Waiting for rain in Darjeeling

landscape

In Darjeeling, where I am at the moment, there wasn’t a drop of rain in January or February. This means most plantations haven’t started to harvest yet. Only the ones with plots at low altitudes, who irrigate their plants, have been able to produce a few batches. But here, the first teas are never the best. In Darjeeling, when you’re looking for quality, you can never be in a hurry.


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

From field to factory

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As soon as the tea leaves are picked, they must be taken to the factory as quickly as possible. The piles of leaves must not be allowed to ferment. Accidental fermentation is known to affect the quality of the tea. Here, in Kenya, they use very large baskets that are well ventilated so that the plucked leaves have room to breathe.


Posted in Country : Kenya by François-Xavier Delmas

A tea plantation in Kenya

Tea plantation in Kenya

Kangaita in Kenya is one of the country’s few plantations that produce high-quality teas; in other words, whole-leaf. The national park of Mount Kenya borders the garden and many birds flit about the tea plants. On the other hand, elephants are not welcome, because of the damage they cause.

Here, you can see the peaks of Mount Kenya in the distance: the highest is 5,199 metres.


Posted in Country : Kenya by François-Xavier Delmas

Tea from the slopes of Mount Kenya

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Kenya is one of the biggest exporters of tea on the planet. Sadly, most of its tea is CTC (Cut, Tear, Curl) – the type used in tea bags. But that should not prevent us from seeking out, at higher altitudes, small producers aiming for quality. So here I am, on the slopes of Mount Kenya, tasting some magnificent black teas. It goes to show, one should not rush to judge: just as some great “appellations” occasionally throw up unpleasant surprises, I sometimes come across passionate people who have acquired serious expertise, in less well-known places.

 


Posted in Country : Kenya by François-Xavier Delmas

Darjeeling: a tea that should not be bought blindly

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Around the world, much more Darjeeling tea is sold than is actually produced in Darjeeling. There are also considerable differences between gardens in terms of quality, and considerable differences in quality within the same garden. These differences are due to major variations in weather (a garden might produce excellent teas in April, for example, which is impossible in July during the monsoon) and because the same plantation will have tea plants growing at widely varying altitudes. In Tukvar, for example, 1,000 metres in altitude separates the top of the highest plot and the lowest point on the plantation.

So we must be careful when we buy Darjeeling teas, and we should never rely on the name alone, however prestigious it may be. We should also bear in mind that plantations situated on the plains, of mediocre quality, sit alongside those within the appellation, and human nature being what it is, there is a great temptation to sell Terai teas under the Darjeeling name.

Connoisseurs of first-flush Darjeelings must wait a few more weeks to try the new spring harvest. In this region of the world, tea plants are dormant between November and February, as the soil is too cold for Camellia sinensis.


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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