Award-Winning Exploration, and Tea Fuelled Mayhem
There are few places on the planet that offer up the kind of clarity, pace, and stunning insight that the tea-stained lands or mountain-rich geographies do. The sacred green and stunning ominous heights are sacrosanct by virtue that they offer up nature-born stimulation and encourage awe all at once.
Here is a space that exists entirely for the ‘green’ and the ‘heights’ and their influences and abilities to soothe and cleanse. Crucially too, this is a space for the precious people of the land who live within or around these two gifts of the heavens – for it is the people and their tales, their calluses and anecdotes that give lifeblood to all.
Here, a selection of images, interviews, insights and thoughts that deal with tea and mountains – in my mind at least, a sacred life-giving duo.
Tea – A seven-hour all night tea session (and the ensuing rapture) in a Taiwanese teahouse, my own ‘tea fix’ was fixed. Asia’s great green commodity has (like few other luxuries) soothed, fed and stimulated. Tea holds a vital role as one of the few constants in my life – a constant that has only become more satisfying with time.
Mountains – Their serene and brutal abilities had been honed into me from years of climbing and wild escapades that began in Switzerland as a child. In the immaculate words of an ancient Himalayan muleteer, “the mountain’s laws are unambiguous, honest and eternal; you either survive it’s challenges with wisdom and strength or you simply perish in its elements”.
North Face – Ambassador
Kora – Ambassador
Having lived for most of the past decade in Asia, my work has contentedly centered on indigenous mountain cultures, oral histories, an an obsessive interest in tea. Photos and stories have appeared on three continents in such award-winning publications as UNESCO, Kyoto Journal, Outpost Magazine, TRVL, and the South China Morning Post, as well as The Toronto Star, World Geographic, The Spanish Expedition Society, The Earth, Silkroad Foundation, South China Post Newspaper, Outdoor Exploration, and Traveler amongst others. Various pieces of photographic work rest in private collections in Europe, North America and Asia.
Happily, I serve as Asian-editor-at-large for Canada’s multi-award-winning, ‘Canadian Magazine of the Year’, Outpost Magazine.
As of December, 2012, I’m serving as an ambassador for The North Face and write adventure blogs for them at http://www.quyeba.com/ for the mainland Chinese market. Everything from tea journeys into the jungles to my mountain wanderings will be covered. I’m also proud to be serving as Explorer in Residence for Kora which is creating some of the warmest base-layers on the planet from yak wool sourced from the Himalayas.
As well as having consulted for National Geographic, my recent ‘green union’ with Templar Foods acting as a global Tea Ambassador allows me much selfish time within the tea realms of Asia not simply to slurp but to source. Having led expeditions into the Himalayas it gives me great pleasure to be uniting with Wild China to lead exclusive expeditions along portions of the Ancient Tea Horse Road. Recently National Geographic Traveler named the Tea Horse Road tour I lead with Wild China as one of their “50 Trips of a Lifetime“.
Having spoken to students, universities and organizations in Asia, Europe and North America on tea culture and oral Himalayan narratives I am convinced of both the importance of Asia’s eternal green leaf, tea, and the mighty (and not so mighty mountains) that rise above so much. This blog gives me a forum to vent about both.
Recently, along with Aurelien and Allen Leftick, I set up Jalamteas which features limited editions of hand sourced teas from Yunnan province. It is the realization of a slightly obsessive dream to get authentic teas to drinkers who care about genuine Puerhs with a story of the people and places behind them.
My book ‘The Ancient Tea Horse Road’ – (Viking-Penguin Publishers) – ebook version here – detailing my 7.5 month groundbreaking journey traveling and chronicling one of the world’s great (and largely forgotten) trade routes, The Tea Horse Road. Like many obsessions, this journey to uncover more of its physical and cultural history will never really end.
Home for me in northwestern Yunnan – close to my two ‘needs’, mountains and tea – allows me unbridled access to both.
In May of 2011 myself and Michael Kleinwort undertook a month long exploration by foot along a previously undocumented nomadic salt route through Qinghai province which not only took the month of May but also got us awarded as the joint ‘Wild China Explorer of the Year’ award for 2011.
In February (2012), Outpost Magazine, Revo Sunglasses, Mountain Hardwear, GV Snowshoes, and Wild China sponsored myself, Bill Roberts and Roberto Gibbons Gomez on a revisiting expedition (becoming the first documented westerners to do so) along an ancient pilgrimage/trade route. As always the intention was to bring these crucial routes to light and give them and the cultures around them some sort of greater perspective. So much of the cold weave of Himalayan history is through that vital facet: the oral narrative.