Almost time. In the living room at home there is an ever-growing pile of things I want to take with me on the trip. In a week I fly to Taiwan, Nepal and India to hunt for tea. I say hunt and that is really what it feels like. I remember well how last year I packed my bag to get tea in Japan and China. The adventures still influence the things that I do and the way I do them.
Then Crusio had just started with tea and I didn’t need very much so I could wander relaxed around tea fields, hoping to find beautiful things. One year later and I grab my bag now with more experience in terms of what I need to take. I depart to Taiwan, Nepal and India to buy a large quantity of tea. I will be travelling more than a month so it is essential that I pack wisely.
It all begins with a whole mountain of paperwork. Every country has its own rules for entry. After loads of paperwork and having had very many passport photos taken, I get beautiful visas and stamps in my passport. Then the beautiful puzzle of the whole trip, to have every day smoothly planned. I will travel alone so it is useful to organize a number of things here in the Netherlands. I look for a guide in every country. Someone who knows the region, speaks the language and can guide me in the country. To find them is an amazing trick but the wonderful thing is someone always crosses my path. This is easily possible through the love of tea and the taste that we share. I usually don’t know the guide and sometimes travel for weeks with them. I prepare by reading mountains of books about the country. Not just Lonely Planet but particularly books about culture and etiquette. This gives me the information that I need to communicate with everyone in the way that is preferred in that specific country. For instance, should I clean my plate or leave some food on it? What kind of gift-giving is usual? How should you approach someone? I want to answer all of this type of question before I leave. Further, I also get an idea before departure of what kind of tea I want but actually I want to stay open for what I taste there and what I come across.
I have planned a visit for every day of the trip to a tea farmer, plantation, factory or museum. Days are blocked out to enjoy plucking on plantations, and to travel around searching for hidden pearls of tea plantations. What else do I need? Now is the most difficult of all: the gifts. It is difficult to buy enough gifts for all of the tea farmers, guides and host families, particularly enough for all of the days that I have. I dedicate one large portion of my suitcase to that: from licorice to coffee; from cheese to small figurines. Variation saves you and particularly very, VERY many. And then photographs of the companies where we sell tea so that the people that we collaborate with will trust that it is used wisely. You need that to do business, especially to be able to sell good tea.
On the mountain of stuff there is naturally a beautiful camera with which I will document everything and three empty notebooks to record all of my adventures. A pair of old trainers and I’m ready to go!
You can follow my tea travels on http://thee.crusio.nl/language/en