Progressing slowly

For me, tea is more than a goal, it’s a path. I can’t imagine ever knowing everything there is to know about tea. A lifetime isn’t enough. Tea is a path: what’s important to me isn’t arriving, but progressing. Progressing in my knowledge of the plant, in my knowledge of the art of processing the leaves, progressing on my journey through the tea fields to reach the villages where the communities live. Progressing slowly but surely, in a world where everyone is rushing.


Posted in Inspirational by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

Modest appearances

In Nepal, factories often look quite makeshift, from the sheet roofing to the very basic structure. Teas are tasted outside, on trestles. This is a long way from Darjeeling, with its British colonial influence. But we shouldn’t judge by appearances. Inside these modest-looking buildings, the equipment is not only very good (small rolling machines from China or Taiwan, quality ovens, machines that delicately shape the leaves, etc.), but most of all, you find a unique expertise and creativity. The people are young and passionate – again, very different from the image of the established planter in Darjeeling. They live and breathe tea, and think of almost nothing else. Their sole objective is to make delicious teas, whatever the colour. The lack of a tea tradition in Nepal undoubtedly frees them up to explore new leaf shapes, new types of rolling, new approaches to production in general. “Handmade” Nepalese teas (as opposed to the crush, tear, curl teas and the big factories, which also exist in the Ilam region) have a bright future ahead of them.


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

What’s good for us mustn’t harm others or the planet

My job not only consists of hunting down rare teas that offer great flavour sensations and tasting pleasures. My motto is as follows: I want the teas that do us such good not to harm those who harvest and process them, or the planet. Such a requirement is not always easy to fulfil. With the sometimes-unacceptable working conditions, pesticide residues and excessive use of fertilisers that destroy river life, there is plenty to contend with. But I’m not a pessimist. Firstly, the higher the quality of tea, the better the practices (there are several reasons for this, such as altitude, which is a factor in the quality of tea due to the cooler nights that impede predators that might otherwise attack the plants). Secondly, a tea can only be exceptional if the greatest attention is paid to the harvest itself and to every stage in the processing, which means planters and farmers must ensure they have the best workers, who are well trained and enthusiastic. Lastly, I’ve gained enough experience now to know what to look for when I visit a plantation in terms of agricultural practices and the way the men and women are treated and how their expertise is honoured. I refuse to work with many producers. And I appreciate even more the pleasure of promoting the amazing work done by many farmers whose methods are exemplary and who know what it means to support their fellow humans every day.

 


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

Holding the soil in place

Farming methods change over time. Tea bushes sometimes used to be planted following the slope of the ground, resulting in vertical lines like those visible on the left of this photo. Today, young bushes are planted in horizontal rows, to reduce soil erosion. In heavy rain, the water runs off more slowly and the tea bushes hold the soil in place.


Posted in Producing tea by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

A tea tree’s natural inclination

Last Friday, I told you about a clever mechanical system developed to make tasks easier for tea pluckers working on steep grounds (see the article). But you may wonder why tea is cultivated on such abrupt fields. Let me tell you why: unlike rice, tea trees like  keeping their feet dry and can only be produced on a very well drained area. An inclined ground is therefore ideal for their growth, as the rainwater runs away. In flat tea plantations, farmers must then install a draining system to keep bushes healthy. It would be as well to make the most of a natural environment, much simpler and less expensive!

On this photo taken on the very steep Namring Tea Estate near the Himalayan mountains, notice the tea trees’ difference of colours. On the foreground, the harvest has already been done, whereas in the background, the light-coloured young shoots have not yet been plucked.


Posted in Country : India, 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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