The Shan State in Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a region with a long and rich history of tea cultivation. Located in the eastern part of the country, the Shan State shares borders with China, Thailand, and Laos. This geographical position has influenced the tea culture and tea cultivation in this region, particularly among the indigenous Paluang (Bulang) and Wa (Va) tribes who migrate back and forth from Yunnan to Burma over the centuries planting and trading tea.
The ancient tea cultivation history in the Shan State can be traced back over a thousand years. The Paluang and Wa tribes have been cultivating tea in the mountainous areas of the state since ancient times. They have developed unique tea-growing techniques and have passed down their knowledge and traditions from one generation to another.
The Paluang tribe, also known as the Bulang tribe, has its own distinct tea culture. They have been growing tea in the high-altitude areas of the Shan State for centuries. The Paluang people have a deep connection with tea, using it not only for consumption but also for cultural and social practices. They have their own tea rituals and ceremonies, where tea is offered to deities, guests, and ancestors.
Similarly, the Wa tribe, also known as the Va tribe, has a strong tea culture. They have been cultivating tea in the border areas of the Shan State for generations. The Wa people have their own tea customs and rituals, which are an integral part of their daily life and social gatherings. Tea is considered a symbol of hospitality and is often served to guests as a sign of respect.
In addition to the ancient tea cultures of the Paluang and Wa tribes, Myanmar is also known for its unique tea varieties. Two notable varieties are Assam broad leaf tea and the Irrawaddiensis tea with its unique leaf shape, reddish purple leaves and natural floral and camphor scent.
Assam tea, originally from the Assam region of India, is also grown in parts of the Shan State. It is known for its strong flavor and is often used in blends for black tea production. The climate and soil conditions in certain areas of the Shan State are suitable for growing Assam tea, resulting in high-quality leaves.
The Irrawaddiensis tea, also known as the Camellia sinensis variety, is native to Myanmar. It is a wild tea plant species found in the forests of the Shan State. The leaves of the Irrawaddiensis tea plant are smaller compared to the cultivated tea varieties, and they have a slightly different flavor profile. This wild tea variety is often used by local communities for traditional tea production methods. Nowadays , we find this tea has unique bitter and aromatic characteristics well suited for specialty black tea.
Overall, the tea cultivation history in the Shan State of Myanmar is deeply rooted in the traditions and cultures of the Paluang (Bulang) and Wa (Va) tribes. Their contributions, along with the presence of unique tea varieties like Assam tea and Irrawaddiensis tea, have shaped the tea culture in the region and continue to play a significant role in Myanmar's tea industry.