A beautiful landscape doesn’t always make a good tea

A beautiful landscape doesn’t always make a good tea. When I come from Bagdogra (India) and start the three-hour ascent into the Himalayan foothills, I love nothing more than stopping and admiring the view once I get through the stifling heat of Siliguri. The land is no longer completely flat, the city has disappeared from sight, the traffic and the horns have calmed down. Goats doze on the roadside. You start seeing far away above the trees and it helps bearing the heat: you suffocate much less when looking at a clear view. With the gentle breeze and the smell of the earth, I always stop walking between the tea plants.

Actually, I must say that they’re not good tea plants. People say that they are Darjeelings, but it’s not quite true: they are just outside the Darjeeling “appellation”, but close enough for dishonest merchants to use them to bulk out the real Darjeelings and cheat the buyers.  This explains how there is four times as much Darjeeling tea sold worldwide than is actually produced.

Never mind, it’s the landscape that is worth admiring here. It is truly magnificent. I’m really attracted to this Terai plain, which used to be a jungle until the British cut down all the trees. People say you sometimes see wild elephants charging around and leopards.  I feel good here, so I walk and walk before continuing on my way to Darjeeling. Why beeing in a hurry when it’s so beautiful around?

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

On the way to school in Kurseong

Almost the beginning of the new school year ! In Kurseong (India), these schoolboys jump on the Toy Train’s bandwagon and hold on the outside, not because the train is packed, but simply because it’s actually more fun doing the journey with the head in the breeze.

They laugh, say hello to the people they know when the train crosses a village: a pleasant way to get to school.

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

In Japan, people eat green tea

In Japan, people sometimes eat green tea leaves. In that case, it’s usually exceptional teas whose leaves have been previously used to prepare tea.

You can see how it is prepaped on the picture: after dropping the wet tea leaves into a container, you add skipjack chips and sprinkle a little bit of soy sauce over the top. It gives you a small tea leaves salad that’s absolutely delicious.

Here, in Asahina (Shizuoka prefecture, Japan), the tea used is a great “Kabuse Cha” or “shade tea” manufactured by Mister Maeshima Tohei, one of the most well-known farmers of the area.

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

Xishuangbanna, celestial garden of Pu Er

If you ever go to Xishuangbanna (I wish you to because this region of southern Yunnan (China), watered by the Mekong, offers landscapes of great beauty), you might see these mats set on the ground, on which tea is dried.

This is the first step in the making of the famous Pu Er, both considered great for some, terrifying for others, because of its strong smell. Here however, it’s only the first stage of production: the leaves wither in the sun for 24 hours, giving off a delicious perfume. It’s only later, when the same leaves will ferment 45 days that their smell will change considerably. I’ll talk to you again later about it. Meanwhile, enjoy this Xishuangbanna I love, this Celestial Garden as they sometimes call it, with its mountains covered by jungle, its breathtaking gorges. It is both wild and calm. In this part of China, we can really breathe.

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

Hadong’s Tea Festival

When the village of Hadong (South Korea) holds its Tea Festival each year, the organizers don’t do things by halves. People come from far away to stroll along the aisles where each producer offers you to taste their tea. The whole village is embellished for the occasion and there isn’t a single roundabout or lamp post that isn’t decorated with sophisticated structures made from camellia leaves. Even the public toilets provided for the many visitors on that day are beautifully decorated with terraced tea gardens and flooded with evening light tumbling down towards the sea. I was so stunned by the use made of this dream-like landscape that I didn’t even see anything. It’s only when looking back at the picture a few days later that I noticed the hand of a joker coming out from the landscape, making the victory sign V.

Posted in Country : South Korea 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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