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!
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.