The villages of Mannong and Manmai are located in one of the oldest tea cultivation zones in the world - Hekai Tea Mountain. The main ethnic groups living in this area are Lahu and Hani. Hekai Tea Mountain is divided into three regions: Manmai Village and Mannong New Village and Mannong Old Village. These towns are among the oldest tea-producing areas of the world and they contain Xishuangbanna’s best preserved, largest range of ancient tea gardens.
Hekai Tea Mountain belongs to the northern section of the famous Nannuo mountain chain in Xishuangbanna, China. It is located in Hekai Village of Menghun Town, in southeastern Menghai County, approximately 50km from the Menghai County center. This mild, warm and moist climate provides superior natural conditions for growing tea trees, resulting in dense and rich tree growth. Mannong is a truly natural environment with an excellent tree canopy cover and a biologically diverse environment that is blessed with rich soil and an ecologically pristine tea garden landscape. There are no conventional, clear-cut tea farms in Mannong. The areas under our organic and Fair Trade certification are the true old-growth tea trees that exist within the forests and villages of Mannong and Manmai. Most of the tea trees are the Menghai "Da Ye" antique cultivar and other antique Da Yeh Arbor varietals, planted by ancient Lahu and Hani more than 1,500 years ago. The average height of the tea trees is between 10–23 feet (3–7m). Today, nearly 1,650 acres of ancient tea gardens exist in the Mannong and Manmai tea growing area, which produce approximately 250,000 kg of high quality tea each year.
Although Mannong and Manmai Villages are rich in ancient tea culture and traditions, the area is very underdeveloped and poor. Many villagers do not have educational or health care services. The Mannong Manmai Ancient Tea Association has used the funds generated by the sales of Fair Trade tea in the following ways.
Before the Fair Trade funds were available to support the community, most of the water used for cooking, washing and drinking came from a muddy creek bed. Since 2008, 16 miles of main pipeline were developed to link a high mountain water spring with a system of tanks and pipes that serve fresh, clean water from the mountain spring to the villagers in Mannong and Manmai.
Sewer systems do not exist in this area and hygienic conditions are very poor. Villagers used Fair Trade funds to build men’s and women’s restrooms on one of the main village paths.
Scholarships for Students
Many families in Mannong and Manmai do not have enough money to send their kids to school or do not manage their tea revenues in a way that saves for their kids’ education. The Mannong Manmai Ancient Tea Association supports those families that want to send their kids to school with funds that cover tuition, room and board, and uniforms for elementary schools. Some children from Mannong-Manmai have passed college entrance exams and have received Fair Trade funds to go to college and universities.
Cooperative Meeting Spaces
A central meeting and conference center was built, including an announcement PA system so the village heads can communicate weekly reports deep into the villages. This allows them to reach families that otherwise wouldn't leave their homes to go to the meeting center.