Meet John the tea maker
John is a talented tea maker and good friend of ours who Monteaco founder Kenneth first met twelve years ago, and he became the first supplier of tea to our company in 2013. Shortly after their first meeting, John took Kenneth up the mountains in an old four wheel drive suzuki, through areas where there wasn't any road at that time. They eventually arrived at a village of the Lahu people, a hill tribe that originated in Tibet and from there spread to Yunnan in China, before certain villages moved to Northern Thailand escaping the communist takeover.
This village up in the mountains was established by John’s maternal grandfather after he had moved south from China, escaping Mao, and bringing his Lahu tribe members with him to the Thai mountains. Later John's father, a chinese man who also had escaped from Yunnan eventually met John's mother, the daughter of the leader of the Lahu hill tribe. John's father was very knowledgeable about tea and as he discovered that there was a lot of wild tea growing in the surrounding area, he established a small tea factory in the forest, only producing tea from completely wild plants.
In the 70s the Lahu people were aiding in the fight against communists in Northern Thailand on the side of the Thai government with support from The United States. The war against the communist party in the mountains eventually ended and the communists never managed to get a foothold in Northern Thailand. At this time, many Lahu people living in these mountains made a living off the then thriving opium business. After the war was won, the King of Thailand made his way to the mountains to thank the Lahu people for their effort in the fight and their role in protecting the mountains. The king named the mountain after John's grandfather and then proceeded to hand over seeds from the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis assamica while also pointing out where to plant the first tea plant. The Lahu people were instructed on how to make a living of the tea business instead of the opium trade, a part of a larger campaign all around Northern Thailand to provide people with alternative crops to opium, like coffee and tea.
John's father focused on building a more modern tea factory to produce larger quantities, and proceeded to travel to other Lahu villages to promote tea as an alternative to opium, making him a very important man to the hill tribes in these mountains. John’s entire family grew up around tea, and his brothers and sisters are also working in the tea business. This is John’s family history, and even though he to a beginning was more of a coffee guy, his curiosity took him to Darjeeling where he learned more about tea production. After his and Kenneth’s first meetings they started to work together to make different kinds of tea, and we quickly became John's main buyer of tea. Throughout the years, we have together with John developed to produce all kinds of tea. White, green, oolong yellow and primarily black tea, making our popular Lahu Black which we use for all of our flavoured black teas. We have also once again started to work with the completely wild tea that his father first worked with a long time ago. Even though many areas in the villages had been cut down due to the opium trade, we are now together making sure that the existing Forest Friendly tea in this mountain can supply locals with a long term sustainable income without harming nature.