Mr Li grew up on a farm several hours away but moved to this region of Yunnan with his parents when he was a teenager to work with rubber. One day he met a guy at the rubber station that asked him if he wanted to come and work with tea. While working with tea he first met Ms Na on her mother’s farm around the time of Spring Festival.
Ms Na is from the Lahu people group of Yunnan. She grew up with tea and started working with it at a young age.
Mr Li wanted to get Ms Na’s phone number but couldn’t figure out how. He managed to get her mom’s number because she was the owner of the tea farm. They laugh now telling the story. Mr Li was lucky because Ms Na’s mother liked him and introduced them. They soon got married.
That was eight years ago and they now have grown a farm and a family together.
In this region everyone’s name has a meaning. Mr Li’s full name means “light in the clouds”. Ms Na’s name is from the Lahu tradition, meaning “woman born on the day of the water buffalo”. They named their son “happy breeze”.
When you first meet them, they both seem humble and quiet, but they are both incredibly hard working and experienced in what they do.
Their farm is perfectly located in the Yunnan area for both tea and coffee. Both these crops have lower volumes but high quality at higher altitudes. Mr Li’s farm is located between 1600 – 1700 meters above sea level which is just below the frost line of about 1745 meters. This, combined with their hard work and care, has resulted in some of the best coffee and tea.
They have just over 800 mu (130 acres) of tea that is very well known in the region. Because of the quality, they only sell direct from their farm and large tea buyers drive hours to come and purchase teas. High profile people from the region and tea collectors come and hand select teas for their collections.
Their farm has just over 500 mu (80 acres) of coffee. Last year coffee was tested from 42 different farms in Yunnan province and theirs cupped in first place. Yunnan province typically grows the best coffee in China so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Mr Li’s farm is some of the best coffee in China.
As well as tea and coffee Mr Li and Ms Na grow all their own vegetables and meat. They even have a fish pond. They like the idea of growing all their own food and being sustainable because they don’t like the chemicals added to commercially grown food.
When asked about their future they said they are simple people that don’t need much. They want to be healthy, happy, and not go hungry and that is all they would wish for.
However, when asked about their 4-year-old son, they said their dreams for him are different. They are saving now so that he can get an education and be able to do anything he wants to.
Project Goal: The goal of this project was to create images and stories from Yunnan farms to help YCT sell the coffee from these farms to suppliers and create demand in the customer base. Secondarily the project was to show and educate the about Yunnan coffee.
Project Scope: Mr Li’s story was part of a larger project for YCT. We did 2 weeks of photography around the region to capture the stories of the farms, the culture, and the different steps of coffee processing.