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Exploring the Fusion of Tea and Tourism: The Impact of the 20th Mengdingshan Tea and Tourism Festival in China

The 20th Mengdingshan Tea and Tourism Festival promotes the place of tea within tourism. Since the beginning of 2023 in China, the consumer and tourism markets have been gradually coming together, and the main tea-producing areas have seized the opportunity to create synergies between the two industries.

Ksenia Hleap, the AVPA's communication and development manager, and María Kockmann, tea sommelier and member of the AVPA professional jury, were invited to take part in the seminar "Mengdingshan tea: brands, market, marketing".

Sichuan province, in south-west China, is home to China's oldest tea-growing region, with a particularly famous location: Mengding mountain in Ya'an. The average annual temperature there is 14.5 degrees, and year-round mist and rain are beneficial to tea cultivation, with tea bushes budding almost all year round, from February-March to October-November. But the spring harvests are the most prestigious, especially those before April 4th this year, the date of the Qingming festival.

The manufacturing process is thousands of years old and contributes to the reputation of the Mengding shan tea. Since the year 742, during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Mengding shan tea has been served to the imperial family. It's no coincidence that the Tea and Horse Road (Chamadao), an ancient network of trade routes and caravan trails, once crossed this part of China, distributing Buddhist spirituality, silk, and tea between the humid jungles and mountain valleys of China, Myanmar, India and as far as Tibet.

Mengding Shan, in Sichuan, is more than a mountain, it's a sanctuary. In 53 BC, Wu Lizhen, the ancestor of tea, first planted seven Camellia sinensis shrubs near its summit, which later became an imperial garden from where the "tea of the immortals" was extracted.

Meng Ding Gan Lu, Meng Ding Mao Feng, Meng Ding Huang Ya (yellow tea) and Tibetan Heicha are the region's signature teas.

Meng Ding Gan Lu is known as one of the 10 most famous teas in all of China. The Mengding shan tea-making technique was listed as China's national intangible cultural heritage in 2021.

A superb tea composed of downy buds; the moist leaves have generous notes of green vegetables. Its soft green liquor is velvety, slightly acidic and offers a complex aromatic richness of vegetable (artichoke), gourmet (hazelnut, chestnut), fruity (melon) and iodized notes.

Ya'an Heicha, a dark tea known as Tibetan tea, is another emblematic tea, as it forms the basis of Tibetan yak tea. There's a saying that a Tibetan can live three days without eating but can't survive a day without drinking tea. The place of this beverage in the Tibetan diet is essential.

Roads and caravans have been transporting tea to Tibet since the marriage of the Chinese princess Wengchen to the Tibetan king Songtsen Campo in the 7th century, right up until the 1950s. From Ya'an to Tibet, it was a journey lasting some three weeks on foot with a 100kg load of tea on their backs, carried out by men and women, often accompanied by their children.

A region rich in history, heritage and flavours, a Sichuan tea tasting will soon be organized to introduce you to these emblematic Chinese teas, and take you to the tea Mecca of Sichuan, the origin of tea.

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