The red panda or firefox, a creature of the Himalayas

Yes, the firefox! For those who use the well-known web browser of the same name, you’ll have seen this long-tailed mammal every day, curled around the icon on your computer screen.

For the rest of you, this is what the panda looks like. It is much smaller than its Chinese cousin and, fortunately, a bit less endangered. It can be found in Darjeeling and throughout the Himalayas.

I didn’t just stumble across it while walking in the forest though. I’m not particularly keen on zoos, but I knew that one lived at the Darjeeling zoo, along with some mates, and I wanted to see it. It has beautiful fur you want to stroke, like its neighbour in the next cage, the snow leopard. I certainly wouldn’t stick my hand between the bars surrounding its other neighbour, a fearsome looking Siberian tiger whose mouth is so big I could fit my whole head inside, right up to my shoulders.

If you are in the area, do pay a visit to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute , which honours those who have climbed Everest, starting with Tenzing Norgay, of course, who was from Darjeeling.

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

The best teas are often produced from March to May

Some regions produce their best teas during the period from March to May. So this is a good time to meet the farmers and planters and see them at work.

I have left China for Nepal, which has been producing excellent teas in the past few decades. While here, I am visiting tea plantations in Hile (Kuwapani, Guranse, Jun-Chiyabari) located in the district of Dhankuta in Eastern Nepal, the most prestigious in the country.

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

Tea leaves ready for harvesting are yellow-green

You can tell when the tea leaves are ready for harvesting by the colour of the bushes. When the tea plants take on this yellow-green shade it means the new shoots have reached a good size and it is time to get out your basket and start plucking.

Here, you can see the difference in colour between the leaves that have not yet been harvested, in the background, and what remains on the plants after a visit from this Chinese woman, with her agile hands, in the foreground.

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

Taiping Hou Kui is incredibly labour-intensive

Processing Taiping Hou Kui is incredibly labour-intensive. Each leaf, after firing, is hand-rolled lengthwise and placed on a cloth. The leaves are carefully spaced out and then pressed with a small roller, leaving them flattened and larger.

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

Taiping Hou Kui : a very expensive tea from China

Taiping Hou Kui is harvested for just 25 days a year, generally between 20 April and 15 May. For the rest of the year the tea plant is allowed to grow without having its leaves plucked. This concentrates the harvest on the best season.

Mrs Zha has a pretty plot of land on the edge of lake Taiping. She is very busy during this plucking period. Taiping Hou Kui is one of the most expensive teas in China, and its price can reach thousands of yuan per kilo.

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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