H’mong ethnic people in Son La Province still make their special shan tuyet green tea following traditional methods.
The tea buds and leaves come from wild perennial tea trees located in the mountains 1,500 metres above sea level. Mua A Pao from Chung Trinh Village said they had to pick the tea buds from early morning until 10 am and then from 3 pm onward.
“It’s best to pick the buds when the weather is cool and there is a mist. Buds picked under the scorching sun do not taste good and will have black marks if they are picked under a rain,” he said.
According to Pao, temperature is very important when the buds are dried on hot cast iron pan. They must heat up the pan first then use a strong fire to dry the buds. It takes up to one hour to dry a 2kg batch of green tea before the buds are squeezed by hand to release their aroma.
This is a delicate process as the buds can be bruised and lose their colour. After being squeezed, the buds are dried in a hot pan again until crispy. The most expensive tea buds make 1kg dried tea from 5kg of buds.
After being processed they are still big, covered with a white layer and are called Shan Tuyet (snow).
Ta Xua Commune has about 130 hectares of unique shan tuyet tea trees thanks to the location and weather. Son La shan tuyet tea is extremely valued since no fertilizers or pesticides are used.
Some photos of the tea making process: