Tasting rooms have windows to let in the sunlight

When tasting tea, it is good to have a source of natural light in which to judge the leaves and the infusion, as well as the liquor. It means you can assess the tea not just on its taste and aroma, but also on its appearance.

This is why, on most plantations, the tasting room has windows right down one side, to let in the sunlight. The cups of tea are placed along the windows, and while the tea is infusing, I can spread the dry leaves on a card in order to get a good look at them and judge the quality of the plucking. Or, while waiting for the timer to tell me when the infusion is ready, I can take my camera, as I did here in Darjeeling, and find the best angle to immortalise this beautiful morning light.

Posted in Professional tasting by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , , ,

In Assam, there is a hierarchy in tea harvesting

There is quite a hierarchy among the people in charge of harvesting tea in Assam. This is true on the large plantations, anyway; there are also independent plots owned by small producers.

On the large plantations, the manager supervises the assistant managers, who organise the babus, whose role is to oversee the work of the sardars, who themselves are responsible for supervising the team of workers.

In this photo taken on the Dufflating plantation you can admire two sardars, who don’t look particularly approachable on first glance. But perhaps they are just reflecting, in their serious expressions, the position of authority they hold.

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

Tea leaves spread out as far as the eye can see

In Assam, anything related to tea processing takes place on a massive scale, because of the incredible yield they get here: four times higher than in Darjeeling. The plantations themselves cover a much larger area than elsewhere in the country.

Take the withering, for example. Instead of troughs 10 to 15 metres wide, which I am used to seeing in other parts of India, here the leaves are spread out as far as the eye can see. I took this photo at night, and the dim light adds to the mystery of this essential stage in tea processing. During the withering, the leaf will lose much of its water content (up to 40% for Assams; up to 70% for Darjeelings).

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

Smelling the wet tea leaves : an essential step

When you taste tea, the first thing you do is look at the dry tea leaf, of course. Then you bring the liquor to your lips and analyse the flavours, aromas and texture. But assessing the qualities of a tea includes another important step: smelling the wet leaves that have just been infused. For this, we can follow the example of Peter Orchard, manager of Kuwapani Tea Estate, who you see here, plunging his nose into the leaves while they’re still warm. Peter is looking at me but he is elsewhere, concentrating intently on the smell of the infusion, a smell which says a great deal about the quality of the lot he has just tasted.

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

Camellia : a shrub with a tough foliage

In many countries, the men and women who pluck tea leaves wear a type of sleeve made from a light canvas, which covers part of the arm.

Camellia is quite a tough shrub, and at the end of the day, without this protection, which can be worn directly on bare skin or over the top of a garment, the pluckers’ arms would be covered in scratches.

I expect this young woman from Yunnan, who looks rather stylish beneath her straw hat, would agree.

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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