Italian Cuisine World Summit in Dubai this November

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Mauritius - La Route du Thé

Bois Cheri Tea Plantation - A serene place that quiets the mind

You might want to grab a cuppa tea first...

"The value of visiting countries such as Mauritius - that are more or less still virgin, untampered by man's temperaments or material needs - is that it provides, with simple beauty, a welcome break from big cities' conditioning, greed and general dissatisfaction. 

You, all of a sudden, are left to absorb so much nature that you are able to see life as it is. You become one with the element, experiencing nature's all mighty power over you. And if you stop to breathe, you then realise: you are no longer - or in fact have never been, nor ever will be - in control. Ironically, only then will you really breathe in relief! Along comes a stranger with a friendly smile, in which you see yourself. As the collective human condition - one and the same! All the beautiful people of earth, absolutely relevant, and utterly collective! Us all, in the presence of mother earth and its reminder of what and how the cycles run. We are all visitors in its beautiful greatness, if only we'd stop to see it! The world is beautiful and when right in it, we must stop, take a deep breath and take it all in. No other way to experience its beauty."  

                             - I penciled this down on the way back from Bois Cheri Tea Plantation

Let me explain ...

I had by now been spending days in such abundant nature, from beaches, to plantations, to volcano crater, to cane fields... All of which completely natural, very simple and extremely green as well as colourful! I had been talking to farmers, fishermen, plantation workers, our driver and the chefs I cooked with, as well as the occasional tourists, all of whom come from completely different backgrounds, experiences and lifestyles. Yet, everybody has a relaxed almost distant look on their faces, every one smiles.

The side view of the lake
I had by now visited many a museums, reading, listening and watching this island's history from the day the
Dutch set foot, until today. From glorious moments, to their not so proud times of famine, slavery, and poverty as well as their communal uprising at some point. And when you see things from a distance you tend to have a better perspective, and all I could see is that we are all the same. We all have more or less the same stories, stresses, celebrations...
Then I went on the tea route, to discover Vanilla and Tea. Two of the world's produce that I have always been interested in exploring. Vanilla because I love the smell and because it does not grow everywhere. Tea always fascinated me, because of pictures I used to see of triangle hooded workers plucking away tea leaves even when machines are more than ready to do so.

Bois Cheri
So off I went and did all that I had planned. Two things I had not planned though. The first, was that day the island was receiving warnings of Cyclone, and everyone was fussing about it, and following news and cyclone bulletins. I only knew that cyclones are extreme storms of wind and rain. But that was that, and had no idea what the implications would be. The second non-planned event was being so completely taken by the heavenly quality of Bois Cheri's scenery! There was something about that place - especially looking down from the top of the hill onto the tea trees and the lake - that made me slow down. Literally, everything seemed to have slowed down, and I was breathing deep, completely enchanted. I felt like I wanted the moment to go on forever! And those were the words inspired by that visit!

If not for anything at all, then do go on La Route du The and allow yourself time to sit on the Terrace of Bois Cheri's restaurant on top of the hill. Take it in, and you will see the place is heavenly!

The lovely Bois Cheri work force

While you are at it, drop by the museum, and factory where you will see the process of tea production and will learn a thing or two about good quality tea, flavouring teas, and the different size teas for different uses... you will also learn more about the journey of tea around the world, the evolution of tea service and tea gadgets...

Once you are done from the tour, you will get to sample 12 different types of Bois Cheri tea, in different flavours along with their famous tea biscuits, which by the way taste exactly the same as when I had them 10 years ago! All of which can be done on that 'trans terrace', if I may so call it! You can even have lunch at their restaurant, which I found to be the perfect place for a destination wedding! lol here see for yourself the picture below.

Bois Cheri Restaurant - Perfect for Destination Weddings

Second in line on the Route du The is
Le Saint Aubin Vanilla plantation, which is a must if you are a baker, or into chocolates and confections... Bourbon Vanilla is known to be the best vanilla bean in the world. While it originates from Bourbon Islands, a relative of Mauritius, it had been brought to Mauritius and planted there only at Le Saint Aubin Plantation. It is organically grown, and very superior in quality. The plantation sells its produce to exclusive clientele of famous chefs and restaurants. Only a little vanilla is kept to be sold at the plantation. It is very likely, therefore, that you might get there and find that they ran out of Vanilla! Especially that its production is a lengthy process, where it takes 9 months to mature from flower to a bean ready to be picked. Then it is laid out in trunks for 8 months to develop its aromas!
These are all things you will learn from visiting the plantation.

Le Saint Aubin - Vanilla Plantation

Mind you that Saint Aubin Bourbon Vanilla is only sold at the plantation. The rest of the Vanilla sold on the island is Madagascan, or Tahitian vanilla, which are good (way better than what we get here in stores), but not the same as Saint Aubin, which is the sole remaining vanilla plantation on the island! With that said, all merchants in all markets will cross their hearts and tell you they sell St. Aubin Vanilla, but now you know better. Do buy from them (I bought from both) but bargain and know what is what ;)

While at St. Aubin, there is a little farm of animals including ducks, turtles, deer, turkey and some other birds that you can check out. There is a gift shop where you can buy souvenirs, vanilla and vanilla products, as well as the St. Aubin specialty rum since the 1800's...

Domaine des Aubineaux
is the first stop on the Route du The, and is a showcase of Colonial Houses, very spicific to the colonial era in Mauritius. The houses are turned into museums, kept as they were back then, with photos from life in those days. Very interesting to see if you are into historical exploration.

La Route du The (The Sugar Route) includes three stops as follows

Bois Cheri Tea Trees by the lake
  1. Domaine des Aubineaux
  2. Bois Cheri
  3. St. Aubin

Hope you have enjoyed reading about The Tea Route, and that it makes you look forward to visiting and exploring. I have posted the Recipe Cinnamon Glazed Vanilla Tea Muffins / Loaves on this link, which celebrates Bois Cheri Tea, and St. Aubin Vanilla. Give it a try, I think you will love it.

before you go, do let me know if you have tried some real good teas that you recommend everyone should try, and if you have ever visited a tea or vanilla plantation that you found extraordinary and recommend?

Relative Links
Coming up - Tried & Tested Mauritius Restaurants & Must Eats...

Come back soon for more
Till then bake Loaves ;)

I go on my Culinary Trips on my own behalf, self-funded and do not earn any income for recommending any accommodation, restaurant, activity...etc. I share my experience with you to hopefully inspire you to try the locations and activities which I have personally found outstanding. The views expressed in this blog are my own. 
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