Third Chapter, first season

Six Ancient Tea Mountains 古六大茶山

East of the Mekong, on the first way of tea

NEW: Club community

Join the conversation with Vivian and with fellow tea drinkers who joined our club!
Publish tasting notes, questions and feelings on this page, reserved to everyone who joined our club.

Join the discussion

We have spent the last winter travel extensively in the eastern part of Xishuangbanna, where we live, discovering a multitude of ever-changing micro-worlds.

We are east of the great Mekong River, towards the royal court of the past: the ancient trees that now provide us with their leaves were once used to fill the cups of many emperors; thus, we are one more step in their lives, and we approach this tasting with joy and respect.

These six mountains are called "ancient" 古 because they were the first whose tea was exported and appreciated by the royal courts on the east coast.
They were the first to be coded and known by scholars who lived far away. Their valleys and villages still bear many ancient stones, roads, and buildings that talk about a glorious era of tea production, migrations, melting of cultures, and the most refined tea processing that these forests have ever seen.

©2024 Eastern Leaves, all rights reserved.Reproduction and distribution of this presentation, photos, text, without written permission of Eastern Leaves is prohibited.

Books and first records

As the main origin of Pu'er tea, the six ancient tea mountains are recorded in various ancient books. During the Daoguang reign of the Qing Dynasty, the "Tan Cui Dian Hai Yu Heng Zhi" recorded: "Pu'er tea is famous all over the world. It comes from the six tea mountains under Pu'er: Youle, Gedeng, Yibang, Manzhi, Manzhuan, and Mansa, with a circumference of 800 miles. Hundreds of thousands of people go into the mountains to make tea." 

"Qing History Draft Volume 74" records: "Youle, Mangzhi, Gedeng, Manzhuan, Yibang, Mansa." 

"Yunnan System·Mountains and Rivers" records: "There are six tea mountains in Ning'er County, Pu'er Prefecture, called Youle, which is now the seat of Tongzhi; 220 miles northeast of it the 100-li area is called Mangzhi, the 260-li area is called Gedeng, the 340-li area is called Manzhuan, the 365-li area is called Yibang, and the 520-li area is called Mansa. The mountains are connected, and there are many tea trees on the ridges. ”

Fan Chuo's "Yunnan Chronicles" records: "Tea comes from the mountains within the boundaries of Yinsheng City." Lin Chaomin believes that "Yinsheng City" refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the "Kainan Yinsheng Jiedu" established by Nanzhao. The jurisdiction of Yinsheng City also includes Fengyi City and Lirun City. Fengyi City is in Pu'er County, and Lirun City is in Yiwu Township, Mengla County today.


There is no clear record in Chinese historical books about when Pu'er tea became a trade commodity. However, from the relevant records of "Manshu" written by Fan Chuo in the Tang Dynasty and "Pu'er Tea Records" by Ruan Fu, it can be determined that Pu'er tea was sold to foreign countries no later than the Tang Dynasty, and it was sold as far as Dali and Kangzang at that time.

In the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), Pu'er tea became a commodity of "Yixi Fanzhima".

In the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD), Pu'er tea had become an important commodity for people of all ethnic groups to trade in the market. In the "Yunnan Zhilue Zhuyi Fengsu" by Li Jing of the Yuan Dynasty, the "Jinchi" and "Baiyi" (referring to the Dai people) articles said: "Trade every five days, with felt, cloth, tea and salt traded with each other." 

In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), during the Wanli period, officials were set up in Pu'er to manage the tea trade: Pu'er tea's reputation had spread throughout the country. According to "Yunnan Lue" and "Xinzhuan Yunnan Tongzhi": "All the people use Pu'er tea", "Pu'er tea occupies a special position in Chinese tea, far beyond Anhui, Fujian and Zhejiang". 

