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 : , ,

A great name does not always make great tea

Garden picking

In Darjeeling and Nepal, you cannot trust the name of a garden blindly. Of course, plantations such as Turzum, Singbulli, Puttabong, Thurbo, Margaret’s Hope and Castleton have a much higher reputation than others. The same goes for Guranse and Shangri La in Nepal. But it is essential to understand that even the most prestigious gardens cannot produce high-quality teas all the time. At some point in the year they end up selling pretty nondescript ones. During the rainy season, for example, even an experienced planter cannot produce good tea, because the leaves grow too quickly and have no time to develop their essential oils. Also, each plantation has plots that are more or less well oriented, and planted with different cultivars. On Monday you might produce a sublime tea using leaves harvested from an excellent plot, and on Tuesday produce a very ordinary tea from a different part of the plantation. To sum up: yes, some gardens can make remarkable teas, but watch out, as they also produce mediocre ones. So you have to be very selective, and taste a vast amount of tea, to be able to recognise the best.


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

​Visiting schools is part of my job

FX Delmas visiting a school in Rwanda

A tea plantation, a farm that produces tea, is a whole world in itself. Wherever tea is grown, wherever it’s processed, there’s both an agricultural aspect and a human aspect. Tea is where these two paths meet: plants and people. So when I meet tea producers I naturally take an interest in every part of life on the farm: the quality of the tea, of course, as well as the plants and soil, and how they’re respected. Also the quality of the environment, forests and rivers; the quality of housing, and the treatment workers receive if they’re injured; the quality of all preventive measures put in place and, most of all, the quality of education. Visiting schools is part of my job, and I really enjoy talking with the students and teachers alike. I wouldn’t miss these moments, or rush them, for anything in the world.


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

A tea field in Sri Lanka

blog-16-10-2015

The plantations in central Sri Lanka don’t produce particularly good tea, but they are extremely beautiful. Here, the Maussakelle reservoir really enhances the soft green expanses of the tea fields.


Posted in Country : Sri Lanka 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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