For many people who work with tea, it is not an industry like any other. There can be a lot of love in tea. A lot of generosity and humanity. There can also be a lot of passion, among aficionados and producers, as well as the people who work in our stores, and give you advice. I would like to dedicate this photo to My, who worked for many years at Palais des Thés in Brussels, and who also loved to draw. She left this world far too soon.
Most countries of the world have met in Paris to try to find a solution to the ecological catastrophe threatening us. First, we need to remind ourselves that we are responsible for this catastrophe. So it is not the catastrophe itself that threatens us, it is ourselves. Humans have, despite their so-called superiority, managed to become a major danger to all living creatures, all ecosystems, and also to themselves.
It is up to us to change our ways. There is no fate. In fact it is not scientific progress that is leading to global warming, but the behaviour of a tiny minority of the people living on this Earth, who are monopolising most of our resources for their own benefit and to gain maximum profit from them. They consume at a frenzied pace, with complete disregard for our natural surroundings.
We must reconcile ourselves with our environment. We need to understand that we are just a part of it, and that to live in harmony with our environment we must accept that we are simply its inhabitants. We must understand that a river, a mountain, a forest, a swamp, an ocean or a high plateau is an ecosystem in itself and that it too has its own existence. An existence that demands our attention.
We will start to do better, and so will the planet, which gives us its resources and its beauty, when we have understood that Earth is not here to serve us humans. That we do not own it. That we have no rights to it, except to protect it, with all its richness and diversity. And that we have better things to do with our lives than to measure our success through what we consume.
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.
Many of you spend hours in front of a computer screen. However, the world cannot be reduced to a few inches. To give you a different view of the world, I propose this photo, which you can use as wallpaper for your screen. For people with a sedentary lifestyle, it is recommended to take some time out to stretch, relax, walk a little. I also recommend you enjoy looking at this landscape while drinking your daily cup of favourite tea.
The existence of very good teas in Malawi is down to Alex. He is the only one to produce them. All the plantations in this country produce tea industrially, and harvest it with shears, but this was not right for Alex. He loves tea. He was born in Malawi, grew up on his grandfather’s plantation, and tea has been his whole life. So he researches, he documents the methods of making dark teas, green teas, semi-oxidised teas, white teas. He seeks out particular tools needed to produce them, from China or Taiwan. He makes teas in his own way, in his own style, with his terroir, his cultivars.
From Alex, I have chosen his Satemwa Dark, his Zomba Green and his Small Holders Black tea – produced through his association formed with small producers, and currently the best black tea from Africa. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
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.