Namring Tea Estate : an imposing factory

In those countries where the British were in charge of tea growing, the processing factories are of an imposing size.

The upper floor, or upper floors, like here on the Namring Tea Estate (India), are devoted solely to withering the tea leaves. The rolling, oxidation, drying and sorting of the various grades take place on the ground floor of the building.

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

Deforestation: in Yunnan the danger is understood

Tea growing has massively increased in Yunnan over the past 40 years. At the time, it was decided to step up production and increase the cultivation areas. And things moved very quickly, like often in China. In a very short time, all the trees were chopped down and not a single one was left. And if the mountains were left in place it’s only because they were not causing any trouble. As you can imagine, the landscape underwent a major transformation: as far as the eye could see, there wasn’t a single copse, not a single tree top, not a single cluster of trees. Just tea plants, wherever you looked.

The result was not only staggering to the eye, but it also had an effect on the soil. Rain became scarce and erosion increased. The result of this large-scale deforestation and years of drought was that yields tumbled.

But the Chinese know how to adapt quickly when needed. So as soon as they realized the gravity of their action, they began replanting trees. It now gives us this lovely landscape, somewhere between Jinghong and Menghai. Note the young trees here and there, bringing shade and humidity to the tea plants and pleasing the eye.

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

Tea leaves that are worth a detour

In the south of Sri Lanka, tea is mostly grown by individual farmers who cultivate their own land. They sell the tea leaves just after the harvest, as they don’t have the infrastructure to process them. The farmers don’t have to go far to find buyers: their freshly plucked tea leaves are very much wanted by the local tea factories, who even go and collect the bags filled with fresh tea leaves themselves because of competition.

I spent hours going round the farms in one of these 4x4s fitted out with trays and it’s an incredible experience: we sometimes had to get the bags high in the mountains, skidding on the steep slopes, driving along vertiginous drops, crossing forests under cries of monkeys. We’d then suddenly end up on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, around farmers breeding cattle and living out of different cultivations.

So we’d buy the tea leaves, chat a little, maybe drink a tea together. We’d talk. We’d laugh. And it’d then be time to go and collect more tea bags from other isolated farms.

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

China, birthplace of tea

I have just acquired the first flush green teas from China for Le Palais des Thés.
China was the first country in the world to produce tea. It has been growing there for thousands of years. In comparison, India and Sri Lanka have only been producing tea for 170 and 140 years, respectively.

The legend about tea drinking goes back to Emperor Chen Nung, more than two thousand years ago. He had apparently stopped beneath a shrub to take a nap, a bowl of hot water beside him, as it was his custom. A gentle breeze then came up and removed from the shrub a leaf which dared to settle in the imperial bowl. We can imagine a host of devoted servants rushing forwards to change the dirty bowl, rinse it, dry it and refill it with nice clear, rippling water. But the Emperor, just from a sign of the hand, told his servants to stand back, and with a single index finger raised towards the sky, he said these few words:

“From what the Sky sends Us,
Is born harmony in Us.”

The Emperor then lifted the bowl to his lips. He tasted, he drank. He appreciated. He then asked what the name of the shrub was.

And so tea was born.

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

Tea growing under British influence

It was the British who introduced and organised tea growing in India. They created large tea plantations called tea estates. Keen to retain the comforts of home, they built charming, typically British cottage-style houses.
When I visited the Thiashola Tea Estate in India, I was lucky enough to be able to stay in this tea grower’s house. It dates back to the nineteenth century. Nestled on the edge of the jungle, it overlooks the tea, the clouds and the Deccan plain. What a joy to arrive there, surrounded by flowers, to contemplate this unique landscape and enjoy its rare silence. A feeling of being at the edge of the world. Total isolation. The moment I loved best: at dawn, pulling on a sweater, going outside and sitting on the front steps, a bowl of steaming tea in my hands, admiring the glowing red sky as the sun rose.

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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