High-precision mechanical harvesting

In most tea-producing countries, tea leaves are harvested by hand. Japan is an exception, the main reason being the high cost of manpower. However, the sophisticated machinery used by Japanese farmers allows them to be very precise when harvesting. Only the young shoots are picked, which are then sorted with the most rigorous standards, in the factory, using machines with electronic eyes.


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

A farm on a human scale

Some teas are produced on a vast estate with up to a thousand people living on it. Some are produced by a co-operative of small producers. And some are produced on a simple farm, like here, at Pathivara. Different farms have different social structures, and I prefer the ones on a human scale. A far cry from the cliché of the planter living cut off from the world in a magnificent bungalow (inherited from the days of British rule), when tea is produced on a farm, villagers often spend the evening there too. They sit around together, chatting, chatting, chatting. Sometimes they drink, sometimes they play music, sometimes they dance. It’s life, quite simply.


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

With the “father” of Pathivara

Among the plantations worthy of attention recently is Pathivara, in Nepal. Here, I’m with the plantation’s father, the man who started it. In just a few years, he’s succeeded in producing delicious teas, so far with very modest resources. What’s more, the teas are certified organic. A new building is going up; I laid the first stone on my previous visit. It will house more sophisticated machinery, although the team is already producing some very fine teas. Since the start of June, I’ve bought three batches: Pathivara Classic, Pathivara Black and Pathivara Dragon Yeti – these mountains are full of poetry. Each tea is very different, with very varied aromatic profiles. Here, poetry and gastronomy come together.


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

Darjeeling lacks a workforce

Darjeeling is a place of contrasts right now. Life has resumed throughout the district. Once again, the roads, shops and hotels are open, the tea plantations too. But there is much work to be done, as the tea plants have disappeared beneath the weeds. This is not serious for the shrubs, they’re in good conditions, but all the vegetation needs clearing, and then the precious camellia sinensis must be cut back to their initial size. Sadly, there is a lack of manpower in Darjeeling. During the three months of protests in favour of regional autonomy, many men left the mountains to find work elsewhere. And now, the plantations don’t have enough people to do the clearing and cutting back. Yet this work is essential if there is to be a good harvest next spring, otherwise there won’t be enough Darjeeling tea, and fake Darjeelings, which are already in circulation, will flood the market. That would be a catastrophe for Darjeeling, and I hope with all my heart it will never come to that. We will have to pay close attention to the situation.


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

Growing tea: essential conditions

During a tour of the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology, Dr Rakesh Kumar reminded those I’d brought with me on the trip of the essential conditions required to grow tea: acidic soil (pH 4.5 to 5.5), temperatures between 15°C and 32°C, and abundant rainfall (around 1,500 mm per year). Of course, altitude, sunlight and gradient also influence the way the plants behave.

I’ve chosen this photo to illustrate gradient. It is without doubt in the Himalayan foothills that I encounter the steepest mountainsides. With copious rainfall and well-drained soil, it’s a tea plant’s dream location!

 


Posted in Country : Nepal 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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