Some tea fields overlook the sea, their green merging into blue. You see this in Japan, for example, as well as in other places around the world like here in the Azores. The blue of a lake that has formed in an ancient crater also makes me think of getting away. I’ve been surrounded by green for most of the year, and now it’s time for me to take some time off I’ll be replacing it with blue. Whatever the colour, I wish you a happy summer and I look forward to being back with you at the beginning of September for new journeys and adventures.
Yves Ugalde is the deputy mayor of Bayonne and a fine writer. In his amusing account of the opening of Palais des Thés’ Bayonne store, he says he approached this new product offering in the city with a certain reluctance, “if only because I was afraid of being met by some high priest of the post-Covid world spouting all the vegan, meat-free marketing claims beloved of urban eco-warriors, of a world in which the digestive tract is gradually transformed into a temple”. I’m delighted by his account because it is Palais des Thés’ mission to rid tea of its clichés and to guide each person towards easy-drinking teas or rarer vintages depending on their tastes, just like a wine merchant does. And what a pleasure it is to read that Mr Ugalde is now willing to adopt a different stance towards Camellia sinensis, especially as there are some very serious attempts being made to grow it in this beautiful Basque region. Between the Nive and Adour rivers they already celebrate ham and chocolate with festivals – isn’t it time they had one for tea?
Part of my job involves taking those who help to promote tea with me on my research trips. Many of my colleagues have never seen a tea plant in real life, so it is both a pleasure and a duty to ask them to accompany me on a tour of the plantations. Last week I was in Ilam Valley with Anna, Cassandra, Svetlana, Clément, Pierre and Thomas. We went from one small producer to another, meeting extraordinary people and admiring breathtaking scenery. Together, we rolled the leaves we had picked ourselves, joined by Léo, who works with me, searching for the world’s finest teas. We wished each other a Happy New Year, because in this incredible country we had just entered the year 2079. What wonderful moments these are, what incredible discoveries. To travel to such remote regions is, in a way, the trip of a lifetime, and nothing makes me happier than sharing it, and giving others a glimpse of this extraordinary profession.
One of the joys of being a tea researcher is the opportunity to discover other cultures. Here, during the Tsechu festival, the monks breathe life into the characters whose masks they wear for the procession or dance.
On my way to Ilam valley, I stop in Kathmandu. Matthieu Ricard invited me to the Shechen monastery for the celebration of Tshechu, a festival that includes the performance of sacred Tibetan dances. On the eve of the big day, the monks rehearse. Tomorrow, they will take to the stage again, this time wearing a heavy, lavish costume and an impressive mask.
My colleagues gave me a wonderful surprise by helping me to celebrate my new decade, and I’d like to thank them from the bottom of my heart. Each of them wrote a note on the tea of their choice so that during my long journeys to the other side of the globe they will always be by my side.
The Palais des Thés story began 35 years ago. I’ve dedicated more than half my life to it and nothing touches me more than the smiles and joy of the people who are part of this beautiful adventure.
The passage from one year to another reminds me of crossing those monkey bridges you find in mountain regions. Made of rope or bamboo, or even steel, some can feel shaky to walk across and others more secure, but what they all have in common is the absence of piles and a swinging sensation that comes from the somewhat rickety deck. Balance can often feel precarious.
In these times disrupted by a virus that made has made a difficult period worse, I wish all of us safe passage into the new year and hope that we leave behind the dark clouds of 2021 and step into a healthy and happy 2022 filled with clear blue skies. I would also like to pass on another wish that is just as important: that we take care of our beautiful planet once and for all and think about the future generations in everything we do.
When I ask Bente, who makes the best teas in Tanzania, how Palais des Thés helps her and her community, her answer comes loud and clear: “It pays our employees!”
Then she adds: “It provides stability for the plantation and for our employees… And it makes us proud, of course!”
She continues: “Thank you for your support, and thank you for helping us to make a name for ourselves in the world of tea. When you come with your team, you show me and everyone here that you believe in us and that we can depend on you!”
I wish Bente and all our friends who produce tea, as well as our customers and employees, very happy holidays!
There is some sort of International or National Tea Day three, four or five times a year. Different organisations, some more official than others, have decided that such and such a day should be dedicated to tea – 15th December, for example. Fine. For me, every day is a tea day, starting in the morning with a lovely cuppa when I wake up. Then a bit later, a tea does me good, then later still I’ll have a cup of tea with colleagues and another with friends. I have one in the evening too – a chai, in this case – and enjoy inhaling its delicious scents. A day without tea would be pure misery!
The terrible weather in India and the Himalayan regions has caused many casualties and considerable damage, and has had severe consequences in several tea regions including the Darjeeling district and the eastern valleys of Nepal. Southern India was not spared. The devastation was caused by violent rains that led to landslides and tore up roads and bridges, on top of human activities ranging from deforestation to the construction of dams and unchecked urban expansion.
We should pay more attention to our planet and think of future generations with greater compassion at all times and in everything we do.
For those so inclined, I suggest taking some time today to make yourself a delicious cup of tea from Darjeeling or Nepal, to drink it while contemplating a beautiful landscape, for example, and to think of our friends.