One silver lining of Covid-19 is that it has brought some tranquillity to beautiful places that are often overrun by hordes of tourists. In Myanmar, Inle Lake is one of those wonderful destinations that it is important to protect. There’s no doubt that, for the planet, the pandemic has brought some peace.
I hope you all have a good summer and I look forward to seeing you back here on 10 September.
I long for life to return, in all its glory, in every aspect.
I long for our senses to be restored and for us to rediscover, when we walk, the sense of smell.
I long for the taste of things to come back to us; the taste of tea, of course, the tea offered to us when we are greeted at the end of our journey.
International Tea Day was pronounced by the United Nations to fall on 21 May each year, while other people celebrate it on 15 December. So we have a choice. As far as I’m concerned, every day is tea day. Every morning I wake up and make myself a cup of tea. I make another one in the middle of the morning, then after lunch, and again in the afternoon. It’s always the right time for a tea break as far as I’m concerned. After my evening meal, I sometimes make a small cup of dark tea before going to bed. Between each of these teapot brews, I work. That’s to say, I taste the many tea samples that come in. Dozens and dozens of teas every day, and these I prepare with a tasting set. All this makes up a full day of tea, a lifetime of tea, even.
An international tea day – why not, but for what purpose? A day of tea is good, a day of good tea is better. Good tea harvested and processed by hand. It’s beneficial to promote rare tea if we want to improve people’s lives, if we want to reinforce respectful agricultural practices over time. If we want farmers to live well, we have to buy tea from them at a higher price. It’s not a question of charity, that won’t work, it’s a matter of encouraging them to produce better quality teas. A better quality tea costs ten, twenty, sometimes a hundred times more than an industrial tea, it gives the farmers a much more substantial income, an income that allows them to live well, to stay on their land, and their children after them.
The terrible situation in India due to the pandemic, which I hope will spare Nepal, reminds me – not that I need it – how dear my Indian friends are to me. There are too many to name all of them, in Darjeeling, Kolkata and elsewhere. One of them is my friend Anil Darmapalan, who I first met more than 20 years ago when he was running the Thiashola plantation. He gave me such a warm welcome, along with his wife Sharmila and all the plantation staff.
After having been an auditor for a certification organisation, and therefore particularly aware of all the issues involved with converting a conventional plantation into a biodynamic one, Anil now lives near Ooty (Tamil Nadu), surrounded by flowers. I’m thinking of Sharmila and Anil, and all my Indian friends, and hoping they stay well.
As we enter a new year, it’s difficult to know what lies ahead for the next 12 months. If some psychic had predicted a year ago that the world would grind to a halt and we’d all be wearing masks, we’d have laughed. Yet a lack of visibility is exactly what the tea plant likes; it is happy in the mist, and most of all it loves humidity. It is therefore unperturbed when the horizon isn’t visible. We will find it in good health next year. As for us, we may not be celebrating in the usual way, but I’d simply like to wish you good health!
I met Sidonie when she invited me to be on her RTL radio show. That was a few years ago. We stayed in touch and, after chatting over a cup of tea one day, we thought, why not? Why not combine our passions and take our listeners, tea enthusiasts, on a journey to their favourite tea-producing country? This idea led us to launch a new podcast, or balado, as our Quebecois friends would say.
Join us at https://www.palaisdesthes.com/fr/podcast/ and on your usual podcast platform. These tales of travels and tea are for you. (In French only.)
Of all tea-producing countries, Nepal has suffered the most from Covid-19. There are a number of reasons for this: the small remote farms, the crumbling infrastructure (roads are cut off, the international airport is closed or swamped), the lack of access to the sea, and more.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. I’ve done my best to support my tea-producing friends during this difficult period, and delicious teas that take months to reach us are starting to become available. I’m counting on you to try them – for the sake of these small producers, the cooperatives of often very young farmers, who we must encourage and not leave to fail. When it comes to premium teas, the quality and variety of teas they produce are unique, and they are very good value for money.
Here, like elsewhere, it will soon be the start of a new term. Part of our work is to ensure that, on the tea plantations, the children in the village go to school. It is not enough to find delicious teas, although we are proud of the way they are produced. When we visit a plantation, along with a visit to the clinic, we always go to see the classrooms and meet the students and teachers.
Right now it’s best to minimise your potential exposure to a vicious virus. Much better to be safe at home, drinking delicious teas. Admire the look of the liquor before shutting your eyes and swilling it around your mouth. Pay attention to the sensations, aromas and textures in your mouth, the flavours on your tongue and palate. Then, once you’ve swallowed, you’ll be transported by the lingering finish.
Staying at home is a wonderful opportunity to expose your senses to gastronomic experiences.
In Nepal, among people who are finding lockdown challenging are those who still have no roof over their head. In remote villages of this ancient Himalayan kingdom, I still come across isolated hamlets where the houses remain in ruins and have never been rebuilt since the last earthquake, despite all the international aid.