This man dressed in red with a basket on his back, do you recognise him? He is filling his basket with the greatest care, delicately picking the best tea shoots, for you. A few fir trees can be seen through the mist. I hope that, at the bottom of your tree, in a few days’ time, he will place the finest teas in the world.
Looking at the liquor is one of the first steps in tea tasting. While the temperature of the cup slowly falls, we pay attention to the colour of the liquid. Green tea produces something pale, while black tea gives a more coppery tone. This does not mean darker tea has been infused for longer, or has a more pronounced fragrance than its neighbour. In fact there are green teas that have a remarkably powerful aroma, even after quite a short infusion. So we cannot conclude from this photo that the most aromatic tea will be the more coloured of the two.
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.
At a time when we are seeing our French flag flying everywhere, I have rediscovered this wonderful photo. Last May, when their country had just been hit by a serious earthquake, these children proudly showed off their “I love Nepal” slogans, with big heart-warming smiles on their faces. These children have every reason to love their beautiful country.
Last week I talked about how badly people are treating this planet. Instead of admiring it, they want to possess it. They see it as their property. They persecute it until its resources run dry; they pollute and destroy it, with no consideration for future generations. A few hours later, in central Paris, people were massacring their fellow humans.
Now it is my turn to light a candle, close my eyes and reflect on this human disaster. And not just this one. There are other disasters we never talk about. They affect us less because they are far away. Yet they affect as many people: our brothers and sisters, ourselves.
When someone asked him about the attacks in Paris and the prayforparis hashtag, the Dalai Lama said he did not understand how we can ask the divine to solve problems we have brought upon ourselves. It is not logical, he said. It is up to humans to solve problems caused by humans.
So when will we start showing some humanity? Some kindness? A desire for harmony?
A few days ago I was lucky enough to meet the monk, Matthieu Ricard. It was a joy to listen to him speak. When you hear him, you feel light. You tell yourself that happiness is our responsibility. The happiness of others, first (ours comes indirectly, like the cherry on the cake). A few days later, I was in Nepal. I was helping a planter friend who is starting a great project, taking over an abandoned tea plantation between Kathmandu and Tibet. After walking for several hours between tea plants that were often taller than us, we sat down to catch our breath. We turned around to admire the view, and luckily just at that moment the sunlight pierced through. A light unlike any other. Something very beautiful, a halo of light that caressed the tea plants.
I thought about that fine English word, “enlightened”, I thought again of Matthieu Ricard, and I thought about the beauty of our planet, of course. As we sat there, my friend and I marvelled at it. It illuminated us. But why is it so difficult for so many people to feel this beauty? Why don’t they see it? Why do men keep trying to destroy our poor planet, day after day, throughout our lives? Why do they bring in their tarmac, plastic and bulldozers, their manic industrialisation and advertising hoardings, their deforestation and frenzied consumption, to lay waste to this Earth? For whose selfish happiness? And where is the Other? Who is thinking of our future generations?
Many Sri Lankans have climbed the slopes of Adam’s Peak at least once in their lifetime.
It is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists, who worship Buddha’s footprint at the summit, but also for Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The ascent begins with a walk through a tea field, which you cross on your way to the top.
It is difficult to find good tea in Sri Lanka, and here is a photo of the guilty party. Known as a rotorvane, it puts the leaves under enormous pressure and can roll three times the quantity of freshly withered leaves as a traditional roller. The oxidation time can then be reduced to a few minutes because the leaves have been squashed so much.
This procedure is widely used in the mountains in the centre of the country. It has the advantage of increasing yield, but what is the point when you gain strength in lieu of any subtlety of flavour and aroma.
The British had an instinct for comfort. They built magnificent bungalows during the colonial era. These buildings still exist today, surrounded by tea fields, like here in Gorthie (Sri Lanka). I was lucky to stay there recently. It was all very refined: they serve delicious food, and with the first light of dawn you are seduced by the beauty of the garden.