There is no strict definition as to what constitutes wild tea. From a botanical perspective no tea trees are likely to be truly wild as their distribution is tied to human migration over many hundreds of years.
For us, wild tea is produced from the leaves of trees that grow without human intervention (except harvesting) in low density, mixed biodiverse environments. Tea trees may be found in small clusters, but the concept of a tea garden doesn’t really exist in Vietnam, except for more recent planting.
Wild tea trees come in all shapes and sizes due to environment, how they have been traditionally harvested and the fact that trees grown from seed are highly heterogenous (diverse). Estimating age from appearance is very difficult. Beware the exaggerated claims of tea tree age.
The equivalent term to the Chinese gushu (ancient tree) in Vietnamese is cổ thụ. You will also see wild tea described as ‘Shan Tuyết’ but this term is also used by some to describe monoculture tea produced from shan cultivars.
The photos in this gallery are all our own and were taken between 2012 and 2021 during sourcing trips to the following locations in northern Vietnam:
- Tua Chua District, Dien Bien
- Bac Ha, Muong Khuong & Y Ty Districts, Lao Cai
- Hoang Su Phi, Vi Xuyen & Dong Van Districts, Ha Giang
- Van Chan & Tram Tau Districts, Yen Bai
- Phong Tho District, Lai Chau