Thailand might not be known for having a deep historical connection with tea. Like most nations around the world it mostly procured it’s tea drinking conventions through trade with countries like China or Taiwan, or through ethnic Chinese communities that have sprung up across the border regions. Having said that, Thailand is know for a special variety of Thai iced tea, a strongly-brewed, orange-colored tea, sweetened with condensed milk, sugar, or other spiced ingredients, and served with ice to provide some welcome relieve from the hot Thai climate.
In recent years however, Northern Thailand is making an advance in Tea culture and production for a very simple reason: The region is exceptionally well suited for growing high quality Oolong teas, Green teas, and other specialty teas.
In what is known as the Golden Triangle, mere miles from the borders of Laos and Myanmar, stands the Doi Mae Salong mountain. With an elevation ranging between 1200 to 1800 meters this rich and beautiful mountain is particularly suitable for growing tea leaves and other cash crops. The temperatures on the mountain shift quite drastically between day and night, allowing the tea leaves to grow at a slower pace, which in turn produces a sweeter more aromatic taste. Another benefit of the climate in this region is that the wealth of clouds and mist that cover the area allows the leaves to absorb more moisture.
Why it took so long for the people of these regions to take advantage of the rich soil is twofold. Firstly, it wasn’t until the crackdown on the opium trade in Northern Thailand that the mountain populations looked for other crops to farm in order to make a living. To provide these people with a boost The Thai Royal family initiated several projects meant to bolster the cultivation of these cash crops. Secondly, the development of high-quality and specialty teas in the region was accelerated by the expert knowledge, trade connections, and business ethic of ethnic Chinese communities. Remnants of Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang army (the dominant political party of Taiwan) settled in the upper-Northern regions after suffering defeat at the hands of Mao Zedong and the People’s Republic of China.