Plantation

Rooibos, a recent crop

24 August 2018
Rooibos, a recent crop

Although rooibos has been consumed for centuries, it has only been grown in recent times. In the mid-19th century, a German priest from Namibia founded the village of Wupperthal in South Africa. He imposed strict rules on the community and set about organising the cultivation of rooibos. Halfway between the Cape and Namibia, Wupperthal is in the middle of the desert. Rooibos, or Aspalathus lineari, is about as undemanding as a camel, and can withstand extreme heat without complaint. The plant’s roots push deep into the ground, which helps it find nourishment. Wupperthal is worth a visit. It’s a journey of several hours along a difficult track, which nonetheless offers some beautiful views for those who like their landscapes arid.

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A refreshing mist

3 August 2018
A refreshing mist

Tea plants are like you. In hot weather, they appreciate a refreshing mist. The tea plant belongs to the Camellia family. These plants like water, as long as it doesn’t sit around their roots. This means that tea plants feel at home on sloping ground, preferably in mountainous regions with a warm, humid climate. On flat ground, they require drainage.

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Teas worth seeking out

20 July 2018
Teas worth seeking out

Africa produces enormous quantities of tea – did you know that Kenya is the world’s biggest exporter? It’s mainly low grade, destined for the production of tea bags. But if you look carefully, you can find some incredible teas in countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Malawi. Discovering rare teas in Africa, Asia and elsewhere is what my job is all about. It’s a job that is constantly changing from one season to the next, one year to the next. No two harvests are the same. You must taste again and again, season after season, to find the best teas of the moment.

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A volcano in the landscape

20 April 2018
A volcano in the landscape

On the island of Kyushu in Japan, it isn’t unusual to find a volcano in your field of vision. As someone who enjoys photography, this makes me very happy. The outline of these lava giants emphasises the controlled horizontality of the tea plants. They disrupt a rather too orderly landscape. They also remind us that the duration of harvests, the duration of seasons, the duration of human life, quite simply, is infinitesimal. Here is Mount Kaimon, which has a silhouette similar to that of Mont Fuji.

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Tea fields spiked with fans

30 March 2018
Tea fields spiked with fans

Right down to the extreme south of Japan you can find these tea fields. They are recognisable for being spiked with fans, which are installed to prevent cold air from lingering around the tea plants. Here, I’m close to Kagoshima Bay, visible in the background, an important tea-producing region in the archipelago.

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Mountains in Southern India

2 February 2018
Mountains in Southern India

When you think of Southern India, you think of colourful temples, ancient spice trading posts, beaches lined with palm trees, boats gliding along complex networks of canals and backwaters, and luxuriant gardens. Southern India is less well-known for its mountains. Yet what are called the Ghats, literally “steps”, peak at more than 2,000 metres above sea level. This altitude and climate is well suited to tea plants.

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Holding the soil in place

19 January 2018
Holding the soil in place

Farming methods change over time. Tea bushes sometimes used to be planted following the slope of the ground, resulting in vertical lines like those visible on the left of this photo. Today, young bushes are planted in horizontal rows, to reduce soil erosion. In heavy rain, the water runs off more slowly and the tea bushes hold the soil in place.

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Growing tea: essential conditions

3 November 2017
Growing tea: essential conditions

During a tour of the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology, Dr Rakesh Kumar reminded those I’d brought with me on the trip of the essential conditions required to grow tea: acidic soil (pH 4.5 to 5.5), temperatures between 15°C and 32°C, and abundant rainfall (around 1,500 mm per year). Of course, altitude, sunlight and gradient also influence the way the plants behave.

I’ve chosen this photo to illustrate gradient. It is without doubt in the Himalayan foothills that I encounter the steepest mountainsides. With copious rainfall and well-drained soil, it’s a tea plant’s dream location!

 

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Fine teas in the foothills of the Dhauladhar Mountains

6 October 2017
Fine teas in the foothills of the Dhauladhar Mountains

The current tension in Darjeeling, although it seems finally to be easing, has guided my path toward new vistas this month. In the foothills of the Dhauladhar Mountains, a stone’s throw from Kashmir, a few tea plantations are well worth the detour—not only for their majestic view of the Himalayas, but also for the hard work of several local producers, which is unquestionably paying off. For decades, the region produced a relatively ordinary green tea for local consumption, but more recently, if you look hard enough, you can find a wide variety of more artisanal teas to delight the palate. All while gazing at the Dhauladhars, naturally.

 

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Head in the clouds

22 September 2017
Head in the clouds

The mountains covered with tea plants rise so high and the clouds sometimes fall so low that there is no room left for the sky. The clouds cover the green blanket of tea plants with mist, envelop them in a layer of cotton wool, caress them, and then disappear. I could stay for hours, in each tea field I walk through, contemplating the beauty of the landscape. And the more I climb, the greater the reward. Tea doesn’t grow above 2,000 to 2,200 metres, but at those altitudes the views are breathtaking. If the mist lets you see them.

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