Plantation

News from Darjeeling

26 February 2013
News from Darjeeling

This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting Abhishek Bagaria, the owner of Phuguri Tea Estate, Orange Valley Tea Estate and Millikthong Tea Estate. He hopes to be able to go ahead with the harvesting on his various plantations in the next couple of weeks.
After a cold, dry winter, the weather conditions are now favourable. We must now just hope that the political tensions which have reignited over the thorny issue of autonomy for the Darjeeling region will not lead to strikes and road blocks.
There are still hurdles to overcome before we can enjoy these Darjeeling teas – but they will be worth the effort!

 

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In Darjeeling, the spring harvest is approaching

19 February 2013
In Darjeeling, the spring harvest is approaching

In a few weeks’ time, the spring tea harvest (first flush) will begin in Darjeeling. The weather is a decisive factor in determining the timing of the harvest, and Darjeeling fans will be as happy as I am to learn that it has finally just rained there, after a long period of dryness.
Anil Jha, the planter at Sungma, has just informed me that on the night of 16 February, between 18 and 32 millimetres of rain fell in the region.

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The oxidation of rooibos

15 February 2013
The oxidation of rooibos

As soon as they are plucked, the rooibos shoots are cut and sprinkled with water. Then the oxidation process can begin. This takes place outside and causes the leaves to change colour, from green to brown. When it has oxidised to the right degree, the rooibos is spread out on the ground in a fairly thin layer, so it can dry in the sun.

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In a desert of stone and sand

8 February 2013
In a desert of stone and sand

It is only 38 degrees centigrade at the moment in this desert of stone and sand, situated three hours’ drive north-west of Cape Town (South Africa). This temperature is relatively clement, as rooibos is often harvested at around 45 degrees. The heat does not bother Aspalathus lineari, also known as rooibos. With roots that bury themselves to depths of up to four metres, the bushes seek coolness deep in the ground. I wish I could do the same!

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Discovering Burmese teas

11 January 2013
Discovering Burmese teas

South of the beautiful Lake Innlay, so often shrouded in mist, is one of the two mountains on which the Burmese grow tea. Around Pingluang, more specifically, about 30 kilometres south of the famous lake. This is in Shan State, and it is this beautiful region
I have chosen as the destination for my first journey of the year. Myanmar is changing and is opening up to the rest of the world, and it is time to find out what kind of teas they make in this country.

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Magnificent Sri Lankan landscape

28 December 2012
Magnificent Sri Lankan landscape

For those lucky enough to visit the beautiful country of Sri Lanka, this is the type of landscape found around the Sinharaja reserve in the south of the island.
This is the region where the low-grown teas are found, including the most famous, New Vithanakande.

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Taking a break on the tea plantations

18 December 2012
Taking a break on the tea plantations

On the tea plantations, the midday meal is a proper break.
Here, in Darjeeling, everyone gets their food out from their bag and sits down to eat, outdoors and in good spirits. The recycled cola bottles contain… tea!

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The Dhauladhar Mountains

23 November 2012
The Dhauladhar Mountains

The tea plantations in the Kangra region are dominated by a beautiful mountain range, the Dhauladhar. Its highest peak is 5,000 metres and it has cold winters that I don’t find unpleasant. This improves the quality of the spring harvest.

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Trip to Himachal Pradesh (India)

9 November 2012
Trip to Himachal Pradesh (India)

I’m on my way to Dharamsala, Palampur and Baijnath, three towns in Himachal Pradesh (India). I haven’t visited this tea-producing region, near Kashmir, for 12 years.
The plantations in this region date back to the British colonial era; they are the same age as those of Darjeeling. In 1905, a terrible earthquake saw the settlers flee, but the plantations still exist.
The soil is as good as it is in Darjeeling, and the climate suits the tea plant, so it is time to see if the quality has improved in those parts, and whether we may at last one day taste fine teas from the region.

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Darjeeling: the dream and the reality

6 November 2012
Darjeeling: the dream and the reality

This is a rather idyllic view of Darjeeling: a charming town with plenty of green space, spread out among the tea plantations in the Himalayan foothills.
The reality is more complex: the city has more than 100,000 inhabitants and spreads out much further than can be seen here. The roads are crumbling, all the city’s water has to be trucked in, and the traffic increases every year, making it very congested.

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