Since the establishment of the Ming Dynasty, there have been constant wars in the northern border. In order to deal with the invasion of Mongolia, the Ming government needed to use a large amount of tea to exchange horses for war preparations. In the 17th year of Hongwu (1384), the Ming government set up the post of Xuanweisi in Cheli in Xishuangbanna, which was held by the local Dai chieftain, and called on every household in each village to grow tea. Cheli is a Xuanweisi on the border line, which originated from the Tusi system implemented by the central dynasty since the Yuan Dynasty. The tea planting movement was in full swing, which gave birth to the Pu'er tea industry that was later "famous all over the world", and the 100,000 mu of ancient tea gardens in the ancient six major tea mountains also began to gradually form in the historical accumulation of hundreds of years

The origin of tea culture

In the seventh year of Yongzheng (1729) of the Qing Dynasty, Ortai, the governor sent by the Qing government to Yunnan, implemented the policy of changing the natives to the flow in the ethnic minority areas of Yunnan, and set up government offices, flow officials, and stationed troops in the local area to strengthen administrative rule. The flow official Gao Qizhuo did not seriously understand the ethnic conditions of the ancient six major tea mountains, knew little about the management and operation of the tea mountains, and completely ignored the living conditions of tea farmers. In addition to the collection of numerous miscellaneous taxes, there were no corresponding laws and regulations to stipulate the standards for collecting tea and the packaging style, which led to most tea farmers losing all their money. Over time, the resistance of the tea mountain people became increasingly high, and an uprising lasting two years broke out. In the eleventh year of Yongzheng (1733), Yin Jishan succeeded Gao Qizhuo as the governor of Yunnan and Guizhou. As soon as Yin Jishan took office, he started with the rectification of tea, abolished the Simao General Tea Shop, and decided to include Yunnan tea in the national law. In the thirteenth year of Yongzheng (1735), the Qing central court officially promulgated the Yunnan Tea Law. The Tea Law stipulates that a "tea permit" must be held to buy and sell Yunnan tea, and Yunnan is approved to issue 3,000 "tea permits" each year, and each permit purchases 100 kilograms of tea. The Tea Law also specifically stipulates that the tea to be traded must be in the shape of round cakes, each round cake weighs seven taels, seven round cakes make a tube, each tube is forty-nine taels, and each tube is taxed one cent of silver. Each "tea permit" can buy 32 tubes, and the tax silver is three cents and two cents, which will be a permanent custom. The introduction of the Yunnan Tea Law rectified the tea trading market of the ancient six major tea mountains, eliminated the unhealthy trend of excessive taxes, stabilized the economic sources of tea farmers and tea merchants, and provided basic conditions for the formation of the industrial landscape of the ancient six major tea mountains. The Tea Law stipulates that seven taels make one cake, seven cakes make one tube, which has beautiful shape, convenient tax calculation, and unified specifications. Because the shape, weight, and packaging style of tea are stipulated, "Seven Cake Tea" appeared and became a representative product of Yunnan tea. 

the area

The ancient six major tea mountains are located in the subtropical zone of the northern hemisphere, with an altitude of 1,100 to 2,020 meters, an average altitude of about 1,200 meters, and a total area of ​​about 2,000 square kilometers. 

It belongs to the subtropical monsoon climate, with distinct dry and wet seasons and abundant rainfall. The high temperature and long sunshine during the day are conducive to the photosynthesis of tea trees; the low temperature at night significantly weakens the respiration of tea trees, which is conducive to the preservation of more organic matter and the retention of a large amount of aromatic substances contained in tea leaves, which is very suitable for the growth of tea trees.

The forest is rich in animal and plant species, forming a complete ecological cycle chain. Tea trees, as a link in the ecological cycle chain, are inseparable from the surrounding environment. The long-term fallen leaves in the forest are naturally transformed and fermented to become organic fertilizer, providing sufficient nutrients for the growth of tea trees; the tea mountain, as a huge ecological cycle system, protects the local biodiversity and provides the necessary conditions for the formation of tea gardens; at the same time, because of the existence of tea trees, the completeness of the forest ecological landscape is guaranteed, and the overall coordination and operation of the tea mountain is enhanced. The tea garden and the forest complement each other and jointly maintain the development and evolution of the ecological landscape of the ancient six major tea mountains.

