Tea Sommeliers day

Tea Sommeliers

Working together is good; sharing good times is even better. Yesterday was the Tea Sommeliers day, which I devote to the people who have obtained their precious diploma. The aim of the day is to spend a good time together, with tea, food and treats for the senses.

We began by tasting the entire selection of first-flush Darjeelings, which I have just completed, before joining Nathaly from L’Esprit-Cuisine for a meal of food and tea pairings. With Nathaly – a remarkable, positive and passionate teacher – we prepared an onglet of Aubrac beef with crème à l’anguille, flavoured with Bourgeons de Yunnan Premium tea. It was delicious, and we ate it accompanied by the same tea. This followed a fresh herb soup served with a Taiwan Si Ji Chun, and was followed by a delicious streusel, chocolate and black sesame biscuit served with the famous Jukro from South Korea.

In the afternoon we returned to the tasting room, where our tea sommeliers discovered a few rare teas, tasted blind of course, before we all decided together whether they merited being called “premium” teas. Among the curiosities we tasted were a goishicha from Japan, a compressed dark tea from Hunan, little tea balls from Sri Lanka, a tea from the Nainital region of India, and a black tea from Colombia!

 


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How we choose our first-flush Darjeelings

Sunset over Darjeeling

First-flush Darjeelings are the most difficult teas to buy, because production is not organised like it is elsewhere. In Darjeeling, they pick the leaves from the same plants every seven to 10 days, and as plantations are divided into around 10 plots, it means they are constantly harvesting. As soon as the leaves are picked, they are processed; this batch is then sold as one lot. This means that each of the region’s 80 plantations produce a tea every day, and those are just the whole-leaf teas – the best, of course. These plantations do not mix the leaves from one day with those from the next day. The result is that six times a week for around six weeks, each of the 87 plantations puts a tea up for sale. This totals around 3,000 different batches of first-flush – or spring – Darjeelings to taste. Quality can vary considerably from one batch to another. Even when they come from the same plantation, one tea can be 100 times better than another, if you want to quantify those differences.

Of course you cannot rely wholly on the name of a garden, or on a variety; that would be too simple. Only blind tasting allows you to judge a tea’s quality. This must be done quickly, very quickly, because although there are not many of us who receive these samples – only around 30 buyers in the world – sometimes a very good tea can sell just 30 minutes after the few grams of the sample have been received. So you need to work quickly while remaining calm and focused. But these teas that come from the roof of the world are generally worth the effort. They are the first teas of the season; they have a lovely spring freshness and incomparable floral, zesty aromas.

 


Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

Tomorrow’s experts

François-Xavier Delmas with one student

If we want staff working in hotels and restaurants to offer quality teas in the future, we need to train young people who are starting out in their careers. Reims Academy and Palais des Thés have joined forces to develop a certification course in “tea knowledge and service”. First, we trained tutors in several hospitality colleges, who then educated their students. Last week, in Reims, it was time for the exams and awarding of certificates. Congratulations to all of the students who passed. I hope it encourages them to continue to find out more about tea, and make their future customers happy.


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A tea rich in antioxidants

A tea rich

We might want to drink a tea for its flavour qualities, but at the same time we can be aware of its benefits and in particular its polyphenol content. One of the varieties with the most antioxidants is TRFK 306/1. It was developed by the well-known Tea Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK), which I have visited. What is special about this variety, in addition to its polyphenol content, which is 1.5 times higher than other teas, is the colour of its leaves. You can see here, on the right, their lovely purple hue.

 


Posted in Country : Kenya by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

30 springs!

Tea plant blossom

It’s exactly 30 years ago this month that my life changed. Nothing had previously marked me out for a life in the tea trade. Palais des Thés opened its first boutique in March 1987, in a small backstreet in the sixth arrondissement of Paris. Then there were two stores, then three, and gradually the brand was born. Our learning progressed at the same rate. We needed to travel, to meet people. And what can I say about the loyalty of our customers, except that it still touches us just as much. Every time we open a new store, I meet customers who remember the beginning, who have been there from the first day, or thereabouts, and I still feel the same emotion.

30 years have passed, and our enthusiasm is not only intact, it is stronger now than when we started. We marvel at what lies ahead. There is a lot to keep us busy. The more you know about a subject as rich and varied as tea, the more you realise just how much you still have to learn. For tea, like for wine, one lifetime is not enough. I’ll get back to you in another 30 years. Before then, we’re preparing for new tastings, meeting new people, discovering new things. We’re ready to continue learning about tea and the people who make it, doing the best we can to bring you what I would love to be the finest selection of premium teas in the world. And doing so with the greatest respect for people and our planet. Not harming either of them; on the contrary, thinking far ahead, about those who will come after us.

And as we watch spring awakening, as we look ahead to the next 30 years, here are some tea plants in flower for you.


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The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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