Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Tea and Paper Travels in China

There's nothing quite like the smell of fresh tea flowers, or a pinch of Pu'er tea to warm up a cold morning.


Nanluoshan (in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province) is a mountain in southwest China, long famous for its fine teas.

paper wrapped tea

My travels to Nanluoshan were not for tea, but for paper.

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This Dai village on Nanluoshan makes mulberry paper for wrapping the region's famous teas. 

Unlike plastic, a wrapper of handmade paper 'breathes' and lets the tea age gracefully over the years.

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There were papermakers everywhere.

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As in Thailand, most of the Dai papermakers were women.

There was even one who handled her drill as confidently as Rosie the Riveter – this was the first drill I've ever seen used at a paper factory.


We followed a woman with a wheelbarrow-full of paper pulp to a house which was filled with paper molds…

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from floor to ceiling – a long narrow shape I'd not seen before.

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Turns out it's perfect for wrapping tea cakes.

Papermaker in Xishuangbanna

After I bought 45 sheets of different papers for my China Paper Collection, I sat with my guide a while under a canopy, and watched the afternoon light fade through paper screens.

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Naturally, You Know Who was watching over us, too.

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Poster on the terrace of a Dai papermaker's home

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