Darjeeling or “the stormy country”

“Darjeeling” both refers to the tea plantations stretching out on thousands of hectares and the city you can see on this picture and where from I’m writing to you today. It’s a large town of hundreds of thousands people, or, in other words, a village on an Indian scale. It’s located at an altitude of 2100 meters and here you can see it under a rather mild sky if you consider that in Tibetan “Darje Ling” means “the stormy country”. The city is on a slope and when you walk around it, you actually spend more time climbing the narrow stairs snaking in and out the houses than crossing leaning streets. Tea is all there is, to such an extent that people don’t know where to build houses anymore, yet necessary to provide accommodation for an increasing population.

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

In Tumsong Tea Estate : a wonderful bungalow

I’m leaving for Darjeeling in a few days. A long trip, hours of plane and four wheel drive. But I go through these hours smoothly as I’m so happy to see these mountains again. Once a year I take with me several people working for Le Palais des Thés. This year Fabienne, in charge of Le Palais des Thés in Lille, Stéphanie from Grenoble, Maud from Paris’ rue-Vieille-du-Temple are coming with me among others. I’ll soon introduce them to you.

We are first staying at Tumsong Tea Estate, an organically certified tea plantation of Darjeeling which has such a British cottage (photo) ! It’s a real pleasure to live in such a great house, nestled in the mountains as it is and exquisitely comfortable. All the more so as Rajiv Gupta, the plantation’s manager, keeps an eye on everything and is very concerned of your well-being. We visit his property together, from the factory to the nursery, without forgetting the river’s edge where it’s nice having a picnic.

These very British cottages are very common in Darjeeling: in each plantation the manager has a similar building, only the size and the style sometimes differ. You can easily stay there in Tumsong if you wish to as contrarily to most plantations, here tourists interested in tea are welcome for one or several nights (www.chiabari.com).

We are also thinking of organizing classes included in Tea School program. Anyone interested?

Posted in Country : India, Places I like in Darjeeling by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , , , ,

Deforestation: in Yunnan the danger is understood

Tea growing has massively increased in Yunnan over the past 40 years. At the time, it was decided to step up production and increase the cultivation areas. And things moved very quickly, like often in China. In a very short time, all the trees were chopped down and not a single one was left. And if the mountains were left in place it’s only because they were not causing any trouble. As you can imagine, the landscape underwent a major transformation: as far as the eye could see, there wasn’t a single copse, not a single tree top, not a single cluster of trees. Just tea plants, wherever you looked.

The result was not only staggering to the eye, but it also had an effect on the soil. Rain became scarce and erosion increased. The result of this large-scale deforestation and years of drought was that yields tumbled.

But the Chinese know how to adapt quickly when needed. So as soon as they realized the gravity of their action, they began replanting trees. It now gives us this lovely landscape, somewhere between Jinghong and Menghai. Note the young trees here and there, bringing shade and humidity to the tea plants and pleasing the eye.

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

On a tea plantation, trees need to be pruned too

On a tea plantation, tea plants are not the only ones that need care and attention:  the trees do too. If you want their leaves to give a little shade to the camelias, the trees have to be prevented from growing too tall. So from time to time, they  have to be pruned severley, like here near Ivy Hills (Sri Lanka), to be kept low and start up again with renewed vigor.

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

In Barnsbeg like elsewhere, I take the time for tea

Once the tea is infused you have a wait a little bit of time before enjoying it. I grab this opportunity to smell the wet tea leaves and look around the tasting room flooded with northern light. While in the teacup the temperature goes from the infusion temperature (around 85 – 90 degrees for a black tea) to the tasting temperature (around 50 degrees), I take out my camera and turn around the teacups searching for the best possible angle. There’s no hurry here in Barnsbeg (India), life goes on slowly. I take a picture of the tasting set just for the pleasure of capturing a shimmer or a colour, a shadow or a line on the teacup’s surface. And my thoughts go on drifting, just like a travelling wave.

This is call taking time. The time for tea, simply.

Posted in Country : India 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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