Darjeeling sunset

The sun sets over Darjeeling. If you manage to find a good vantage point from the city centre, this is the view you will get. In this part of the world, the morning skies are often very clear. However, in the evening it can be difficult to spot a patch of sky that is free from cloud, as this is when they like to gather. They come from the Terai plain, or sometimes form right here, in the bottom of the valley. They have nowhere else to go, as they are surrounded by mountains.

This red sky is the old year. Soon it will be night and a new year, 2011, with new roads for us to travel together. New harvests, new delights… I’d be delighted if you’d accompany me.

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

Where are the tea pluckers, under their pointed hats?

In eastern China, in Fujian or Zheijiang, for example, tea pluckers ware pointed bamboo hats to keep out of the rain and the sun.

Here, I barely had the time to fix my depth of field that the tea pluckers disappeared to have lunch. They left there their nice hats. So in this tea field, it seems that goblins are playing hide and seek and that only their small hats are sticking out. I like this photo for this funny side. I imagine that the hats are going to raise up and that I’ll see grinning faces.

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

“Fushimi Inari-Taisha” sanctuary, Kyoto

The end-of-year festivities are often associated with the colours green and red. Green like the needles of the Christmas tree, red like Santa Claus; green and red like the leaves and berries of holly.

So I looked through my photos to see what I had in these shades, to offer you a touch of seasonal cheer, but I found nothing. But then I realised that I give you green throughout the year, with the fields of tea, so I thought a bit of red would serve to illustrate the season.

In a city like Kyoto, with more than a thousand temples, there is not one dedicated to tea. It is not very fitting for a country where so much of it is drunk. Last month, a little disappointed by this observation, I have to say, I decided to call on the Rice God instead, and set off to visit his temple. I am glad I did, because it means I can bring you an image of the wonderful red pillars of the Fushimi Inari-Taisha sanctuary. This Shinto temple has thousands of the beautiful “tori”.

I hope you like this end-of-year celebration in red. Enjoy the festivities!

Posted in Places I like in Kyoto by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , ,

Some Pu Er teas ferment under cover

This is not a particularly attractive photo, but it will interest fans of Pu Er. It is quite a rare image, in that until recently it wasn’t easy to get inside Pu Er factories, and it was even more difficult to take pictures of them. The manufacturing of Pu Er was supposed to be a secret, or at least it was one of those things that are not revealed to outsiders. Why is this? I don’t know, although I suspect it is due to the fact that there is little visual interest in a tea gradually going mouldy.

Pu Er is the name for fermented tea. As a reminder, black teas are oxidised, and dark teas (Pu Ers) are fermented. While we are on the subject, the difference between oxidisation and fermentation is that the former is a process that requires exposure to air, whereas the latter takes place in an environment deprived of oxygen. Now you understand better why these leaves have been deliberately damped down and covered: to allow the tea to ferment for around 45 days. A thermometer, which you can see in the foreground, is stuck through the canvas to check the temperature, which can rapidly reach 50 to 60 degrees centigrade.

This is the fast method. Another time I will tell you about the other method used to make Pu Er, the slow method…

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

Le Palais des Thés on a trip to Darjeeling

As promised, here’s a picture of the team who accompanied me to Darjeeling last month. From left to right: Yann (Rue du Cherche-Midi store, Paris), Stéphanie (Grenoble store), myself, Virginie (Brussels store), Thomas (warehouse), Carine (Ecole du Thé), Maud (Rue Vieille-du-Temple store, Paris), Fabienne (Lille store) and Nathalie (human resources).

We spent a week in Darjeeling, where this great team were able to discover the region I love, meet our suppliers, and put every question imaginable to the tea plantation managers. And meet the people who toil to produce such rare teas. We had some wonderful encounters, and the trip further deepened my understanding of this field, which I have always found so rewarding.

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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