If the Indian gods could come to our rescue in this fight against Covid-19, I would implore them to do so immediately. As an offering, I would place their weight in tea at their feet. In India, where there are many gods, religion is everywhere, even on the sides of trucks, which drivers paint with the god under whose protection they place themselves. This provides valuable insurance in a country in which road safety rules – where they exist – are not always shared.
In these times of Covid-19, the tea researcher looks at the world through his window. Deprived of travel, he consoles himself by tasting the teas he continues to receive from different plantations, and sometimes selects one.
In these times of Covid-19, the tea researcher dreams of his future trips, the people he’ll meet, the things he’ll discover. And so he divides his time between these two occupations, tasting and dreaming.
I chose this photo today not to illustrate the appalling situation hotels are in due to Covid-19 and the lack of tourism, but for the pleasure of taking you to the streets of Kolkata. The city might be dilapidated but I love it. It was built on tea, among other things. Kolkata is a port, and tea companies still have their headquarters there today. The most important auctions in the country are held in the city, and all the teas from Assam, the northern plains and Darjeeling leave India from its quays.
You won’t get to know the fishermen of Inle Lake this summer. Balanced right at the end of their dugout canoe, they make a rotational movement with their leg wrapped around the oar and guide the fish in a mysterious way towards the net they hold in one hand.
Viewed from the perspective of a traveller like me, and judging by the frequency of their catches, the ease and poetry of their movement repeated thousands of times contrasts with its apparent efficacy. I hope you enjoy your holidays. If you try this fishing technique for yourselves, wherever you are, let me know how you get on.
In normal times, the summer is a wonderful time to head out to sea and get away from it all. This year, though, I doubt you’ll have an opportunity to discover distant horizons. The magnificent Kagoshima Bay, for example. It is overlooked by one of Japan’s most famous volcanoes, Sakurajima. During active spells, it spits out magnificent plumes of white smoke three or four times a day. They stretch across the sky over this part of Japan in the far south of the country, a region familiar to tea connoisseurs. The gyokuros from these parts are celebrated, and the soil into which the tea plants plunge their deep roots is made from lava.
Tranquillity, calm, silence, relaxation, slowness, shade, freshness, water, deep breaths, a feeling of wellbeing… Away from noise, crowds, bright lights, movement… Turning inwards, concentration, contemplation, wonderment…
Waiting for the tea to steep, lifting the cup to your lips, taking the first sip.
The simplicity of tea.
Right now it’s best to minimise your potential exposure to a vicious virus. Much better to be safe at home, drinking delicious teas. Admire the look of the liquor before shutting your eyes and swilling it around your mouth. Pay attention to the sensations, aromas and textures in your mouth, the flavours on your tongue and palate. Then, once you’ve swallowed, you’ll be transported by the lingering finish.
Staying at home is a wonderful opportunity to expose your senses to gastronomic experiences.
In Nepal, among people who are finding lockdown challenging are those who still have no roof over their head. In remote villages of this ancient Himalayan kingdom, I still come across isolated hamlets where the houses remain in ruins and have never been rebuilt since the last earthquake, despite all the international aid.
On the radio, I keep hearing that the Greens have done well in France. So I listen more closely. Green is my colour. Tea fields are green, tea leaves are green, the nature surrounding the tea plantations is green. Everything around me is green when I walk among tea plants, in an infinite variety of shades: yellow green, jade green, luminous green, matt green, dark green, pale green and everything in between.
In these landscapes I love so much, surrounded by green, I’m happy, I’m at peace. Everything looks rosy.
To celebrate “déconfinement” in France, I’m taking you to Malawi. I expect not many of you have been to this country in East Africa, and, from my experience, not many people can find it on a map either. The south of former Nyasaland is dominated by beautiful mountain ranges, as well as high plateaus covered with tea plants.
Today, I’m offering you a new way to travel in the post-Covid era. No need to take a plane or get a visa. There’s no time difference. You can view the photos of this blog on a big screen and travel from one country to another, even sipping a tea from the relevant country at the same time. Try it!