The British had an instinct for comfort. They built magnificent bungalows during the colonial era. These buildings still exist today, surrounded by tea fields, like here in Gorthie (Sri Lanka). I was lucky to stay there recently. It was all very refined: they serve delicious food, and with the first light of dawn you are seduced by the beauty of the garden.
In some countries, tea plants require cover. It depends on the climate. Strong sunshine dries out the ground, whereas tea plants love humidity. In addition, tea plants don’t like wind. The trees used differ from country to country but they tend to belong to the Leguminosae family. Pictured here is a fine Acacia abyssinica specimen.
During a heatwave you must remember to stay hydrated. You need to drink frequently. You can also cool your face, with a wet cloth or a facial mist. As for me, I like the original version of mist – it’s called the Himalayas. It is cool there, especially at this time of year, when clouds full of monsoon rain gather above your head.
In Malawi, tea grows in the south. We are here at the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, at the foot of Mount Mulanje. They say the views are incredible from the top; I can well imagine it, and intend to make the journey one day. In the meantime, I think the view from the bottom isn’t bad either, both vegetal and mineral. This expanse of green relaxes the eyes. It’s quite an idyllic place to work.
If I talked to you about “terre battue” in French – literally “beaten earth”, the name given to the clay surface of tennis courts – you’d think I was talking about the French Open, taking place at the moment just outside Paris. Not at all. This brick-coloured ground actually makes me think of the tea fields, those of Malawi for example. The path is like a scar cutting through the fresh green expanse of the tea plants. It’s a million miles from the courts of Roland-Garros. And without the crowds. There, silence reigns.
Often I find myself surrounded by mountains covered in tea bushes, and I love these spectacular, grandiose landscapes. But I also enjoy contemplating intimate gardens, discovering a few hidden rows of tea plants, so verdant yet out of sight. This secluded garden that stretches along the riverbank, sheltered by large trees and overlooked by rocky outcrops, is situated in the Wuyishan region. If you are in this part of China, you too may be able to spot these beautiful shrubs growing in the middle of the countryside.
Andrew Gardner, a pioneer of Nepalese premium teas, sent me this photo of one of the plots on his plantation. He has named it after me. It’s a wonderful surprise.
This gesture from Andrew has really touched me. Andrew knows my favourite varieties, and he has planted them here. Thank you, Andrew, for the quality of your teas, your passion, your optimism and your enthusiasm.
In China, Fujian is one of the most important tea-producing provinces. Important from a historical perspective, because the first shipments of teas bound for Europe left from its ports; important also in terms of the tea itself, because Fujian is the country’s only province that grows Oolongs and the legendary white teas, as well as green teas, black teas, smoked teas and the finest jasmine teas in the country. It’s an incredible variety.