Tea, from the tree to the cup
I visited the first and most important organic tea producer in France: it is located in Grand-Coude, in the Highlands of Saint-Joseph. The natural maze, weaving its way under the giant tea plants, is well worth the visit!
You absolutely must go up to Grand-Coude, during your holiday on Reunion Island, to discover one of the most beautiful landscapes on the island. The small village sits on a plateau bordered by deep gorges and, beyond that, vertiginous ramparts. What a wonderful view, 1,200m above sea level!
Another good reason to head into the hills of Saint-Joseph: you can find the first agricultural exploitation of Reunion Island, and the whole of France, which produces tea. A dozen or so years ago Johnny and Emmanuelle decided to rise to the challenge and create Labyrinthe En Champ Thé.
Under the giant tea plants
Today our guide is Yoann, Johnny’s brother. He tells us that on several occasions throughout its history, the Bourbon Island tried to grow tea. Particularly here, in Grand-Coude, but it was all abandoned in 1972. Some tea plants survived on the property, but as they were no longer cut to breast height to make harvesting easier, they grew up to impressive heights.
Rather than cutting them, Johnny had the idea to develop this forest by creating a pathway in the form of a maze. We enter it as the mist settles on the plateau of Grande-Coude. It feels just like Alice in Wonderland, as we wander through a succession of tunnels made from plants trying to find our way.
Teas and scented plants
We meet Yoann again at the end. He takes us into the neighbouring plantation, where the tea plants form lines of small bushes, whose leaves are regularly harvested. Then we visit the old fashioned garden, where delightfully scented plants grow: several species of geranium, including rose geranium, which is distilled to produce a valuable essential oil. We smell the scents of rose, citronella, pepper. A feast for the senses!
The tour of Labyrinthe En Champ Thé ends at the Tea House, a very friendly and particularly well stocked place selling their sometimes very original products such as tea jelly or syrup. There we learn the differences between black, green, white and imperial tea and taste scented cups from the local plants. So much to discover in a single morning!