Darjeeling, its violence, its hope

I feel sad today. A guy, a political leader to be a little bit more precise, has been assassinated in Darjeeling. In facts, violence has been raging in Darjeeling for 30 years. Tension is often tangible. And blood sometimes flows.

To explain the problem to you in a few words and in a way that is much too brief, Darjeeling, where mainly Indians of Nepalese origin live, is located at the extreme north of the Indian State of West Bengal. In this particularly backed-off spot, roads are in a disastrous state, water is scarce, infrastructures are generally in an apalling state. Thus, many inhabitants of these mountains wish to create a new state called “Gorkhaland” within the Indian Union. And this, in order to stop keeping waiting for money that never comes from Kolkata and to enjoy an easier life like the Sikkim neighbour who depends directly from the Central State, namely Delhi.

I hope that they will be able to solve these problems using reason rather than violence. Couldn’t the inhabitants of Darjeeling be given normal life conditions, suitable roads, running water and some autonomy so that they can decide what is best for themselves?

Between political leaders who don’t do anything, those who are corrupted, those who make promises the day before elections and forget them the following day, those who divide instead of assembling and those who arouse masses, people would be in a grief to decide who to confine their destiny to.

I choose this adorable toddler, coiled up in his mother’s arms with his life in front of him, to wish Darjeeling, its mountains I love so much and these Nepalese people who are dearest to me, a better future.

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

China, birthplace of tea

I have just acquired the first flush green teas from China for Le Palais des Thés.
China was the first country in the world to produce tea. It has been growing there for thousands of years. In comparison, India and Sri Lanka have only been producing tea for 170 and 140 years, respectively.

The legend about tea drinking goes back to Emperor Chen Nung, more than two thousand years ago. He had apparently stopped beneath a shrub to take a nap, a bowl of hot water beside him, as it was his custom. A gentle breeze then came up and removed from the shrub a leaf which dared to settle in the imperial bowl. We can imagine a host of devoted servants rushing forwards to change the dirty bowl, rinse it, dry it and refill it with nice clear, rippling water. But the Emperor, just from a sign of the hand, told his servants to stand back, and with a single index finger raised towards the sky, he said these few words:

“From what the Sky sends Us,
Is born harmony in Us.”

The Emperor then lifted the bowl to his lips. He tasted, he drank. He appreciated. He then asked what the name of the shrub was.

And so tea was born.

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

Tea plucking by men in Nepal

In some regions of the world, tea plucking is only done by women, while men are responsible for other jobs. It’s the case in India and central Sri Lanka, where men employed on the plantations tend the soil and prune the tea plants. Some people will tell you the reason for this is probably that women are more nimble-fingered and take better care of the fragile and precious leaves. 

But most of the time, like here in the north of Ilam Valley, eastern Nepal, opposite Darjeeling accross the border, the village men and women do the same tasks, including tea plucking. It is also the case in China and Taiwan. And in Japan, it is not rare to see a man carefully plucking the tea leaves and a woman behind the wheel of a tractor.

Is there really a reason for these practices? Well, let’s say that where the British used to be and where there are large tea plantations, the roles of men and women are different and the work is not always shared out in a way that seems fairest to us.

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

Tea plants under canvas shaded from the sun

With the wonderful weather we’ve had in France over the past few days, we have to remember to protect ourselves from the sun.
Did you know that tea plants also need protection sometimes? Actually, this only happens in Japan, where there are two categories of tea: “light teas” and “shade teas”. “Light teas” (Sencha, Bancha, Tamaryokucha) are harvested and processed from bushes explosed to sunlight, whereas “shade teas” (Gyokuro, Kabuse, Tencha) are made from tea plants growing in he shade, or even in darkness. As a consequence, the plants are under stress and react to it by by taking more nutrients from the soil. This unusual treatment gives a well developed, smooth and full flavour (which the Japanese call umami) without any bitterness. In other words, a delight.
I took this photo near Nara. I was attracted by these neat rows of tea plants covered with a silvery-black canvas, glimmering in the sun. I stopped to watch them, fascinated by their dark brightness, as you might stop in the moonlight to gaze up at the stars.

Posted in Country : Japan, Tea plant by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fans for tea fields

Some sights in the tea fields in Japan are strange. The green rows of tea trees are covered with fans stuck up on top of numerous posts and their metal spikes give contrast to the soft aspects of spring. What can they actually be for? Give a little breeze when the sun is too hot? Certainly not! The fans will fully play their part in the middle of winter. They will be switched on in order to give the atmosphere a stir and prevent the layers of cold air to stay above the trees. These layers of cold air could indeed damage the small trees or slow down their growth.

Posted in Country : Japan, Tea plant 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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