To celebrate the New Year I’ve chosen this photo taken in Japan, in the Shizuoka region. I love rope bridges, those pathways over a void, which are sometimes crossed with a touch of apprehension that quickly disappears. I wish you a happy and peaceful year. I hope your path is joyous. I hope you live in harmony, harmony with yourself, harmony with others. I hope we can live rewarding lives among those who we may have been able to help find fulfilment.
Calling all fans of “grand cru” teas! You now have access to the best selection of teas in the world. This is the optimum time of year to try the finest teas in existence. All are extremely fresh, newly delivered by air. There are first-flush and second-flush Darjeelings, new-season Chinese teas, and Japanese Ichibanchas harvested in May, alongside teas from Nepal, Taiwan and South Korea.
For tea-lovers, the start of the summer is a pure pleasure!
For anyone interested in Japan, I recommend reading “In Praise of Shadows” by Junichiro Tanizaki. The author invites us not to view Japan through western eyes, but to take a wider perspective on what we call technical progress. He teaches us, beautifully, to look at the interior of a house. He talks about rays of sunshine that we in the West love to allow into our homes, while in Japan, they filter the light. This gives it a diffuse quality, rather than flooding everything with its intensity. It creates shadows, and gives things and people intimacy and mystery.
There are different ways to start the day. You can get up and get straight down to work, taking refuge in activity. You can also take time to observe nature, to contemplate a corner of our beautiful planet. To admire its beauty, the colours of a sunrise, the singing of a bird, the smell of damp earth. This morning, in Kyoto, I took a few steps out onto the balcony, I sat down on the little bridge that extends out from it, and spent a long time rejoicing in the presence of these beautiful carps.
My selection of first-flush Darjeelings is over, the Nepalese season is in full flow, and then it’s the turn of the new-season China teas, before the first Japanese Ichibancha are ready. Between 1 March and 10 May every year, I can taste more than 100 teas every day, not counting the ones I infuse several times, when I’m deciding between different batches. The peak of this pleasant activity, which I always look forward to, takes place around the end of April. At this time of year, so many samples pile up every morning in the packages sent by express mail from Nepal, India, China and Japan, that I sometimes don’t know which way to turn.
In Japan, when you receive a gift, you don’t open it. You don’t feel the need to. First, you admire the wrapping, then you thank the person who has given it. You are touched by their attention. You are very happy. You still don’t open it.
This year, what if we too were satisfied with the happiness of receiving a gift, without wondering what it was? What if we took the time to experience fully this wonderful moment, when someone shows us how much they care?
I wish you a very happy festive season!
Because tea plants don’t like frost, Japanese tea fields are populated by strange shapes. When their blades are turning at the top, these fans prevent freezing air from stagnating above the bushes.
Every day, I have the pleasure of tasting very different teas. But the technique is always the same, and in each tasting session my senses are alive to the experience. I pay as much attention to the tea’s colour, smell and texture as to its flavours.
Here, I’m tasting three different cooking matchas in order to choose the best one. This powdered green tea from Japan can be used to flavour your cakes, sorbets and other dishes. Even a Christmas log, why not?
When I meet tea producers we always exchange small gifts. It’s a nice way of expressing our pleasure at working together.
One of our Japanese suppliers with whom I’ve just spent the day has given me these delightful ceramic figures. I photographed them in the morning light, before making them an offering of a Gyokuro. Looking at them fills me with a sense of calm and wellbeing.
As I am leaving Japan for China, I am also swapping the “kyusu” for the tea boat. You pour the tea into the first cup, which is quite narrow. You then empty this cup into the wider one. The smelling cup retains the fragrances of the liquor for a long time and allows you to explore the tea’s bouquet. You drink from the second cup, the tasting cup.