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About Tribute Tea

During the Qing Dynasty, the Yibang mountain region used to produce the most prized teas of the six famous mountains in Yunnan during the Qing Dynasty. The six famous tea mountains are a group of mountains in Xishuangbanna that were renowned for their climates and environments, which not only provide excellent growing conditions for pu-erh, but also produce unique taste profiles (akin to terroir in wine) in the produced pu-erh tea. Over the course of history, the designated mountains for the tea mountains have either been changed or listed differently. In the Qing dynasty government records for pu-erh (普洱府志), the oldest historically designated mountains were said to be named after six commemorative items that were left in the mountains by Zhuge Liang, and using the Chinese characters of the native language of the region. These mountains are all located northeast of the Lancang River (Mekong) in relatively close proximity to one another. The mountains' names, in the Standard Mandarin character pronunciation are:

  1. Gedeng (革登山): term for "leather stirrup" (马蹬)
  2. Mansa (慢撤山): term for "seed sowing bag" (撒袋)
  3. Mangzhi (莽枝山): term for "copper cauldron" (铜鉧)
  4. Manzhuan (蠻磚山): term for iron brick" (铁砖)
  5. Yibang (倚邦山): term for "wooden clapper" (木梆)
  6. Yōulè (攸樂山): term meaning "copper gong" (铜锣)

However, in late Qing Dynasty, there was a plague and a severe fire that killed thousands of people and destroyed many of the tea gardens. As you can imagine, as a consequence the yield of the Yiban tea significantly decreased to the point where with limited quantities available, the reputation was not what it once was. Therefore, the Yiwu mountain region gradually became more famous than Yibang and remains so to this day.

Yibang tea used to be the tribute tea during the Qing Dynasty. The tea leaves used were the middle size and small leaves from the old tea trees (arbor) cultivated by Sichuan people. Even though this tea is not composed of big leaves, its thick taste can cover and compete with many big leaf old trees, such as Yiwu. That is why it was originally selected to be the tribute tea in Qing Dynasty.