Ya'an, 3 March (ZXS) -- Tibetan tea: The thousand-year echo on the ancient tea horse road

China News Agency reporter Wang Peng

"If you don't have tea for one day, you will be stagnant, and if you don't have tea for three days, you will be sick." On the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the roof of the world, this widely spread tea proverb is proof that Tibetans attach importance to tea drinking. But what few people know is that Tibetan tea is not produced in Tibet, but from Ya'an, Sichuan, which has a history of more than 1300,<> years.

In late March, spring tea picking began in Ya'an, located at the eastern foot of the Hengduan Mountains and the western edge of the Sichuan Basin. The average annual rainfall here exceeds 3 days, and the tea mountain is covered with clouds. The mountains and clouds produce good tea, and for this border city at 200 degrees north latitude, tea production is not surprising.

As the origin of the earliest import of tea into Tibet, Ya'an is the starting point of the Sichuan-Tibet Line of the ancient tea horse road. According to Li Chaogui, chairman of Ya'an Tea Factory Co., Ltd., a "time-honored Tibetan tea company in Sichuan", traditional Tibetan tea has a strict definition: small-leaf fully fermented brick tea produced in Ya'an for Tibet and surrounding Tibetan areas.

Tibetan tea is the originator of black tea, generally need to be boiled and drunk, its appearance brown and black oily, the soup color red and yellow bright, the aroma is rich and long-lasting, the taste is mellow and long. The boiled tea soup is poured into a tea barrel, ghee, cheese and salt, stirred up and down until the tea milk blends, and the traditional drink butter tea is made.

"We used to make butter tea from various tea leaves, and found that Tibetan tea was the most suitable, and the finished butter tea was left to sit for a week, still blending tea and milk, and not stratified." Li Chaogui said that this characteristic comes from the unique production process of Tibetan tea.

As a fully fermented tea, Tibetan tea has a complex production process. Its raw material is the mature whole plant of small-leaf tea, which must be allowed to grow until before and after the valley rain, and then cut the tea leaves with a special knife. The production of traditional Tibetan tea requires 32 processes such as kneading, piling, long-term drying, and wrapping, which takes 6 months.

In the snowy plateau, the meaning of Tibetan tea goes beyond "drink" and is regarded as "tea of life": in the cold and oxygen-deficient and strong radiation environment, Tibetan people must consume high-fat and high-sugar foods, but vegetables and fruits are scarce, and Tibetan tea has become a necessity to harmonize and decompose greasy and supplement vitamins.

"The perfect combination of Tibetan tea and the needs of Tibetan people's lives is the crystallization of the wisdom of our ancestors." Chen Kaiyi, president of the Ya'an Tea Circulation Association, said that in history, Ya'an tea has had close exchanges with Tibet, and according to the needs of the Tibetan people, the taste has been adjusted over and over again, and the process has been adjusted.

The time when tea entered Tibet is now generally believed to be the fifteenth year of Tang Zhenguan (641 AD). According to the "Appendix to the Tibetan Political and Religious Guide", "tea was also entered by Princess Wencheng into Tibet." Chen Kaiyi believes that when the tracing of Tibetan tea rises to the dimension of history, "Tibetan tea" is not only tea, but also a cultural phenomenon and a historical witness of Sino-Tibetan exchanges.

Since the Tang Dynasty, tea has become an important medium for communicating the interior and frontiers. The Northern Song Dynasty set up a tea and horse division in Ya'an, and the commercial exchanges between Shudi and Tibet were smoothed through the "tea and horse mutual market".

For thousands of years, the ancient tea horse road has been crowded with horses. The porters set out from Ya'an, loaded two or three hundred pounds of tightly packed strips of tea, and walked into the lofty mountains. "When you arrive in Kangding, you have to cut the bamboo fence that is wrapped in a strip of tea, put it in tea bags made of cowhide, and pack it for the yak, because the yak is on the rampage, and the cowhide bag cannot be broken, so that the tea bag can reach Tibet." Mou Wenyan, a "tea-backered" in Ya'an Duoying Town, told reporters.

In the 20s of the 50th century, with the opening of the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, the rugged figures of the porters disappeared along with the sound of the horse gangs' clicking hooves. Today, only a few ancient road ruins and the unchanged tea fragrance have become an echo of the thousand-year history of Tibetan tea.

With the development of the times, the demand for refinement and high-end Tibetan tea has become more and more prominent. Yang Sinan, founder of "Toutiao" Tea, a dark horse in the Tibetan tea industry that has risen in recent years, believes that Tibetan tea, which is characterized by eliminating greasy, scraping oil and reducing fat, conforms to the health needs of modern urbanites, and its sales are no longer limited to regions.

"However, because it has been exclusively for Tibetan compatriots for thousands of years, the outside world does not know much about Tibetan tea." In Yang Sinan's view, Tibetan tea from the depths of history may be a new "ancient tea horse road" in front of it to move towards a broader future. (End)