For centuries, tea travelled on the backs of donkeys, horses and yaks. There were a number of tea routes. They started at the Chinese provinces that produced compressed teas (Yunnan, Sichuan, etc.) and led to Tibet. In those days, tea was traded for salt or horses.
To perpetuate this tradition today, some people hold re-enactments, and you can watch hundreds of animals file past, carrying cakes of tea.
A farmer who grows tea might have to deal with various threats to his crop: insects (spiders, mosquitoes, etc.) that damage leaves, caterpillars which like to eat young plants, fungi that grow along the trunks of the bushes. But there are solutions to these problems that don’t involve pesticides. One is to encourage the presence of birds and other predators by growing hedges near the tea plants. Another important factor is altitude – pests are much less of a problem at low temperatures. Nature must be respected, and tea should be planted in a suitable environment. In the same way that we don’t build a house in a bog, tea should not be planted in an environment that is too humid, at low altitude, on flat, undrained land that is intensively farmed and stripped of all other trees and plants. In those circumstances, it is likely not to be organic. It makes sense when you think about it.
When I’m in Japan, I like to visit the gardens whenever I get a chance. They are incredibly beautiful. Peaceful, silent places where invisible gardeners with a keen eye for perfection trim every little shoot with scissors. They sculpt living things to create an incredible spectacle of a landscape, in which a simple mound symbolises Mount Fuji.
I come here often with a book, interspersing reading with gazing at the view. It’s pretty much my idea of heaven.
We know that social media algorithms are programmed to put you in contact with similarly-minded people to make you believe that everyone shares the same views as you, and at the start of this new year, I’m making a resolution to spend less time on social networks, smart phones and tablets, because that’s not the real world. I wish you all more time spent meeting real people. For your delight. I wish you a real year!