Monday, September 30, 2013

Natural predator

 Hidden among the leaves, she is watching. Patience is her virtue, stealth is her credo.

 Still and stiff, she is waiting for the right moment to strike. She is a stem, and suddendly, she becomes a voracious predator.

Strong and agile, she will lead her prey in a final dance...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jingmai celebrates!

Last week, a wealthy family of Jingmai’s main village honored the gods. Their tea business being successful, they need to keep the good fortune with them, and to do so, they organized a massive event.  People from all the area showed up and gathered to eat, drink, dance and pray. Among other things, two cows and twelve pigs were necessary to satisfy the guests’ appetite. Dancing is also a big thing in the Dai culture, dozens of teams succeed each other, basically arranged by village and age. This is the day when  nobody goes to work, it’s an opportunity to share the news and make new friends. This was one of the many festivities held in Jingmai this year.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Modernity and traditions

A new generation of tea farmers is on the way. In the remote countryside of Yunnan, the youth are like everywhere else, they want to be connected, they want to share with the world. I took this picture on a festival day, the nice girls i stayed with took pictures all day and put them on the social networks, sharing them with people in Beijing and Shanghai,thousands of kilometres away. Technology is a way to promote minority culture, just like a good cup of Pu-erh tea!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The importance of biodiversity in tea farming

What is biodiversity? 

Biodiversity means diversity at different scales of life. It encompasses the diversity of landscapes in an area, the diversity of species in an ecosystem or even the diversity of individuals within a species.

Applied to the scale of a tea garden, it could mean having different kinds of plant: grass, bushes and trees, different families of animal that make a large food web: herbivorous and carnivorous insects, worms, spiders, birds, and even mammals. Among each families, you would get diversity, insects could be colorful, or, on the contrary, use stealth to blend in, they could fly on the top of the trees or crawl on the ground... Their different morphology gives them different abilities, which makes them fullfill a specific function in the ecosystem. Genetic diversity of the tea bushes has also a large impact on the capacities of the tea garden.

The ancient tea forest of Jingmai mountain

Recently established natural tea gardens in Jingmai mountain

A diversified landcape in Lincang county 

What are the advantages of maintaining biodiversity in the tea garden? 

Biodiversity gives resilience to an ecosystems, it means the environment is better at handling change and going back to its original state. Hedgegrows are a perfect fence against floods, deep roots stabilize the soil and prevent landslides, different insects species are as many abilities available to adapt to an invasive species threat. In short, biodiversity makes the field better at fighting off pest invasions and extreme weather episodes. Resilisence is a crucial parameter in agriculture, many fields are devastated by heavy rainstorms, frost, floods, wind or disease. While losing a wheat harvest is a disaster for one year, having a tea garden ravaged by fungi or frost puts an end to dozens of years of care. Economic security for farmers starts from bringing resilience to their fields.

As a consequence of increased resilience, a well managed natural tea garden is not dependent on insecticides and fungicides. The natural protection offered by the fauna living in the gardens is sufficient to limit the damage caused by pest to acceptable levels. It is ecological and free.

“I do the job for free!”

In a healthy soil, some bacterias are able to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into nitrogen usable by plants. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient used by plants, it is one of the three elements brought by fertilizers (chemical or natural). A soil fit for life can host a lot of these bacterias and bring a consistant flow of nitrogen to the plants. Nitrogen fixing bacterias are also hosted on leguminous plants, this is why these plants need much less mineral nitrogen to grow, planting them in vacant parts of the field, cutting and burying them is a great way to enrich the soil in nitrogen; all for free!

 Finally, tea gardens with high biodiversity seem to give better tea than conventional plantations. In Yunnan, tea from natural tea gardens costs more than conventional plantation tea, its aroma is more complex and the mouth feeling is richer, but there are exceptions of course.

However, conventional plantations allow a higher output. By giving all the room and sunlight available to the tea bushes, the production yield is maximised. Currently, the largest demand is for cheap tea, therefore, producing a high amount of low quality tea is a stable way to make a living. Yet, the demand for high quality leaves and organic tea is growing. This demand, coupled with the need for environmental sustainability, could open the way to a switch in tea garden management, going from chemically managed gardens to biologically controlled ones. The second Green Revolution is on its way!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back to school

Finally back in Europe...

This stay in China was very instructive, i learned more about tea, chinese language, and the impermanence of life.  Now is time to go back to university, i’m happy i had to keep the student mind during the summer holiday. Each day spent in yunnan was an opportunity to learn.

 Tea hides many wonders, it’s up to you to find them. Some are right in your cup, others are at the source, up in the mountain, in the shade of a leaf.

Life is thriving in the tea gardens, and today, i will share a piece of Nature with you.


To be continued...