Tea, Mountains and The Close of a Year. Tributes and Moments

‘The Rice Eater’. A particularly strategic rice coveting monkey in Kathmandu who provided a spectacle lasting for 20 minutes.

A new year comes and some looking back at moments and a summoning back of experiences and people seems required to pay homage to time having passed. This contemplation isn’t something noble but rather something of appreciation, and it very much more than Tea and Mountains…though they will always tinker with time and moments. Even the darker moments can be savored in hindsight as they too need thoughts and some time.

Sacred Nilgiri in mottled light and cloud in Mustang, Nepal, counted as one of the most impactful mountain moments.

My own year has been another on the road more often than not, but a year that has benefited from being around those who are very much entrenched and intact in their space and time. As I move, I learn that there is much to be concerned with and even more to be moved and inspired by.

A sampling during a tea sourcing trip to Xishuangbanna, Yunnan. Few things can bring such joy as a line up of well made teas all a’waiting a sample. These Bulang village teas were in order from left to right: stunning, ok, and ok…

Those moments have provided something tangible and the people have been very much things intact and though they might not see their own spaces or relationships with them as anything exotic, they teach so that I have more appreciation for each space and moment.

Elegant and quietly efficient, our driver Surinder, drove like languid dervish from Pokhara to Jomsom after our team missed a plane because of winds. Surinder also knew tea spots along the entire route to sate thirsts.

A friend once said to me that if one stayed in the present tense there wouldn’t be regrets, nostalgia, or ideals; there would only be the moment right now. I cannot imagine getting this right…there needs, in my mind, to be some recollection of moments past and summoning back from the memory and sensory palaces.

Growing in arching green shapes, this Edible Hibiscus in Hawaii became one of the green discoveries of the palate.

Even when illusory, memories provide some settings and pivot points to ease back into, even if briefly. Bad teas were sipped and stunners were heaved.

That rare commodity grace is alive and well in isolated pockets, and integrity lies out there in simple and non-descript shapes.

Part of our Nature Camp earlier in the year, where inspiration was gained from the soil’s little secrets.

Many more moments, people, and breaths, occurred in this past year than can be mentioned here, but they too have contributed. Many more teas than can be commented upon were taken, and many milliseconds of mountain views and sumptuous mountain breaths were imbibed.

Our almost entirely Hawaiian crew in a moment of post-trek bliss with our immaculate Sherpa team. That notion of bonding occurs very tangibly in the mountains.

There are too, teas and moments that need some critique in a time where it seems the fashion to either viciously attack an idea or an individual, or (perhaps equally negative) to languish praise upon each and every leaf or person hoping that in doing so, that nothing negative will ever be directed back.

Moments – and the ability to immerse in them – remain the perfect foil for so much that is chaotic and locked into vortexes of ‘business’ and rush.

Hong Kong Time

As always the mountains, their people, and tea, have given much this year. Julie and I welcomed an incredible assembly of young Hawaiian women to an outdoor immersion camp on Big Island. The mountains and tea and their instruction were part of this immersive week into all things soil, air, and traditions, and the notion of interconnectedness once again rose strong. Collaborations as well were things of great force this year and it seems destined to continue in this way.

A view on Big Island that became part of many memories

This was a year, where a project to highlight the mountains and their people’s plight with that most fragile of resources, water, was pushed a little bit further ahead in Hong Kong.

Our film, The Tea Explorer, came out. A tribute to time, to tea and mountains and perhaps most of all, to the traders and travellers who dealt in tea…and to memories of a time when commodities passed across the great mountains.

4 of the pots that will continue to pour for years to come. 4 of my favourite pots come together for a little session with their respective leaves.

I had the good fortune to revisit an old tea trader in northern Mustang, Kunga, with an offering of tea that I had promised two years’ previous. Seeing him and bringing with me my wife Julie and friends was one of the great moments in recent times. We spoke of how neither of us had forgotten the promise, though he wondered why I would cart friends from leagues away into the mountains to meet an old man with little else than memories and paraphernalia of the days of trade…and I marvelled at how he could possibly think this.

Moments with Konga in Mustang in his home…with tea.

Reviewing all of this now in Southern Europe where I can shut down a little with my stash of tea leaves and some great local cheeses.

A Great New Year to all – One full of impact, friction, good teas, and moments.

About JeffFuchs

Bio Having lived for most of the past decade in Asia, Fuchs’ work has centered on indigenous mountain cultures, oral histories with an obsessive interest in tea. His photos and stories have appeared on three continents in award-winning publications Kyoto Journal, TRVL, and Outpost Magazine, as well as The Spanish Expedition Society, The Earth, Silkroad Foundation, The China Post Newspaper, The Toronto Star, The South China Morning Post and Traveler amongst others. Various pieces of his work are part of private collections in Europe, North America and Asia and he serves as the Asian Editor at Large for Canada’s award-winning Outpost magazine. Fuchs is the Wild China Explorer of the Year for 2011 for sustainable exploration of the Himalayan Trade Routes. He recently completed a month long expedition a previously undocumented ancient nomadic salt route at 4,000 metres becoming the first westerner to travel the Tsa’lam ‘salt road’ through Qinghai. Fuchs has written on indigenous perspectives for UNESCO, and has having consulted for National Geographic. Fuchs is a member of the fabled Explorers Club, which supports sustainable exploration and research. Jeff has worked with schools and universities, giving talks on both the importance of oral traditions, tea and mountain cultures. He has spoken to the prestigious Spanish Geographic Society in Madrid on culture and trade through the Himalayas and his sold out talk at the Museum of Nature in Canada focused on the enduring importance of oral narratives and the Himalayan trade routes. His recently released book ‘The Ancient Tea Horse Road’ (Penguin-Viking Publishers) details his 8-month groundbreaking journey traveling and chronicling one of the world’s great trade routes, The Tea Horse Road. Fuchs is the first westerner to have completed the entire route stretching almost six thousand kilometers through the Himalayas a dozen cultures. He makes his home in ‘Shangrila’, northwestern Yunnan upon the eastern extension of the Himalayan range where tea and mountains abound; and where he leads expeditions the award winning ‘Tea Horse Road Journey’ with Wild China along portions of the Ancient Tea Horse Road. To keep fueled up for life Fuchs co-founded JalamTeas which keeps him deep in the green while high in the hills.
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