world tea photography part 1: china and mongolia

Welcome to a new series here at tea & travel – one where I plan explore some amazing tea-travel photography and hear a few words from the photographer, not just what the photo is of, and where it is but why it’s special and how it felt to be there.  This first series of photos are from China and Mongolia and were taken by tea industry veteran Dan Robertson.

Dan is the founder and owner of The Tea House, and organises and leads World Tea Tours. He’s proficient in Mandarin Chinese, and is a 25-year student and instructor of the martial art and health exercise Tai Ji Quan. It was his career as a film maker that took him to China in the early 1990’s where he spent months traveling to tea production areas and interviewing tea experts from all facets of the topic. Dan also lectures and writes on various tea topics (you can find his T Ching page here) and teaches the Chinese Gongfu tea ceremony.

Dan and I have had a few chats on the topic of tea and learning, and one particular sentiment he touched on really stuck with me, despite all his time in the tea space, the tea places he’s been to and the people he’s met – Dan still considers himself a tea student.  I really love that thought, that tea has such a long history, has so many facets and so much to explore, one that doesn’t get old as there is always something new to understand and learn.  Dan was kind enough to share these three photos with me. 

China: Da Hong Pao

Da Hong Pao

These are the original, legendary Big Red Robe bushes. Much tea is sold under that name (Da Hong Pao) but they are not from these bushes. They literally do grow on an outcropping of rock which has been supported buy a short stone wall at the base. Da Hong Pao is one of the most famous Oolong teas and is the pride of Wuyi Shan in Northwest Fujian Province.

There are several fables about how the bushes got their name but it is a very special experience to see the bushes in person and feel like you are touching history and stood in the place where emperors have stood.

China: Misty Tea Garden

Misty Tea Garden

This shot is of Bada Shan (mountain) in very Southern Yunnan Province, China. It is the remote home for a 1700+ year old tea tree. I took a group there in 2009. It is a two hour bumpy bus ride just to get to the foot of the trail that leads up the mountain. then, a two+ hour hike up through the rain forest.

The reward for the efforts is an audience with the King of Tea Trees. It is now over 60 feet tall and was taller before a lightning strike trimmed off a few feet several years ago. Few people ever get a chance to go here and it is moving to think that this living, tree has been witness to so much time and still remains.  Yunnan is the original source for Pu Er teas and this prefecture (named Xi Shuang Ban Na) is the beginning of the famed Tea Horse Road that carried teas all the way to Tibet and beyond.

Mongolia: Yurts


Mongolians have been drinking tea in their own way for a thousand years. They use compressed tea and add milk, butters and grains to create a nourishing beverage that is essential to the Mongolian herdsman’s diet. The icon of their nomadic life is their dwelling, the Yurt (or Gur) with it’s white and blue markings.

Mongolia is the Northern route of the Silk Road, by which tea was transported to Russia, Persia and beyond. We enjoyed two days of Mongolian culture including lots of milk tea, dancing, ethnic music and food. Riding horses out into the grasslands makes the whole experience even more visceral and profound.

These photos are copyrighted and are used with permission.

4 Responses to “world tea photography part 1: china and mongolia”
  1. Nice article Deb!
    It’s great to read about tea regions through the eyes of a photographer!
    I wrote a post about the Wuyi region a few days ago as part of my “Top Ten” series.
    I look forward to reading more posts from your photographers’ series!
    – Linda

  2. This is amazing! What a journey and an experience to be able to see china and mongolia in that way.

  3. Megan says:

    Just found your site – love that you’re bringing together tea and travel, two of my favourite things! I love drinking tea around the world, but I just couldn’t get on board with the brew in Mongolia, where they add salt to their tea – tastes more like soup than a comfort drink! 🙂

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  1. […] of Dan Robertson. Some interesting places and experiences drawn from various World Tea Tours. Share […]

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