Category : Country : Rwanda

​Visiting schools is part of my job

FX Delmas visiting a school in Rwanda

A tea plantation, a farm that produces tea, is a whole world in itself. Wherever tea is grown, wherever it’s processed, there’s both an agricultural aspect and a human aspect. Tea is where these two paths meet: plants and people. So when I meet tea producers I naturally take an interest in every part of life on the farm: the quality of the tea, of course, as well as the plants and soil, and how they’re respected. Also the quality of the environment, forests and rivers; the quality of housing, and the treatment workers receive if they’re injured; the quality of all preventive measures put in place and, most of all, the quality of education. Visiting schools is part of my job, and I really enjoy talking with the students and teachers alike. I wouldn’t miss these moments, or rush them, for anything in the world.


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

Being present in the moment

Being present in the moment

Tasting dozens of teas like I do every day of the year requires the ability to be present in the moment. You can’t compare several teas or form an opinion on the aromatic richness of a liquor if you’re rushed, stressed, preoccupied or simply thinking about other things. Tasting involves analysis, and this sensory analysis means you need to be very present. When I’m not in exactly the right state of mind for this task, which can happen to anyone, if there’s noise around me or if I’m distracted by something, if I’m tense or the slightest bit annoyed, I get away from everything. And I take however long I need to look at a beautiful landscape like this one. I focus on the scene before me. I gaze at it until I’m thinking of nothing else. I dive into it in the true sense, until I’m ready, free from all distractions; until I’m present in the moment. Then I can go to my tasting sets and contemplate the flavours and aromas of the teas I drink.

I recommand this focusing exercise before every tasting session.


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

“What’s the news?”

Taking a walk in Rwanda

There’s something no planter will ever stop me from doing, and that’s walking – setting out on foot for at least one or two hours, every day. I love it. Alone or in company, either way, I love to walk; I love meeting people, observing the changing light and weather, the beauty of blossom, the colour of cloth. I like to sit down on a doorstep and exchange smiles with people I know nothing about but with whom I share a connection, because we live on the same planet, of course, and also because tea probably plays a part in their lives too. You can learn a lot by walking: about the way people live, the methods they use to grow tea, the weather, the geography, and then all those colours and smells. Of course there are strange creatures too, sometimes snakes that are completely unknown, weird insects, things that jump. But I feel good. I sit on the edge of a rock when I want to admire something, when it’s beautiful, and simply because it’s good to take one’s time, to ask oneself what our purpose is on our small planet, to ponder the meaning of life. Tea makes you slow down. And tea also teaches you to be still, to learn to breathe, literally and figuratively; it teaches you to stop being so restless, running around from morning to night without really knowing why.

Here, three hours north of Kigali, on the little paths that wind through the mountains, there’s a lovely way to say “hello”. When you meet someone else, they greet you by raising their arms as if you’re a long-lost friend, with a joyful “Amakuru!” And this hello means “What’s the news?”


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Overexposed broken leaves

Overexposed broken tea leaves.

Sometimes I’m asked to taste some very good teas, before being served others that don’t interest me at all – broken-leaf teas, for example. I taste them unenthusiastically and move on as quickly as possible. If the light is good and the place interesting, I like to play around with my camera while my host finishes the tasting. I experiment with the settings on my EOS5D as a way of commenting on the quality of teas in front of me. I distort the teas I don’t like – I overexpose them, as I’ve done here. I subvert reality, I frame the shots differently; I’m not interested in these overly black liquors, these broken leaves that develop a dreadful astringency and are devoid of any subtlety. I prefer to create something interesting with my toy, while my puzzled host looks on – he’d rather I got on with tasting and took fewer photos.


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Irrigation and drainage on flat land

Irrigation and drainage of tea plants on flat lands

Tea plants don’t like to stand in water. When tea is grown on flat land, like here in Rwanda, it’s important to dig out ditches so that the rainwater runs away and doesn’t linger around the camellia’s roots. What’s clever here is that the drainage is designed not only to allow water to run off, but also to irrigate the crops during dry spells. For the system to operate, you need to be near a reservoir, or a river, like here, so the water can be diverted into the channels. The frogs love it, judging by the racket they make, and a whole ecosystem thrives in these damp conditions, including colourful kingfishers, which I’ve startled into flight a few times.


Posted in Country : Rwanda 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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