Arya Tara: the rare teas of Saran RAI

I find it very rewarding to tell you about the men and women who make the teas you drink. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Saran RAI. Based in Arya Tara (Nepal), Saran produces different grades of tea, but just 300 kg a year. He uses my favourite cultivar: AV2. It is a very small, very high-quality plantation. Half of the fresh leaves that make his teas come from his own fields, and half come from the 50 or so local farmers. When I ask what he is most proud of, Saran replies: “being visited by people from afar”. It is true: he receives very few visitors. The route is arduous, especially the last few kilometers. I walked them, on an almost impassable track, surrounded by beautiful countryside. Although his plantation is not certified organic, I have no doubt that Saran uses organic methods.

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

Yabukita: the most popular cultivar in Japan

While all tea plants belong to the camellia family, you know that there are different cultivars within that family. Here in Japan, the tea plant most commonly grown is Yabukita. It accounts for 85% of the tea crop, unlike in other tea producing countries, where many different varieties cohabit.

Yabukita is easy to recognise with its long, straight, intense green leaf. It also has its own way of growing, very straight, reaching up for the sky.

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

Cultivar is to tea what grape variety is to wine

All tea plants are members of the Camellia Sinensis species, but there are a great many cultivars, each with their own unique characteristics and qualities. Some are more resistant to the cold, for example, or to certain parasites. Others produce a more abundant crop.
Here, in Feng Qing, near Lincang (China), tea planters breed a wide variety of cultivars in order to experiment with grafting, for example, to produce new hybrid tea plants.
I visited this tea garden last year between two tastings of Pu Er, the main tea found in the region and manufactured from a cultivar called “Da Ye” (big leef).
Moreover, it’s here, near Lingcang, that the old tea and horse exchange road comes by.

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

I have just bought the first Darjeeling flush

The first Darjeeling flush is delayed for the third consecutive year. This time, the tea plantations suffer from drought: it hasn’t rained in Darjeeling since October 10th, 2009. Surprisingly, the sky is covered with clouds, the Kanchenjunga cannot even be seen. In the few irrigated plantations, the chill prevents the tea leaves from growing. Temperatures are still very low at night and I sleep with a hot-water bottle at the Planters Club!

So far, most of the tea gardens have only had one harvest (DJ1). Normally, they should have harvested enough tea leaves to make around ten lots (DJ10).
The first lot of Darjeeling harvest at North Tukvar has a floral bouquet of much greater quality than other plantations, even the best ones like Puttabong and Singbulli. I didn’t hesitate to buy this tea which is to arrive in Paris this week-end. It’s a clonal mixture of various cultivars. I don’t usually buy tea at the beginning of the harvest, but if it doesn’t rain in the next coming ten days, the amount available will be scarce.

This year, it might be is very small in comparison with previous years. It doesn’t seem to particularly worry the responsible of Puttabong and North Tukvar, Mr Somani (on the photo), who told me with his Indian-like fatalism: “If there’s a storm tea will grow very fast, only gods know…”.

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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