After a visit in the amazing Reunion island entered World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2010, French overseas department placed on Indian ocean between Madagascar and Mauritius, we had the pleasure to savour and discover the only French production of tea, and organic on top of that!
In Reunion Island, tea production is not a new thing. It has been introduced on the Island in 1965 as part of culture diversification. In 1967, renowned tea, the production amount to 29 tons and 40 tons in 1969 then stopped in 1972.
In July 2005, Johnny Guichard took responsibility of an old exploitation of tea dates back to 1955 and refitted it.Perched at 1 100m altitude at the foot of primary forest of Reunion, the exploitation is located in Grand Coud at the south east of Reunion Island.
The exploitation can boasts being the only tea production of France. However, Johnny Guichard has specialized in organic premium tea under the brand Le Labyrinthe En Champ Th with white tea and white tea-flavoured with many flavours; cinnamon, lemongrass, rosat geranium, lemon geranium, lemon eucalyptus, vanilla, mint, lemongrass.
Family production, the exploitation of organic white tea of 3 hectares produces 4-6 tons of organic white tea per year.
Process of Production:
The harvesting of organic white tea from the exploitation is done throughout the year except in June and July.
Tea production as any agricultural crop follows a specific process. The distinctive feature of the exploitation of the Labyrinth is that each step is done by hand.
1 – The first step is the cutting of tea plants.
2 – Tea culture : tea grows until it reaches its size of harvest.
3 – Picking : Once the tea has reached harvestable size, it is picked by hand. But not at any time of day, in the morning when the dew is still present.
In Asia, they often practice imperial picking; only the small terminal bud is removed. But white tea harvesting can also be done by fin picking (bud and the two leaves after), which the Labyrinth uses.
4. Drying: tea is naturally dried in a workshop, away from the sun, on crates.
5. Flavour: tea-flavoured on the exploitation is made with different dried plants apart, then, they are mixed with the white tea.
6. Grinding : tea is ground by hand.
7. Triage: It is done by hand, the large stems is removed to keep only the leaves and buds. However it mays that thin stems manage to slip into the lot.
8. Packaging and labelling: it is still done by hand. The objective of the Labyrinth in a medium or long-term is to acquire a machine that can do this work and allow them to pack quicker larger quantities of white tea.