Enjoying a detour

Beautiful carps in Kyoto

Many people think I only visit the plantations at harvest time. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I like to meet a planter or farmer when he has time for me, and nothing to sell. When he’s not constantly preoccupied by the quality of the tea he’s making at that moment. In Japan, if I visit the tea fields during the first half of May, when the country’s finest teas are being produced, the farmer will have very little time to spare. He’ll look after me, of course, but he’ll be stressed, because from sunrise to sunset he’ll be dashing between fields and factory, and trying his best to be in both places at once. On the other hand, now, at the beginning of January, here in Japan, farmers have time to spare. We can sit down together and taste plenty of teas, we can walk along the rows of tea plants, and inspect every tool and machine. I can understand the farmer’s challenges and ask plenty of questions. Then we can go and have lunch together in a traditional hostelry and sing the praises of the local specialities, enjoy the way the room looks out over a small pond, admire the beautiful carp, talk about everything and nothing. That’s how you learn. I’ve learnt an enormous amount about tea and how it’s grown in this way, by taking my time. Much more than I would by coming in the harvest season and hurriedly tasting and buying what I need. In life, and particularly in Japan, nothing beats taking your time, not worrying about wasting it. There is nothing to lose by doing things slowly. This is how I do things in every tea-producing country. Sometimes I visit in the harvest season, but I know that I also need to be there to listen, to understand. Above all, it’s important not to imagine that nothing happens outside the harvests. And it’s important to value slowness, especially in Asia. Here, it’s best to avoid rushing, efficiency, yields. Instead, we can enjoy the experience of a detour.


Posted in Inspirational by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : ,

Bridges that connect people

A bridge in Burma

To accompany my New Year’s greetings to you, I’ve chosen this photo of a bridge. I love bridges, great and small. I love anything that spans a chasm and connects people. Some people build walls, others build bridges. There are people who shut themselves off, who want to surround themselves with barriers. Others throw down ropes or ladders into the void; they aren’t put off by precipices or obstacles or difficulties of any kind. They overcome them. Some people are fearful, some people are trusting. I wish you a Happy New Year full of bridges, challenges, daring. I hope you are able to follow your heart.


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

A job full of emotion

FX Delmas in Rwanda

Naturally, I have emotions. I never return from my travels unmoved. Yes, in the strictest sense my job consists of visiting tea fields, talking with producers, tasting, and understanding how the tea is made. But in practice my work doesn’t stop there. It’s not just about tea leaves, plants, machines, flavours. Most of all, tea is about people. Men and women. Smiles, surprises, joy, pain, laughter, fear, curiosity, anxiety, fun, desires, challenges, suffering, pride, hopes and dreams… The people I meet up in the mountains give me all this. So as soon as I see a familiar landscape, I feel moved. I think back to the time I was there before, to the people. I remember what I learnt about life in those places. I remember my feelings. I don’t wear armour when I travel. A journey is like a shipwreck, and people whose boat has not sunk will never know the sea, wrote Nicolas Bouvier, a writer I love. So, sometimes I sink. I return a different person from when I set out; I’m not exactly the same on my return. And sometimes I don’t want to come back. I want to lose myself. People’s lives touch me, their emotions touch me. I have this incredible opportunity to meet people who are different from me, different in every respect – in their culture, religion, language, ethnicity. Different, but the same in that we are all human. And often, when I come back down from a mountain after spending several days up there, I need to rest. To take a break before I reach the valley. I need to sit at the roadside or at the edge of a field before going back to the city, before forgetting, forgetting why I left this place I already loved. When I come back down from my mountains, I need to stop, take a breath, not let things go too quickly. I need to dream, to cry, sometimes, to be aware of what I’m leaving, to not be in a rush. I simply need to breathe, to fill my lungs one last time with blue air; to live.


Posted in Inspirational by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : ,

A happy combination

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Identifying tea and food pairings is a serious business. By this I mean identifying a tea to accompany a dish so that you create a happy combination for both protagonists. And that’s where it gets difficult. For example, if I pair a Genmaicha with a hazelnut financier, it only works if the tea’s vegetal, toasted notes enhance the cake, and also if, having consumed a morsel of the financier, the Japanese green tea is revealed in a new light, to its advantage. A few weeks ago I spent a solid six hours in the company of chef Michel Lentz, at the Baccarat Crystal Room in Moscow, tasting with him a profusion of bouchées, tartlets, crèmes, madeleines, financiers, meringues, ice creams and sorbets, made by him, accompanied by an equal number of teas, so that together we could find many happy combinations. I would particularly like to mention the crème caramel, with memories of childhood, which we enjoyed with a Dan Cong for the top part, while the liquid at the bottom of the ramekin was the most successful pairing with a Jin Zhen, with warm notes of stewed fruit, wax and honey.


Posted in Tea and food pairing by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : ,

Kuwapani: a rather unordinary past

Kuwapani Tea plants

Some tea plantations have rather ordinary origins, and the Kuwapani plantation is one of them. A few years ago there was a rundown angora rabbit farm in Kuwapani that was only just limping along. I’m talking about the farm but I’m sure the same could have been said for the poor rabbits, bred for their fur alone. The owner saw a tea plantation being established on the hill opposite, followed by another. He observed the harvesting and processing of the leaves. He developed a taste for what his neighbours, Jun Chiyabari and Guranse, produced, and he witnessed their growing success. Then, one day, he decided to change his business, radically. He opened up the hutches, installed machines in his main building to process the tea leaves (rollers, dryers and so on), planted his land with tea, recruited an experienced, talented man to oversee the work, and a few years later the Kuwapani plantation had made its name in the world of tea. I heard this story while I was staying at Kuwapani and asked the owner about an object that had been intriguing me. On the mantelpiece in the living room sits a magnificent porcelain rabbit.


Posted in Country : Nepal 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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