From plant to cup

Taking time out for spring

11 March 2022
Taking time out for spring

In a turbulent world, it’s good to take time out for tea. As spring approaches, bringing with it the first flowers and fresh green shoots, let’s taste those that have just arrived from the Himalayas. The earliest Camelia sinensis plants are growing again on the foothills of this famous mountain range and the tea season is just beginning in Darjeeling. After a harsh winter and a long dormancy, the tea bushes are awakening. The youngest leaves picked from the end of each stem develop floral, almond and herbaceous aromas in the cup.

I’ve just bought a batch of Rohini Early Spring Ex 4 and of Millikthong Early Spring Ex 2. Once they arrive in France and are sent to the lab for analysis, according to our Safetea™* process, they will be available. These teas will offer a moment’s pause, the scent of spring, and a brief respite from the tumult of the world.

*Palais des Thés is committed to offering its customers only certified organically grown teas or teas that have been analysed in an independent laboratory to ensure they comply with European legislation.

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In Darjeeling, the first harvests aren’t the best

25 February 2022
In Darjeeling, the first harvests aren’t the best

This year is unlike any other and I have no idea how it will play out in terms of the growing, shipping and availability of premium teas. I’ve just heard from Darjeeling that the very first batch has been harvested. Those of you who’ve been following me for a long time, including fans of first-flush Darjeelings, know that you shouldn’t rush into these things. In this region, the low-altitude plantations are the first to harvest their leaves, as they benefit sooner from milder temperatures. As they warm up, the higher gardens start picking too. The longer the period of dormancy, the slower the sap rises, leading to a greater concentration of essential oils in the leaves. This gives those gardens that harvest later the advantage of quality.

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Bergamot, from fragrance to cup

18 February 2022
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Although bergamot is used in tea to make the famous Earl Grey, its main application is in perfumery and has been since the first eau de colognes appeared in the 18th century. Nowadays, bergamot can be found in many fragrances and the greatest perfumers flock to Calabria to choose with care the one that suits their need. To obtain the essential oil, the fruit is first washed with reverse-osmosis water, then cold-processed using peeling machines and centrifuges.

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Citrus notes

11 February 2022
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In Reggio Calabria in southern Italy, bergamot is harvested from November to February from trees that each produce between 80 and 120 kilos of fruit per year. This citrus fruit, widely used in perfumery, gives the famous Earl Grey tea its citrus notes. Bergamot is grown in all the valleys in the region (pictured here: San Carlo valley), which offer breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea or the Strait of Messina.

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Bergamot, a fruit from a grafted tree

4 February 2022
Bergamot, a fruit from a grafted tree

Just as some tea drinkers don’t realise that tea belongs to the Camellia family, there are Earl Grey fans who don’t realise that the scent wafting from their cup comes from bergamot. The tree that produces this fruit is thought to originate from a hybrid between bitter orange and citron, and the young plant is often grafted onto bitter orange rootstocks. The most prized bergamot comes from Calabria (Italy).

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Tea in Brittany

28 January 2022
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There are attempts to grow Camelia sinensis in many countries, including France. On the banks of the Blavet, near Hennebont (Morbihan), Denis and Weizi are pioneers. They planted eight tea bushes 17 years ago, for their own consumption. They now have 30,000 from 15 different cultivars. Their production is still limited (20 kg per year) but is set to double over the next few years. Denis and Weizi’s enthusiasm is inspiring others to grow tea, and in addition to supplying nearly 20,000 tea plants a year to hobby growers, they are supporting them and forming a strong community.

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Long-term commitment

21 January 2022
Long-term commitment

I’m often asked what relationship we have with the farmers from whom we buy tea, and whether they work exclusively for Palais des Thés. In terms of our relationships, they often go back a long way. These ties are strengthened over time; they are often close and nourished by friendship. We do our best to help each other. There are few producers of delicious teas and few buyers of rare teas: this helps make the partnership unique.

In terms of exclusivity, Palais des Thés has never asked this of a producer. We think the best way to ensure long-term commitment is to promote their tea as effectively as possible, to support them in the event of a setback, to listen to their needs and to visit them.

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A tea for every season

14 January 2022
A tea for every season

So, it’s January, it’s cold outside, what tea should you be drinking? I recommend a dark tea (not to be confused with black tea), especially after that holiday period when the chances are you’ve overindulged. Because this deep, rich tea has been reputed for centuries for its digestive properties. Note, however, that this type of tea, also known as pu’er or pu-erh, undergoes post-fermentation. As such, expect your cup to develop aromas of moss, mushrooms, undergrowth, wet straw, along with notes of vanilla and liquorice as well as leather and other musky flavours. This incredible tea is simply perfect for this time of year and is good for us too. Let me know what you think!

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Safety first

31 December 2021
Safety first

Just a few days ago, Léo and I had the pleasure of tasting a sensational tea sourced from southwest China. In fact, the variety was one of the famous ‘Yunnan buds’ that is going down a treat with tea lovers all over.

I thought it would be interesting to share with you the different stages of selecting a batch of tea.

Once the quantity we want has been decided, an order is placed. Because this is a small batch tea, it will be shipped by air. No sooner will the wheels touch the ground than a sample will be whizzed over to an independent lab for testing. Although not legally required to, Palais des Thés has made it policy to test any tea that has not been awarded French agriculture biologique certification, proof that is has been organically farmed. We are looking for over a hundred different molecules to confirm that the batch complies with European standards, known for being the most stringent in the world. Only if the tea passes muster will the leaves be distributed to our boutiques. It takes on average 4-6 weeks from when the tea is sampled to it being available to buy in store. A relatively long timeframe that Palais des Thés stands by because we understand the importance of guaranteeing food safety for the good of our customers’ health.  

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For all our friends who produce tea

24 December 2021
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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!

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