Moving forward, we discover Xishuangbanna, the jewel of Asia and one of the very last preserved regions in China. This ‘kingdom of plants’, the source of the world’s tea, shelters some of the oldest forests of tea plants, whose leaves are used to make teas that are considered among the best in the world.
These large tea plants, the only ones of their kind in the world, are known by the name Camellia Sinensis. They grow freely in the shadow of giant oaks, chestnut trees and bamboos and often grow to over 3 metres in height. They have been nurtured, cared for and pruned in the form of small trees for 5,000 years. The oldest examples in these managed forests are now approaching 3,000 years of age. As they were grown from seeds rather than cuttings, they have a wide variety of leaves and flowers. In the heart of the forest, these ancient specimens are just as highly revered as their ancestors. Deeply rooted in thriving red soil rich in organic matter, these forest tea plants seem to have minds of their own and still keep some of their secrets. Studying their genotype and the biodiversity around them enables us to go back in time, as they have never changed.