Lao Mountain TeaLush and wild; the tea tree orchards of Ou’An Village are set in the rugged mountainous rainforest of northern Lao. Remote Ou’An VillageTo reach Ou’An village, we must walk several kilometers on foot. Rural povertyOu’An Village is remote and underdeveloped. Tea is the primary occupation in Ou’An, but the villagers need access to wider markets with their tea in order for it to become a cash crop. Many still essentially depend on subsistence farming. BananasBanana trees in Ou’An Village, grown for consumption within the village. Ou’An Meeting HallRishi tea buyers take a photo with residents of Ou’An Village after interviewing them about their local economy, tea cultivation and production style, culture, and hopes for uplifting their village out of poverty by reaching a wider market with their tea. Ou’An VillageAn illustrated map of Ou’An Village, with the tallest tree in the village serving as a landmark, hung up inside the village meeting hall. Trail to the tea orchardsFootpaths lead to the hundreds of hectares of mountain tea forests in Ou’An Village and neighboring villages. Lao tea treesExploring a grove of tea trees planted from seed just five years ago. Broad-leaf variety tea treesThe tea forests at Ou’An Village contain at least three distinct sub-varieties or sub-types of the broad-leaf Assamica cultivar tea tree. Here is one example, with especially round, broad. Broad-leaf variety tea treesFive-year-old broad-leaf cultivar tea trees planted from seed. These trees have adapted to the local climate and soil in Ou’An Village in Lao to make incredibly strong, yet aromatic teas. Broad-leaf variety tea treesFive-year-old broad-leaf cultivar tea trees planted from seed of ancient tea trees in Yiwu. These trees have adapted to the local climate and soil in Ou’An Village in Lao to make incredibly strong, yet aromatic teas. CoppicingAn example of a tea tree that has been coppiced. Coppicing is a technique for regenerating new vegetative growth by splicing, but not completely severing, the trunk of a tree. This stresses the tree and forces it to draw extra nutrients from the soil in its struggle to survive. Only a small percentage of the tea trees in Ou’An have been coppiced; most remain in their natural state. CoppicingThis tree was coppiced three years ago, causing the tree to flush with new growth.CoppicingThe trunk has been spliced but not completely severed. CoppicingThree ancient tea trees that have all been coppiced and now overlap one another, making it easy to harvest their tea leaves. Ancient tea treeThe trunk of one of the oldest tea trees in Ou’An Village. High-elevation mountain teaThis tea grove is set at nearly 2,000m in elevation in Ou’An Village. Mr. Neng YongOu’An Village Mr. Neng Yong manages ten hectares of tea forest with his family. Spring harvestSpring harvest tea leaves collected by Mr. Neng Yong to make green tea. Mr. Neng Yong is plucking according to the two-leaves-and-one-bud plucking standard. Sustainable forest tea stewardshipRishi tea buying team conducting an interview with Mr. Neng Yong to learn about how he and his family manage their tea forest during the spring harvest. Mr. Neng Yong and his wife, along with their older children, manage about 10 hectares of mountain tea forest sustainably. The ecological balance and biodiversity found in this rugged forestry prevents the need for any sort of chemical fertilizer or pesticide. The tea trees grown naturally, nurtured by healthy soil and abundant spring rains. Spring harvestMr. Neng Yong and his wife collecting tea.Spring harvestMr. Neng Yong and his wife collecting tea. Spring harvestMr. Neng Yong deftly plucks spring tea. Spring harvestMr. Neng Yong collecting spring tea. Tea Artisan Ms. Kham PhouyRishi Tea founder Joshua Kaiser and Lao NGO specialist Dr. Thipavong interviewing Ou’An tea artisan Ms. Kham Phouy. Tea Artisan Ms. Kham PhouyRishi Tea founder Joshua Kaiser and Ou’An tea artisan Ms. Kham Phouy. Sun-dried green tea (shaiqing maocha)Ms. Kham Phouy’s tea drying in the sun. SabaideeRishi Tea founder Joshua Kaiser greeting Ou’An artisanal tea maker Ms. Kham Phouy.