This chapter's teas

Mangzhi mtn., Yanglin Village 莽枝秧林大寨 - 2024 Spring, ancient trees
Yibang mtn., Mangong village 倚邦曼拱 - 2022, Spring, big trees
You Le mtn., Yanuo Village 攸乐亚诺村 - 2022, Spring, ecological trees
Manzhuan mtn., Manqian village 蛮砖蛮迁老寨 - 2024, Spring, ecological trees

Yiwu mtn., Mahei village 易武麻黑- 2023, Autumn, ancient trees
Yiwu mtn., Guafengzhai village 易武刮风寨 2024, Spring, ancient trees
Yiwu mtn., Baihuatan village 易武百花潭 - 2023, Spring, ecological trees
Gedeng mtn., Zhibang Village 革登植蚌 - 2023, Spring, ecological trees

Tasting notes

From a distance, the overall landscape of the ancient six major tea mountains is characterized by villages surrounded by tea forests and tea forests protected by forests. The people of the six ancient tea mountains have had the habit of artificially growing tea since ancient times, and gradually mastered various knowledge related to tea. These traditional knowledge are the wisdom of local residents in the long-term production practice of interactive symbiosis with the natural environment. As the area of ​​tea forests gradually expands, the relationship between the village and the tea forest becomes closer. The village is directly embedded in the tea mountain. From a distance, the whole picture of the village is basically invisible. It is integrated with the tea mountain, presenting a patchwork landscape. As a natural "oxygen bar", the forest improves the local climate conditions. Large tracts of root crops prevent soil erosion while ensuring the freedom of drinking water for villagers, and there is also excess water for farmland irrigation. 

The forest is the best place for gathering and hunting, which greatly meets the basic needs of villagers' daily life. Therefore, the village on the tea mountain is an organically operated ecological village, and the tea forest is an important part of the ecological economic effect. 


An ecological tea plantation is a former intensive plantation that was recovered in 5-8 years toward a forest environment.

A forest plantation is a semi-wild tea garden where the tea trees grow freely in the under-forest.

An ancient tree is an older tea tree aged 200-500 years (officially is above 100 years of age) that grows in the under-forest.

How to brew

We suggest to brew these pu'er shengpu teas in gaiwan or Yixing teapot, with a ratio of 1 gr. of tea every 20 ml of water.
Use quick infusions with boiling water starting from 10-15 seconds, increasing with each new brew as needed.
Each tea can be brewed 10-12 times.
We remind that gong brewing is purely subjective, and the parameters should be adapted to your vessels and personal taste.

Yiwu 易武

Yiwu 易武 in Dai language, means: "The place where beautiful snakes live"

Tea Mountain Geography: Located between 21°51′-22°05′N and 101°21′-101°35′E, with an altitude of 910-1700m, an average annual temperature of 17.2℃, and an average annual precipitation of 1500-1900mm. It is located on the China-Laos border, bordering Jiangcheng in the north, Yao District and Mengban in the south, and Menglun and Xiangming in the west.

Ancient tree main production areas: Yiwu, Manyu, Mahei, Luoshuidong, Guafengzhai, Laodingjiazhai, Manxiu, Daqishu, etc.

Tea Mountain History: As early as a thousand years ago, the ancient Pu people in Yiwu planted tea trees. After the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, as the six major tea mountains became famous, a large number of outsiders moved in to run tea businesses. In the Qing Dynasty Daoguang period, Mansa was changed to Yiwu in the "Pu'er Prefecture Records". The change of tea mountain place names reflects the rise and fall of each tea mountain and the transfer of tea processing and trading centers. At the end of the Qing Dynasty, some famous tea houses in the history of Pu'er tea began to appear, such as Hongqinghao, Tongqinghao, Tongxinghao, Anlehao, Qianlizhenhao, etc.

