Photo: Pretty valleys around Mae Salong.

Tea tasting

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While their parents and grandparents may have dealt in opium, the ethnic Chinese inhabitants of Mae Salong nowadays deal in tea.

Photo of Tea tasting

And where Akha villagers in the surrounding hills once grew poppies, they now cultivate high-grade oolong.

Tea cultivation didn’t really take off until the 1980s as part of a crop substitution scheme in the Thai government’s opium eradication programme. Whereas many upland areas in North Thailand went for coffee, Mae Salong, with its close connections to the KMT/Taiwan (home of the renowned Formosa oolong), went for tea instead. Today Mae Salong is the tea centre of North Thailand and a tea tasting session is an essential part of a Mae Salong visit.

Numerous tea shops line the main street; all are very similar with mostly the same locally grown tea and standard prices so just pick a quiet one. Shop owners are usually quite happy to let you sit there and taste teas for free until it comes out of your ears. There are many varieties and qualities and while you’re under no pressure to buy any it is good stuff! (Stock up on unusual pressies for the folks back home?) It’s fascinating to watch the etiquette and rituals and a tasty and fun way to while away some time.

Heading east out of town along Highway 1234 will provide opportunites to snap those coveted photos of verdant tea farms framed by mountains. At many places it’s fine to simply park along the side of the road and wander into the rows of tea bushes. Down this way, Tea 101 is a relatively large, award-winning producer with comfy tasting rooms overlooking the hillsides. Keep going east and you’ll come across many more tea farms, often without another soul in sight.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Mae Salong.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Mae Salong.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Mae Salong.
 Read up on how to get to Mae Salong, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Mae Salong? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Thailand with Tourradar.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Mae Salong? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Thailand.

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