On a more serious note (yes, I’m capable of that), check this out:
In a three-part series, The Phnom Penh Post (a Cambodian English-language newspaper) traces “the legacy of a royally ordained Cambodian tea plantation – plus a local strain of the popular plant.”
Today, many tea plants can still be found growing in the wild in Kirirom Park, where the old plantation used to be, not far from the King Father’s former summer residence. All teas – whether a grassy green, a buttery oolong or a hearty black – come from the same species of plant.
It’s the variety of the plant, soil conditions, altitude, rainfall and the processing that make the difference in the end result: the most-consumed beverage in the world after water.
But what happened to the tea plantation after the war?
A 1996 article in the Post recounts how 1,500 hectares of Kirirom were signed over to a private Cambodian investor, who planned to establish a tea plantation, despite the region’s being declared part of Cambodia’s system of national parks by Royal Decree in 1993. The old prewar tea plantation, which measured some 300 hectares, was part of it.
One year later, in 1997, the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper reported that the investor had sold many hectares of the park, installed a sawmill and destroyed the plantation.
Nowadays, it’s believed that some of the surviving tea plants are harvested opportunistically, on a small scale, by locals.
However, if you’re feeling down in Phnom Penh and fancy some fresh tea leaves for an uplifting brew, there’s no need to travel to the Indian foothills of the Himalayas anymore – a short day trip to Kirirom will do the trick.
Picking your own leaves may equate to one of the more labour-intensive ways of brewing a cuppa – but it would also surely make one of the most satisfying cups you’re ever likely to taste.
Part II: Quality is their cup of tea
Part III: Making time to enjoy a cup of tea, according to tradition