Tea quality characteristics: Yiwu tea soup is soft and smooth, with a sweet taste, weak bitterness, and good aftertaste. It is known as the "Queen of Tea".

Youle 攸乐

The ancestral home of the Jino people, who used to be called Youle people. The Jino people are "descendants of uncles" or "ethnic groups that respect uncles".

Tea mountain geography: Located between 21°59′—22°29′ north latitude and 100°25′-101°25′ east longitude, 575-1691m above sea level, with an average temperature of 18-20℃ and an average annual precipitation of 1400mm. It is adjacent to Gedeng Tea Mountain in the northeast and connected to Xiaomengyang, Menghan and Mengkuan in the southwest. It is a settlement area of ​​the Jinuo people. It is the largest existing ancient tea tree area among the six ancient tea mountains.

Ancient tree production areas: Yanuo, Longpa, Si Tu Lao Zhai, Mozhuo, Ba Piao, etc.

Tea mountain history: It is said that the Jinuo people are descendants of Zhuge Liang's army, and the history of tea planting in Jinuo Mountain is very long. During the 200 years of the Qing Dynasty, there was no tea house in Youle Mountain, and the Youle people did not make seven-piece cake tea, but they could make bamboo tube tea and tea paste. In the Qing Dynasty, Youle Mountain had a large output, and the raw materials were mainly processed in Yiwu, Yibang and other places. The famous "Ke Ke Xing" tea bricks were made of Youle tea. During the Republic of China period, the tea of ​​Youle Mountain was mainly monopolized by Yang Anyuan of Yiwu. When Yang collected tea in Youle Mountain, he did not respect the customs of the Youle people, which aroused the anger of the Youle people. In December 1941, the Youle people contacted the Yao, Hani and other ethnic minorities to hold an uprising against violence. The two-year war caused serious setbacks to the economy and society of Youle Mountain. However, by the 1970s, there were still about 3,000 acres of ancient tea gardens preserved.

Tea quality characteristics: similar to Yiwu but slightly more bitter, more pronounced aftertaste, obvious mountain rhyme, and slightly thinner water quality.

Yibang 倚邦

Yibang is called "Mo La" in Dai language, which means "a place with tea trees and wells"

Tea mountain geography: between 1200-1600m above sea level, with an average annual temperature of 25℃ and an annual precipitation of 1690mm. It is connected to Mengwang Township, Jinghong City in the north, Manzhuang Tea Mountain in the south, Gedeng Tea Mountain in the west, and Yiwu Ancient Tea Mountain in the east. A high mountain area where many ethnic groups live. It is the hub of the source of the Yunnan-Tibet Tea Horse Road.

Origin of ancient trees: Yibang, Mansong, Likong, Jiabu, Mangong, Ma Lishu, etc.

History of tea mountains: If you don't understand Yibang, you won't understand why Pu'er tea is "especially valued by the capital". The Yibang tea area has a long history, and tea gardens have been formed in the middle of the Ming Dynasty. In particular, Mansong tea became a tribute tea in the Qing Dynasty, making Yibang tea famous. There is a saying that "eat Mansong and see Yibang". There are ethnic minorities such as Dai, Bulang, Wa, Hani, Yi, and Jinuo living here to grow tea.

Tea quality characteristics: small and medium leaf varieties, very light bitterness, slightly more astringent than bitter, quicker sweetness, unique aroma, and a slight honey flavor. Among them, Mansong tea is not bitter, the soup is sweet and full, and the fragrance lingers at the bottom of the cup.

Gedeng 革登

Bulang language, meaning: "very high place"

Tea mountain geography: 600-1950m above sea level, with huge altitude differences. Located in the west of Xiangming Township, it is connected to Kongming Mountain in the east, Jinuo Mountain Ancient Tea Mountain across the river in the south, Manzhuang Ancient Tea Mountain in the west, and Yibang Ancient Tea Mountain in the north. Yi ethnic group settlement area. The smallest area among the six major tea mountains.

