This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting Abhishek Bagaria, the owner of Phuguri Tea Estate, Orange Valley Tea Estate and Millikthong Tea Estate. He hopes to be able to go ahead with the harvesting on his various plantations in the next couple of weeks.
After a cold, dry winter, the weather conditions are now favourable. We must now just hope that the political tensions which have reignited over the thorny issue of autonomy for the Darjeeling region will not lead to strikes and road blocks.
There are still hurdles to overcome before we can enjoy these Darjeeling teas – but they will be worth the effort!
There are different grades of rooibos, but not much difference between them. However, the “long cut” offers the most interesting experience in terms of fine flavours and powerful aromas. It is the most harmonious. It is the only grade I have bought for years.
An amusing detail: for rooibos tastings in South Africa, the cups are lit from beneath in order to judge the clarity of the liquor.
In a few weeks’ time, the spring tea harvest (first flush) will begin in Darjeeling. The weather is a decisive factor in determining the timing of the harvest, and Darjeeling fans will be as happy as I am to learn that it has finally just rained there, after a long period of dryness.
Anil Jha, the planter at Sungma, has just informed me that on the night of 16 February, between 18 and 32 millimetres of rain fell in the region.
As soon as they are plucked, the rooibos shoots are cut and sprinkled with water. Then the oxidation process can begin. This takes place outside and causes the leaves to change colour, from green to brown. When it has oxidised to the right degree, the rooibos is spread out on the ground in a fairly thin layer, so it can dry in the sun.
The rooibos harvest has begun, and I am happy to be here. The harvest lasts less than two months. South Africa is the only country that produces rooibos, a plant sometimes known as “red tea”, but which is not a tea at all.
Rooibos is rich in antioxidants and is completely free of caffeine. It is my favourite drink before going to bed.
It is only 38 degrees centigrade at the moment in this desert of stone and sand, situated three hours’ drive north-west of Cape Town (South Africa). This temperature is relatively clement, as rooibos is often harvested at around 45 degrees. The heat does not bother Aspalathus lineari, also known as rooibos. With roots that bury themselves to depths of up to four metres, the bushes seek coolness deep in the ground. I wish I could do the same!
I was lucky enough to travel to New York last week for the opening of the new Palais des Thés store in Soho (156 Prince Street). Here I am with my niece Aurélie Bessière who has been working with her husband Cy for two years to promote the Palais des Thés brand among Americans.
I was delighted to be able to meet dozens of attentive journalists throughout the course of the day. I showed them the best way to make tea, told them all about my work as a tea researcher and “tea sommelier”, and answered lots of questions. In the evening, Aurélie and I welcomed many guests.
It was a wonderful occasion and a exciting challenge now lies ahead: to encourage people to appreciate fine teas on that side of the Atlantic.
I like this hand that holds a cup of tea. A simple cup of tea. I like the way the cup is an extension of the hand. The cup and hand are as one, they know each other, they are made for each other. They are joined together.
Tea is nothing more than that. Tea is nothing more than flavoured water that sustains you and does you good. It is always there for you. A simple pleasure to be savoured in every moment.