of Kong Ming is to be believed, the environment and altitude of Yunnan province do create an absolutely perfect environment for growing tea. The tea there is grown at very high elevations ranging from 4500-6000 feet above sea level. (Interestingly it is the height that gives the province its name; Yunnan translates into English as “South cloud”). The altitude, combined with the warmth and humidity of the highlands creates a natural greenhouse that Yunnan tea plants thrive in. Ying Ming Yunnan, like most Yunnan teas is known by its full-bodied and slightly sweet flavor. Brew a cup of this fabulous tea yourself and the next time you hear the song “war, war, what is good for?” at least you’ll know that it was good for at least one thing.