Blang villagers perform ritual dances outside the temple in Mangjing Village, Lancang County, Yunnan Province, for the Blang New Year. [Photo: Corey Cooper]
The Blang: a tribe of tea makers
The influence of the Blang people on the history of tea is incalculable. It was here in Mangjing, more than 2,000 years ago, that humans first deliberately cultivated and harvested tea for consumption. Tea leaves were originally chewed for their medicinal properties, and the practice eventually evolved to the brewing of tea in liquid form. As tea cultivation spread throughout China and eventually reached Japan and other countries in Asia about 1,000 years ago during the Song Dynasty, tea culture evolved from the simple brewing methods in Mangjing to much more elaborate procedures, such as the modern-day Japanese tea ceremony. But in Mangjing today, you can still witness Su and his family brewing kaocha, mixing charcoal with tea leaves before steeping them in boiling water in an iron pot, much as his ancestors probably did a millennium ago.