The Ancient Tea Trees That Turned the Fate of a Region
This is a story of how destiny is turned around. Wa State, located on the northern border of Myanmar, is struggling to break free from the poisonous influence of poppies and is using the thousand-year-old tea given by God to hold up a drop of hope for the next generation.


TextAdeline Tai

Located on the northern border of Myanmar, the southern Wa and northern Wa are collectively known as the Wa Self-Administered Division, which has about 600,000 inhabitants, and because of its proximity to the Golden Triangle, poppies used to grow among the mountain area. In order not to allow the next generation of Wa people to suffer from drugs, in 1996, the commander-in-chief of the United Wa State Army, Mr. Bao Youxiang, signed the "United Anti-Drug Declaration" and declared the ban on poppy cultivation. After 20 years, in 2006, there was no trace of poppy fields in Wa State.

The person behind the transformation of the Wa State is the president Chung Lung Hui of the International Foundation for the Peaceful Elimination of Opium Crops (IFPEOC), a non-profit organization based in Canada and originating from Taiwan. Mr. Chung sold three houses in Taipei 26 years ago and invested $55 million in the anti-drug effort in Wa State, helping the General Bao Youxiang, who heavily depends on drug business to sign the Anti-Drug Declaration, helping 86,000 opium-growing Northern Wa people to move to Southern Wa for agricultural crops cultivation, and simultaneously cooperating with the United Nations on June 26, the International Day Against Drug Abuse, to destroy all drugs and develop alternative crops to get rid of dependence on drugs, all of which involved unspeakable hardships and courage.

The Heart-Warming Savior: Tea Trees
Although the poisoning of poppy fields was eliminated, the poor Wa residents had to find another valuable economic crop to sustain their livelihood. This is when they discovered that the mountains around their residence had ancient tea trees with a thousand-year history.

The tea leaves collected from these large-leafed trees, which are more than 100 years old, are called ancient tree tea. Because of its geographical location near Yunnan China which is the place with the most ancient tree tea production in the world. The Wa State is mostly located on rugged plateau slopes with little man-made construction and destruction, so the ecological ancient tree tea produced is more natural and pollution-free.

Wa State is located near the northern part of Myanmar and has complicated political relations with Yunnan, South Wa, and Thailand. It is difficult for local people to communicate with the outside world and gain new knowledge because it is not easy to travel in the mountains. IFPEOC's President, Mr. Chung, not only helps Wa State eradicate the drug-producing poppy fields but also hopes to bring income to Wa residents through alternative crops such as ancient tree tea. Furthermore, he hopes to build the "hope elementary school" in the mountainous areas so that the next generation of children can enjoy the right to education and knowledge.

This is the only way to turn the destiny of poverty in Wa State around and find a path for the future.

A Safe Place for Wa Children to Learn and Study

Mr. Chung first brought in tea experts to teach the local people the professional techniques of tea making to produce Wa State's ecological ancient tree tea, and also to assist in the sale of tea cakes. According to the top tea experts, Wa State's Pu-erh Ecological Ancient Tree tea cakes are of excellent quality and passed hygiene inspection, and taste like Banzhang tea with more flavor. With the increasing popularity and high price of Yunnan's ancient tree tea, Wa State's ecological ancient tree tea is worth collecting and at a reasonable price.

More than just enjoying a good cup of tea, Wa State Ecological Tea Cake is being sold to help build Hope Elementary School in the mountain regions of Wa State.

With a large number of minority groups in the area, the community is severely underbuilt and has to rely on foreign funds to build schools. IFPEOC's years of hard work resulted in the completion of the first school "Myanmar Hope Elementary School" in Wa State District in July 2021 at an elevation of 1,600 meters above sea level. With 81 teachers and students, the school is equipped with clothing, school bags, and shoes, giving Wa State people hope for the next generation.

To provide more children with education, IFPEOC continues to raise funds for the Hope Elementary School through the sale of Wa State Ecological Ancient Tree Tea and plans to build two more Hope Elementary Schools in the future. Hopefully, when everyone tastes Wa State's ancient tree tea, they will not only taste the local flavor of Wa State but also feel the warmth of its people, so that the children in the forgotten rural areas will benefit from the warmth and make academic progress, which is the foundation for Wa State's future fate to be turned around.

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WaStateHopeElementarySchool WaStateAncientTreeTea IFPEOC ChungLungHui HopeElementarySchool WaStateofMyanmar