Tea leaves that are worth a detour

In the south of Sri Lanka, tea is mostly grown by individual farmers who cultivate their own land. They sell the tea leaves just after the harvest, as they don’t have the infrastructure to process them. The farmers don’t have to go far to find buyers: their freshly plucked tea leaves are very much wanted by the local tea factories, who even go and collect the bags filled with fresh tea leaves themselves because of competition.

I spent hours going round the farms in one of these 4x4s fitted out with trays and it’s an incredible experience: we sometimes had to get the bags high in the mountains, skidding on the steep slopes, driving along vertiginous drops, crossing forests under cries of monkeys. We’d then suddenly end up on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, around farmers breeding cattle and living out of different cultivations.

So we’d buy the tea leaves, chat a little, maybe drink a tea together. We’d talk. We’d laugh. And it’d then be time to go and collect more tea bags from other isolated farms.

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

Tea on the shore of Black Sea

I’m writing from the Black Sea. I’m in Rize, on the Turkish coast, not far from the Georgian border. Here, the mountains falling into the sea are incredibly green and I wouldn’t surprise you if I told you that they are covered with tea.

Turkey discovered tea at the end of the Ottoman Empire precisely because of the loss of the Yemen region where famous coffee is produced. So they had to fall back on the camellia, grown in hilly and damp areas. That’s how the whole country began drinking tea, served very strongly and in nice tulip-shaped glasses here. Sometimes they resort to using samovars and diluting the tea, still very black, with very hot water.

Tea is king in Turkey. They drink it at anytime of the day or the night, sip it, put it back on the saucer, take it again straight away and chat while burning hands. But is it really good tea?

That’s exactly the aim of my trip: finding in these mountains someone who produces quality tea according to the rule book, only by plucking the best leaves and watching not to break them. From this point of view, I have to admit that my trip isn’t successful. I have met extremely nice people who’d do anything to show me their tea garden or tea factory. But not good tea. While going on with my searches, I leave you with this green and ochre-coloured harmony.

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

The Sumela monastery

In case you had of Turkey an image of a very hot country, I’d like to tone it down a bit. If tea enjoys being on these mountains lining the Black Sea, it’s exactly because here when you climb up a little, it’s much cooler and there are plenty of clouds and rain. “It rains all the time in Rize and if it doesn’t rain it snows !” have I often heard.

The Sumela monastery –whose picture can only be taken by patient people- is precisely located in the area where tea is grown. You can notice that nature looks close to the one found in the Alps. And these threads of fog remind me of the Himalayan foothills. So now you surely understand why tea enjoys it here !

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

Tea is in the bag

What a beautiful warm evening light illuminating these string bags filled with fresh tea leaves. This is happening in Dellawa (Sri Lanka). In a few minutes, these leaves will be taken to the top floor of the tea factory where they’ll undergo the first stage of processing: withering. A stage that can take up to 20 hours for this type of black tea and consists simply in remaining the leaves spread out in thin, long and well ventilated trays. Water will thereby be taken out of the fresh tea leaves.

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

Under the palm trees of Nantou, Dong Ding tea

In Taiwan, in the Nantou region for example, well-known for its Wu Long teas (Dong Ding, etc.), the tall and spindly trunks of the palm trees contrast with the rows of tea plants and give the landscape a very graphic appearance.

I have to admit that this impression is emphasized by the fact that I have been a little disrespectful to the posers in the foreground by chopping their head off…

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

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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