Since I read about tea plantations in the northern part of Chiang Rai prefecture, Thailand, I decided to visit at least one of these plantations. This May, I finally took the chance and did a short trip to Chiang Rai, where tours to the tea plantations are offered in travel agencies in the city center.
Tea cultivation in Thailand began with the cultural revolution in China (文化大革命, 1966-1976). During that time, people escaped the civil war and found a new home in the mountainous areas in the north of Chiang Rai prefecture. This area was also perfect for tea cultivation. Unfortunately, since the northern part of Chang Rai was part of the golden triangle, an area famous for opium, the drug turned out to be a more lucrative business than tea and the newly settled Chinese gave up tea plantations for the cultivation of opium.
In order to fight opium cultivation, Thailands King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Thai: ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช , 1927-2016) founded the NPO Royal Project (1969) in order to support the hill tribes in the area and substitute the opium by supporting the cultivation of agricultural crops. In the 1980ties, tea cultivation started again with the support of Taiwan’s Tea Agricultural Research Center.
Most of the tea plantations are located in Mae Salong, a remote hilly area, which ist perfect for the cultivation of tea. The main products of the tea plantations in Thailand are oolong tea, green tea, and jasmine tea, and they are mainly produced for local consumption.
About Choui Fong Tea plantation and my visit there
Coui Fong Tea plantation was founded when tea cultivation was re-established in Thailand and now it is the biggest tea plantation, not only in Chiang Rai province but also in the whole country. The tea is organic (according to the Thailand National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity) and the leaves are hand-picked to ensure the quality of the tea. Since the 2010thies, the teas won prizes on a regular base, which is also proof of their quality.
There are three branches of Choui Fong Tea, altogether the acreage measures 160 hectares (1.6 square kilometers). I visited this plantation close to the headquarters, with a modern building on top of the hill, which consists of a tea house and a shop. The tea-house itself is a visually appealing space where visitors can have a cup of tea, cake or to cool one down on a hot day, also tea smoothies (everything highly recommended!) while enjoying the view. And one can easily forget the time… so it happened to me and my friends, who actually wished to stay a little bit longer.
At the entrance to the shop, there is a counter, where the guests can taste the teas. I personally liked the floral “Osmanthus Oolong” most. There are not only teas but also tea-based cosmetics. The tea house on top of the hill is not only interesting from the inside: the roof is also a platform that offers a great overview of the whole plantation. There, visitors also love taking selfies with the plantation in the background. I recommend visiting the plantation in the morning since it can get very hot and also busy in the afternoon.
I am sure that one day, I will visit this place again. And next time, I would love to visit more remote tea plantations in Thailand as well, since it has a lot more to offer for thirsty tea lovers.
Have you ever visited a tea plantation in Thailand? Please share your experience with me.
Pettigrew, Jane and Bruce Richardson. The new tea companion. A guide to teas throughout the world. Third edition. Benjamin Press. 2015.
Amazing Thailand. “Top Tea Plantations in Thailand” in: Amazing Thailand. Open to new shades. https://www.takemetour.com/amazing-thailand-go-local/top-tea-plantations-in-thailand/ (Accessed 2019-12-08).
ArchDaily “Choui Fong Tea Cafe / IDIN Architects” in: ArchDaily. The world’s most visited architecture website. https://www.archdaily.com/787717/choui-fong-tea-cafe-idin-architects (Accessed 2019-12-08).
Choui Fong Tea. “About us” in: Choui Fong Tea. http://www.chouifongtea.com/en_about.shtml (Accessed 2019-12-08).
Royal Project Angkhang “About us” in: Royal Project Angkhang. http://www.royalprojectangkhang.com/English (Accessed 2019-12-08).