Ancient tree origin: Zhibang, Xinfa

Tea area history: During the Jiaqing period of the Qing Dynasty (1796-1820), there was a tea king tree near Bajiaoshuzhai in Gedeng. Regarding the tea king tree in Gedeng, "Simao Hall Records" and "Pu'er Records" record: "There is a tea king tree in Gedeng, which is taller than other tea trees. When the locals pick it, they first offer wine and sacrifice here." The tea king tree died in the early years of the Republic of China, and now there is a tree pit left. There are many small tea trees growing around the tree pit, which are the "descendants" left by the tea king tree. The decline of Gedeng Tea Mountain is somewhat related to the war in Mangzhi Tea Mountain. By the end of the Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China, Gedeng Old Village was no longer inhabited and has now become a piece of farmland with broken porcelain pieces everywhere.

Tea quality characteristics: obvious mountain rhyme, weak bitterness, good aftertaste, and smooth soup.

Mangzhi 莽枝

Meaning: "The place where (Zhuge Liang) buried copper (Mang)"

Tea mountain geography: about 1300m above sea level, with an average annual temperature of 19-21℃ and rainfall of 1500-1900mm. Closely connected to Gedeng Tea Mountain and Kongming Mountain. Yi and Miao ethnic groups live in the area.

Ancient tree production area: Manya, Hongtupo, Anle, Yanglin, Jiangxiwan, Longduo, etc.

Tea area history: at least in the Yuan Dynasty, there were tea gardens. The villages of Mansai and Sudi at the foot of Mangzhi Mountain have a history of thousands of years.

Mangzhi Mountain was a place with convenient transportation in ancient times. In the past, Mangzhi Tea Mountain had tens of thousands of acres of tea gardens, from Manya, Hongtupo, Mangzhi Dazhai, Yanglinzhai to Niuguntang, Jiangxi Bay, and the S-shaped ridge is more than ten kilometers long. There is still a three-meter-deep ancient road on the ridge of Niuguntang, which was trampled by the horse caravans in those days.

Tea quality characteristics: typical small and medium-leaf varieties, weak bitterness, quick sweetness, and good bottom fragrance.

Manzhuan 蛮砖

Dai language, meaning: "big village"

Tea mountain geography: about 1100m above sea level, annual average temperature 21℃, annual average rainfall 1540mm. Connected to Yiwu in the east and Yibang in the north. Yi and Dai ethnic groups live in the area. Located in the center of the six ancient tea mountains.

Ancient tree production area: Manzhuang, Manlin, Manqian, Bazongzhai, etc.

Tea mountain history: Manzhuan has a long history of tea cultivation and was already famous in the Qing Dynasty. Both "Compendium of Materia Medica" and "Yunnan Yuhengzhi" mentioned the six major tea mountains, "Yibang and Manzhuan have better taste". There are many tea gardens in Manzhuan Tea Mountain but few tea companies. In the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China, most of them were sold to Yiwu Tea Company for processing. "Half of Yiwu Qizi Cake is Manzhuan Tea".

Tea quality characteristics: The soup is full and smooth, with a strong mountain flavor, a long-lasting fragrance at the bottom of the cup, a quick and long-lasting sweetness, a light bitterness, and a deep throat rhyme.00-1,350 meters above sea level.

A mesmerising travel

We invite everyone of you to taste the teas at your own pace, creating your own maps of flavour for this wonderful area, which made the history of our beloved pu'er tea.

In the middle of the trimester we will invite you to a webinar with our Vivian, talking about our story with the mountain, the reasons beyond the choice of these teas, and some more stories that accompany these leaves.

In the meanwhile, we look forward to hear from you in our community: click on the button below to access, and share your leaves journey with many other fellow drinkers.

Join the community

Further leaves