Darjeeling tea is not only grown on the large estates created by the British at the height of the Empire. Today, as well as the 83 officially registered plantations, there are a number of local initiatives, small and lesser-known factories that sometimes produce really good teas. Yanki is one of them, and near the village of Mirik, Allan and his family are doing great things with tea leaves. While most Darjeeling planters come from all over India, Allan’s family are indigenous to these mountains and speak the same language as the locals: Nepali. They buy the fresh leaves from the surrounding villagers and use them to make their wonderful teas.
Yanki, une production confidentielle
Darjeeling ne se limite pas à ces grands domaines créés par les Anglais à une époque où le soleil ne se couchait jamais sur les territoires de Sa Majesté. De nos jours, au-delà des 83 plantations officielles et dûment enregistrées, il existe diverses initiatives locales, de petites manufactures plus confidentielles qui produisent parfois de très jolis thés. Yanki, par exemple, fait partie de celles-ci, et du côté du village de Mirik, Allan et sa famille travaillent la feuille de thé avec succès. Tandis que la plupart des planteurs de Darjeeling arrivent de diverses régions de l’Inde, eux sont originaires de ces montagnes et parlent la même langue que leurs habitants, le népali. Allan et les siens achètent les feuilles fraîches des villageois alentour et à partir de ces feuilles ils mettent au point des crus fameux.
Six months without rain
In early spring, the first young shoots appear on the tea bushes. Here in Darjeeling, they arrive after a long winter when the camellia plant goes into dormancy. This lasts for about four months, from mid-November to early March, depending on the weather conditions.
This year, the Himalayan foothills, where the British decided to grow tea less than two centuries ago, have experienced a drought. Six months with little or no rain due to climate change, linked by some to global warming, by others to deforestation. The consequences are reflected in the figures and by mid-March, production was expected to be half of last year’s. However, there are no concerns when it comes to quality. Slow growth results in higher quality and more intense aromas and flavours.
In Malawi, the Satemwa plantation is celebrating its 100th anniversary
In Malawi, the Satemwa plantation is celebrating its 100th anniversary. It took me a long time to start exploring Africa – I was already busy in Asia. But after receiving many requests and to satisfy my own curiosity, to see if I could find tea as good in Africa as in Asia even though the plantations are much younger, I went there. I started in Malawi, a country of rare beauty: tea fields bathed in a different light, red earth, unfamiliar faces. The children were the same as I meet everywhere, running after me, bursting with energy and laughter. Alex, the planter for three generations now, has created a space in the impressive building to develop rare teas. It is the start of an exciting venture and a wonderful discovery for me. Happy anniversary to all at Satemwa.
Magnificent vistas as far as the eye can see
In Peru, to reach some of the tea plantations you must follow a long, winding, vertiginous mountain path that threatens to collapse at any moment. But your dedication will be rewarded by magnificent vistas that extend as far as the eye can see.
Tea isn’t blooming in Peru
In Peru, tea is so cheap and in such low demand that half the production is sold to florists. Tea branches stay in bloom for a long time. It is a depressing situation for the farmers, who are deprived of precious income because of a lack of expertise and demand. These would allow them to earn a decent living and develop their business. It is my role, and that of Palais des Thés, to help them produce better, even excellent teas, and to promote their work.
Carlota and her beloved jungle
In Colombia, tea grows in the Andes; more specifically, in the region of Cali, the capital of salsa. But there is more to this area of the Cauca Valley, south-east of the capital Bogotá, than dancing. Once known for its sugar cane, the district’s most famous crops now include coffee and cocoa. And surely tea too, one day, which creates beautiful landscapes here. Carlota, who oversees the region’s only plantation, has a principle: the plots cover a maximum of five hectares and are surrounded by the jungle, in order to protect the biodiversity that is so important to her. Carlota’s whole life revolves around her love of nature and her love of the jungle where she has chosen to live. She is devoted to her tea crops because they allow a whole community to live in these mountains and help preserve this unique, fragile and incredibly rich environment. It is a truly special place.
Colombia has a bright future
Bitaco is the only tea plantation in Colombia. Not only is it working to produce more and more exciting teas, it is also certified organic and is run by people who are passionate about tea. Carlota is one of the owners. She is in charge of the Foundation. Her interests include horticulture, ornithology and anything else related to her amazing Andean estate. Every day she tends the tree ferns, dozens of species of rare orchids, water lilies, arums and anthuriums in the botanical garden that she herself created. Then there’s Claudio, who makes and tastes new teas every day and has a voracious appetite for knowledge. Colombian tea has a bright future.
Dodik teaches farmers the art of tea production
Tea always tastes better when you’re lucky enough to know the people who made it and are familiar with the landscape of the fields where it grew, the soil and the bushes. I’d like to introduce you to Dodik. He lives in Pacet on the Dieng plateau, at an altitude of about 1,200 metres. After visiting each plot and examining each plant and cultivar, he buys the farmers’ freshly harvested leaves and turns them into green or black tea, depending on the quality of the shoots and what he needs. He also teaches the locals how to produce their own tea. Some of them already make wonderful, rare teas. And in a few months, Dodik will give us the magnificent “Java Honey”, a delicious black tea roasted over coconut charcoal.
Rare fine teas in Indonesia
Indonesia attracted a lot of attention when the aromas of its wonderful spices reached the four corners of the globe, but who knew that this beautiful country also produces tea, some of it delicious? Of course, not everything this major tea producer makes is high quality, but if you look hard enough, mainly on the island of Java, you will find sublime teas, handcrafted of course, which deliver a unique experience in the cup. Among Indonesia’s most famous teas are the white tea from the Cisujen mountains, Jin Jun Mei from Java, and Eksotik Teh Hijau.