These beautiful leaves come from Laos from ancient tea trees. If I say ancient, I am talking about more than 1500 years old. There are even trees which are 2,000 and 3,000 years old. In China, these would be considered cultural heritage and protected. Like some trees around Pu'er. However, in Cambodia, they are being harvested.
When I heard about the tea trees' age, I thought it could have been an exaggeration but I then I saw the below video that was sent to me by the tea company Saochan and stopped doubting. Call me naive! I was impressed. These trees can grow 10 meters long. The one in the video looked higher to me.
Both the video and the tea is from 2019. These trees are found in the Xiangkhouang province of Laos which is in the country's northeast. It is worth to mention that we are talking about an elevation above 2000 meters which is one of the highest amongst what I have heard.
Laotian teas are not well known at the international level, but they have a market in China. The prices are probably at the same level as some exceptional Yunnanese pu-erh teas. Buyers pay fees about 200 USD a cake (talking about a young gushu sheng cha) and more for aged ones.
Another important info that I was given by the vendor is that in Laos, the government banned using pesticides, which is a great initiative.
As for the taste of this tea, it did feel aged but fresh at the same time. It had a pleasant astringency that I can associate with aged sheng pu-erhs. But it also carried delicate floral notes which made this tea more 'fresh'. I also thought that the tea's aroma was different from what I could smell on the empty cup. If you told me that this tea was an aged sheng pu-erh from Yunnan, I'd have believed you. I should drink more of this tea and in comparison with pu-erhs from Yunnan to try and capture any minor differences.
Type: Dark (I am unsure it is right to call them pu-erh, the vendor calls it raw tea)
Origin: Xiangkhouang, Laos
Harvest time: Early Spring 2019
Leaf colour: Tones of brown
Liquor colour: Dark yellow
Tea Aroma: Woody and earthy
Tea taste: Lingering and pleasant astringency with floral notes
Steeping/brewing: Place about 6-8 g of this tea in a gaiwan or teapot and add hot water around 100°C. After rinsing the leaves, you can steep for 5 seconds and add 10 second to each consecutive steeping. You can re-steep this tea multiple times.
Shelf-life: Suitable for ageing.