School children in uniform on Nehru Road

In Darjeeling, like everywhere else in India, school uniform is taken seriously. At every level of the education system, school colours are worn with pride. Here, the boys and girls are wearing the school crest embroidered on their blazers, and perfectly knotted ties.  I imagine one of the benefits of this system is to iron out differences in social backgrounds.

This morning parade gives me the opportunity to show you a street in Darjeeling. This is Nehru Road, where my hotel is. Look at the complex networks of electrical cables. They inspire respect for the engineers, who must have a very difficult job with repairs.

You will also notice that in this city, affectionately known as the “Queen of the Mountains”, the Darjeeling police, despite the battered air of their station, extend a warm welcome to visitors!

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

Sungai Palas : the biggest tea plantation in Malaysia

The biggest tea plantation in Malaysia is a two-hour drive north of Kuala Lumpur, in the Cameron Highlands.

Caroline Russell, the current owner, is a direct descendant of Dutch colonists. The tea produced by the Sungai Palas Tea Garden may not be able to compete with the finest brews, but in the middle of this well laid-out plantation is the beautifully designed BOH Tea Centre. After a tour of the gardens, visitors can relax on the centre’s large terrace with a cup of tea, and admire the views.

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

Namring Tea Estate : an imposing factory

In those countries where the British were in charge of tea growing, the processing factories are of an imposing size.

The upper floor, or upper floors, like here on the Namring Tea Estate (India), are devoted solely to withering the tea leaves. The rolling, oxidation, drying and sorting of the various grades take place on the ground floor of the building.

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

“Bourgeons du Laos” : a delicious fair-trade tea

Having travelled around the region where Pu Er is grown, I moved further south, to Laos. There, I discovered, halfway between Paksé and Paksong, on the Boloven plateau, a small-scale factory making a very good black tea with aromas of cooked fruits, leather and spices, which will delight fans of Grand Yunnan Imperial.

Curiously, the tea plants here grow in the middle of coffee plantations. In fact, to enable the local rural population, who earn very little, to generate some extra income, the Lao Farmers Association has taught them how to grow tea, and has opened a cooperative whose purpose is to support the community rather than to make a profit.

As I walked for a few hours among the tea plants and luxuriant vegetation, I noticed two things in particular: the bomb craters left by the Vietnam war, and also the incredible number of leeches you must pull off as you walk. Not only do they climb up your shoes and trousers, but the creatures even manage to drop out of the sky, or rather, the trees, and land all over you, even in the palm of your hand.

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

In China, people boil water before drinking it

In many of the countries I travel in, the water is not safe to drink unless it is boiled first. So people always have water on the boil, day and night, at home, at work, in the shops, and even on the road, like here, al fresco.

Just after arriving in Sudianlisuzuxiang in Yunnan, while some of our party went off to pluck the birds and others cut fine sticks of bamboo on which to grill the meat, I lit the fire to make tea. On this high and peaceful plateau, once we had eaten our fill and drunk our Pu Er, we stretched out on the grass for a nap. Except for one, who took a stroll with his water pipe.

Posted in Country : China 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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