chong'an

Last month, historians in the Inner Mongolian city of Hohhot overheard a couple of people singing a weird old song:

From south to north I carry the tea

Ten thousand miles it is to be

I hire a porter on Mount Wuyi

In Chong'an County we put it on ships

The song goes on to describe the entire 5000 kilometer camel route for carrying tea from China, through Mongolia, all the way to Kyakhta in Russia. The song is believed to have been passed down from people who worked for Dashengkui, a Chinese tea-trading company active in the 1600s, and fills in previously unknown details about the route Dashengkui’s mechants took.

Sadly, none of the news stories I found contain a recording of the tea map song.

Pictured: the Mongolian method of making tea with milk. The tea is scooped up into the air and poured back into the pot to stir it and improve the flavor. Everyone in Mongolia seems to own the exact same blue plastic tea scoop.