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An Enchanting Tea Forest, La Reunion

En Champ Thé (Play on words: Enchante) 

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{Translated: In the Fields of Tea. And, enchanted.}

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Because, a wonderful play on words is always my cup of tea (*badooom chhhhh) And because finding ourselves in a tea plantation is certainly not an opportuni-TEA to pass up!

We visited France’s sole tea plantation, which is only 4 hours away from South Africa. Possibly 5 if you take into account the drive up Reunion Island’s Grand-Coude (which means big bend, or elbow.) Perched on a mountain 1,200m above sea level, framed on either side by deep gorges, this narrow mountain top is literally like a giant’s bent arm resting on a sofa. (A really tall sofa.)

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VISIT THE HIGHLANDS OF SAINT JOSEPH~ LA GRAND-COUDE

Besides discovering the landscape’s scenic views, here you will find the only tea plantation in the whole of France. Sunlight, moisture, cool nights and the volcanic soil are ideal conditions to harvest a quality tea.

How do you know when a tree does not know the answer to something?

It Shrubs.

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So does tea come from a tree or a bush? Strangely, it’s a tree. I know, I was also a-mazed.

The history of the village begins in the 1920s when the cultivation of geranium was launched. It was replaced from the late 1960s by the culture of tea which had a great success until pricing became too high. And then, so did its trees.

Impressive 12 meter tall teas remain of a tea plantation abandoned roughly 40 years ago. Johnny and his wife Emmanuelle have revived this forest  and a newly cultivated tea plantation. Where we spent our morning.

Lost in the labyrinth of tea trees.

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In En Champ Thé, planted trees reach maturity after four or five years. Unlike the maze, the farmer, Johnny, masters the size by keeping the trees breast height, in order to facilitate harvest. Harvest is carried out about 9 times a year. ” The task is tedious because we collect only the bud and two leaves. It is so-called fine picking,” explains Johnny.  In 2016, five tons of tea were picked.  After drying, a little more than 500 kg of tea is produced.

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From the tree to the pot, we discovered and tasted the differences between black, green, white and imperial tea. A feast of the senses is experienced in the scented garden where we get to feel and smell the famous Geranium.

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What is so great about the Geranium? Only the greatest perfumers travelled to Reunion Island to hunt down the best geranium essential oil in the world: Bourbon geranium. The perfumeries swore by geraniums grown on Reunion Island, which were known to be of exceptional quality. Back then Bourbon geranium, originally from South Africa, was one of the great treasures of the island.

We got to experience the various perfumes of rose, citronella, and pepper. Which is distilled to produce a valuable essential oil

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It can be used to perfume your food. In the kitchen geranium adds its extraordinary fragrance to an array of beverages and food such as rhum arrangé (rum of Reunion), syrup, salad, jelly, ice cream, pastry and stuffings and sauces too.

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During a detour on our drive to drink tea, a tree branch (not a tea one) shattered our windscreen. Charlotte, our tea tour guide and translator spent most of her morning before our guided tour on the phone with our car rental service.

Little is known of the village of Grand Bend (Grand-Coude) by the inhabitants of the island of Réunion. Never having  travelled to Grand-Coude, the car rental representatives were in awe. (Aha, so it wasn’t just us!) Ready to transfer all our belongings from the cracked-windscreen-car to a car with a windscreen we could actually see out of. “Why rush, the windscreen is still broken AND there is always time for tea.” Johnny said, as he poured each of the car rental representatives a hot cup of tea.

And so we realized, a cup of tea makes everything better.

A country of hospitality, genorisity and friendliness. Why wouldn’t you want to visit Reunion Island, drink tea and get lost in a maze?

Simplici-TEA made A-MAZE-ing.

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To Visit :
Guided tours for 2 or more people on weekdays and weekends at:

10am and 2pm by reservation only 24 hours in advance.
Self-guided tours from Monday to Sunday, from 9am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm.

18 Rue Emile Mussard | Grand Coude, Saint-Joseph 97480, Reunion Island

EMAIL: info@enchampthe.com

En Champ The Website

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