ARCHIVE FOR July 2010

Tea leaves that are worth a detour

30 July 2010
Tea leaves that are worth a detour

In the south of Sri Lanka, tea is mostly grown by individual farmers who cultivate their own land. They sell the tea leaves just after the harvest, as they don’t have the infrastructure to process them. The farmers don’t have to go far to find buyers: their freshly plucked tea leaves are very much wanted by the local tea factories, who even go and collect the bags filled with fresh tea leaves themselves because of competition.

I spent hours going round the farms in one of these 4x4s fitted out with trays and it’s an incredible experience: we sometimes had to get the bags high in the mountains, skidding on the steep slopes, driving along vertiginous drops, crossing forests under cries of monkeys. We’d then suddenly end up on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, around farmers breeding cattle and living out of different cultivations.

So we’d buy the tea leaves, chat a little, maybe drink a tea together. We’d talk. We’d laugh. And it’d then be time to go and collect more tea bags from other isolated farms.

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The Sumela monastery

27 July 2010
The Sumela monastery

In case you had of Turkey an image of a very hot country, I’d like to tone it down a bit. If tea enjoys being on these mountains lining the Black Sea, it’s exactly because here when you climb up a little, it’s much cooler and there are plenty of clouds and rain. “It rains all the time in Rize and if it doesn’t rain it snows !” have I often heard.

The Sumela monastery –whose picture can only be taken by patient people- is precisely located in the area where tea is grown. You can notice that nature looks close to the one found in the Alps. And these threads of fog remind me of the Himalayan foothills. So now you surely understand why tea enjoys it here !

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The Sumela monastery


The Sumela monastery

In case you had of Turkey an image of a very hot country, I’d like to tone it down a bit. If tea enjoys being on these mountains lining the Black Sea, it’s exactly because here when you climb up a little, it’s much cooler and there are plenty of clouds and rain. “It rains all the time in Rize and if it doesn’t rain it snows !” have I often heard.

The Sumela monastery –whose picture can only be taken by patient people- is precisely located in the area where tea is grown. You can notice that nature looks close to the one found in the Alps. And these threads of fog remind me of the Himalayan foothills. So now you surely understand why tea enjoys it here !

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Tea is in the bag

23 July 2010
Tea is in the bag

What a beautiful warm evening light illuminating these string bags filled with fresh tea leaves. This is happening in Dellawa (Sri Lanka). In a few minutes, these leaves will be taken to the top floor of the tea factory where they’ll undergo the first stage of processing: withering. A stage that can take up to 20 hours for this type of black tea and consists simply in remaining the leaves spread out in thin, long and well ventilated trays. Water will thereby be taken out of the fresh tea leaves.

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Under the palm trees of Nantou, Dong Ding tea

20 July 2010
Under the palm trees of Nantou, Dong Ding tea

In Taiwan, in the Nantou region for example, well-known for its Wu Long teas (Dong Ding, etc.), the tall and spindly trunks of the palm trees contrast with the rows of tea plants and give the landscape a very graphic appearance.

I have to admit that this impression is emphasized by the fact that I have been a little disrespectful to the posers in the foreground by chopping their head off…

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Cheerful plucker looking like a tea missionary

16 July 2010
Cheerful plucker looking like a tea missionary

On the Terai plain (area straddling Nepal and India), I’ve seen them use strange crosses to mark the height of tea plants. The cross is stuck into the ground and only the shoots growing above the horizontal bar are plucked. It makes this cheerful plucker look a bit like a tea missionary.

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Iced tea: a sugar free, healthy and refreshing drink

13 July 2010
Iced tea: a sugar free, healthy and refreshing drink

Last Friday, I spent my whole day in my tasting room. This room is usually cool, but here it was so hot that after having tasted a large number of Darjeeling 2nd flush, I felt like having a cold tea. I prepared myself two different teas, because I like making comparisons: a Thé des Songes and a Thé des Sables.

The recipe of iced tea is extremely simple: put 15 grams of tea in one litre of water, let it brew for 30 minutes, then filter the tea with the help of a tea strainer or a filter and it’s ready! After that, up to you to leave the carafe or the bottle in the fridge, if you want an iced tea rather than a cold tea. When serving, and as a suggestion of garniture, a few ice cubes with summer fruits taken in the ice (blueberries, raspberries, redcurrants): it’s nice and delicious.

To help you choosing the delicous teas to drink cold, here are some of my favourites: Bancha Hojicha, Grand Jasmin Chung Feng, Genmaicha, Tie Guan Yin, Thé des Sables, Thé des Enfants, Thé du Hammam, Thé des Songes Blancs, as well as most flavoured teas with citrus fruits or berries…

Enjoy!

P.S.: on the picture, just behind the carafe full of Thé des Songes, one of the tea trees I received when I was in Japan last April. I take great care of it and it returns it good: it has already doubled in size!

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Ye Yingkai, producer of Fujian teas

9 July 2010
Ye Yingkai, producer of Fujian teas

Ye Yingkai, pictured beside me, is a great connoisseur of Fujian teas. His story is singular, as he started out working for the State Corporation in charge of tea exports in his province, before forming his own company. He then acquired a farm, fields, in order to produce his own tea. Parallel to that, he hunts out great Tie Guan Yin, rare Da Hong Pao, as well as extremely fine jasmine teas.

He has been working with Le Palais Des Thés for nearly 20 years, and of course he’s a great friend of mine.

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Green tea from a wide angle

6 July 2010
Green tea from a wide angle

Of course, from a wide angle, it looks both a little easy and spectacular. Here, it extends the building, shortens the individuals and spreads tea just the way it is required. Spreading the leaves is in fact exactly what has to be done after plucking to avoid fermentation. All the leaves in the baskets are put together and spread into a thin layer just like this women wearing a white headdress has just done. And since green tea (a Bai Mao Hou, “Hairy White Monkey”, to be precise) is going to be made here, armfuls of tea leaves will soon be roasted in a big wok.

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White tea withering

2 July 2010
White tea withering

White teas are one of the Fujian district’s (China) main specialties. The most well-known ones are named Bai Mu Dan (White Peony) and Yin Zhen (Silver Needles).
The manufacturing process of white tea is quite simple, as it can be summed up in two words: withering and firing.
Traditionally, white tea is withered in the open air, just like here on these large bamboo pans which have been placed according to the course of the sun. This procedure will last from 48 to 60 hours. It is thus better to take the colour of the sun in consideration before plucking the leaves, in order for the harvest not to be ruined by the rain!

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