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.
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!
We must look for the positive in everything. If we examine the extraordinary times we’re living through while the virus is raging, we can see that, among all the negatives, all the pain of those who have lost loved ones, there are some rare but incredible positives. People are looking out for one another in a true community spirit. There are plenty of kind and spontaneous gestures. We are all suddenly aware of the essential work that many people do. Some people have more free time for other things instead of consuming, time to realise what is important to them, what it means to be alive. We are breathing air that has never been so pure, appreciating the rare silence and the sweet melody of birdsong, even in city centres.
Can we learn something from this experience, and hold on to these benefits after lockdown?
What’s the point of a tea sourcer who can no longer source tea? What’s the point of a tea sourcer who can no longer spend time with farmers and has no samples to taste, who watches springtime unfurling through the window of his tasting room that usually receives around 100 samples a day at this time of year, compared with just a handful for the whole of the past week? What’s the point of a tea sourcer who can’t offer his customers rare batches to taste, because they can’t be served in stores, or sent out by post?
Although I feel alone, I’m trying to look on the bright side. In my tasting room I’m lucky enough to have an endless selection of premium teas, all bought over the past year. I taste them and hope for better times, and think of you all.
At 8 o’clock in the evening, everyone throws open their windows and starts clapping, or they bang on a saucepan or some random kitchen utensil to make as much racket as possible; they sing, they shout, they chant… And I cry because it’s beautiful, it’s so beautiful that in this sometimes selfish world, people still have the urge to do this, that there are still these moments of humanity, that people still find room in their heart to shout out their love, to say thank you, to encourage and support those who are saving lives while risking their own. Thank you.
Focusing is important, as any photographer will tell you. You can focus on the foreground, middleground or background, or you can try to capture everything with the same clarity. As for me, even when I have a stunning landscape before me, or a spectacular mountain, I only need an expanse of tea leaves to enter the frame and I switch my focus to them. I want to see them clearly. Their beauty demands to be focused on, and I forget about the rest.
For years, I didn’t take any photos, misguidedly believing it wasn’t possible to look around me and photograph at the same time. Later, I changed my mind. Those landscapes and portraits taken around the world inspired me to share them, and so the blog was born.
Like the Tea School and the books I’ve written with Mathias Minet (The Tea Drinker’s Handbook, Tea Sommelier), the role of this blog is to impart both knowledge and passion.
This month, my blog celebrates its 691st article, or rather, its ten-year anniversary, so I’m inviting you to help me blow out the candles. I’d like to thank Mathias, Laurent, Philippe, Emilie, Marta, Bénédicte, Kevin and Hélène, who were there at the start or who’ve been part of the journey. And I’d like to thank you, my readers, for following me. Your support is precious, and it touches me.
There are artisan teas, and there are industrial teas. The same is true for many of the products we consume. If we had to pick something that symbolises the work of the artisan, we could talk about their craftsmanship, or we could talk quite simply of their hands. Artisanal work involves the hands. To produce a fine tea, to pick the best leaves or to take cuttings, hands play an essential role.
What about consuming better quality but less? It would mean that every time we bought an object or item of food, we would ask ourselves if hands played a part in making it.
I wish all of you an excellent year. I hope you find time to be good to yourself, to be good to others, to meditate, be happy, enjoy nature, walk through beautiful landscapes, reflect, smile, rest, shut your eyes, breathe deeply, consume less and better, think of generations to come, of the planet, and to make every moment, every mouthful of tea, a moment of pure happiness.
To give someone who doesn’t know about tea the desire to explore it, to lead customers on a journey of discovery through single-origin teas, growing regions, rare and premium teas… that is what makes our work so special. The essence of Palais des Thés is captured in the way we support our customers. Our raison d’être is our warm and friendly welcome that we extend to everyone. Our raison d’être is the incredible choice of teas and attention to quality that we offer. Our raison d’être is our ability to convey our impressions to you, our emotions and expertise – in a word, our passion.