In our hectic everyday lives, we gravitate towards a sense of peacefulness that brings contentment and fulfilment. We are present in the moment, receptive to the poetry of life and connected to everything around us.
Whether as products, experiences or destinations, these soothing escapes awaken the dormant facets of our inner essence – as does enjoying one of our carefully selected teas.
The long drive from Jakarta to Mount Halimun is filled with twists and turns, up and down hilly roads and broad tracks. Slowly we leave the city behind, bidding farewell to its ceaseless traffic jams and its palpable pollution, escaping the hustle and bustle and the never-ending cacophony of sounds, but also hoping to break the perpetual swing between the affectionate warm clasp of the outside and the abrupt coolness of the inside. As the urban landscape fades away in the rear-view mirror, our eyes open to nature’s untainted essence. All is shades of green for as far as our eyes can see. And that is only the beginning. The serener the environment appears to our sight, the rougher the road feels. Until we arrive. Being on Mount Halimun fills you with a sense of serenity that feels familiar yet long forgotten. Even more intensely so when the day stirs awake.
There is an enchanting sense of magic woven into the moment of twilight, where darkness and light converge for their first daily encounter. A gentle coolness envelops the surroundings and the air is imbued with a hint of dewiness, awaiting the sun to infuse its warmth. The anticipation becomes palpable: we are ready for the darkness to lift so we can discover how the hilly tea plantation looks and feels at sunrise.
The rolling green hills nestle into one another, creating a sense of unity further accentuated by the subtle veil of fog that gracefully spreads between them. Atop the trees, the profile of the higher hills takes shape – clear yet softened. The gradual shift of light paints the sky with hues of yellow, orange and rose as nature’s canvas evolves before our eyes. There is no rush, no imbalance, no spike of excitement for what we see. Our heartbeat slows, and so does our breathing. There is something disarming in the purity of the nature in front of us. We feel alive and connected in the deepest possible way. It feels as if our soul is embraced by this calming landscape. We smell the freshness of damp leaves as our fingertips softly slide between them. We listen to the sound of the tea plants holding their space against our body as we walk by. We feel all the feels and try to ingrain them in our memory. It is then that we realise that the experience of drinking tea has forever changed.
THE ALCHEMY OF ART AND SCIENCE ENTWINED
The fog has mostly lifted, unveiling a gentle, light blue sky adorned with hints of grey clouds, a new palette replacing the soft hues. It is around 7 in the morning and the tea leaf pluckers are making their way through the narrow paths between the tea plants.
Their hands move faster than our eyes can see, yet every motion looks like a gentle caress. Only the young leaves are plucked, “because the tea’s quality is intrinsically tied to the excellence of the leaves,” says Leo Schwarz, co-founder of East Java & Co, who carefully chose this plantation of organic tea, the first in Indonesia, for the company's tea selection – White, Green, Oolong and Black.
Tea was introduced to Indonesia by the Dutch in the 16th century while they were on a quest to find supplies of nutmeg, cloves and pepper. At East Java & Co it is a daily essential both in the shop and in the home of the co-founders, Yasmin and Leo, who enjoy it mostly as a cold brew. “By not heating the water, the tea retains its natural sweetness and avoids any hint of bitterness,” explains Leo, who favours a pure, authentic taste over anything else – in food, music and life itself.
“At times, tea can be sweet, while other times it carries a touch of bitterness. It can evoke joy or bring forth sadness. Tea is just like life itself.”
Tea plantation employee
After the tea is harvested, the withering begins. The leaves are laid on long tables under direct sunlight. The level of exposure to the air determines which tea will be made.
White and green tea undergo less oxidation and contain more polyphenols; these naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants prevent free radicals from forming in the body and thus promote health. Being fully oxidised, black tea contains fewer polyphenols, but this makes it no less enjoyable or appreciated. Oolong tea has the most complex aroma and can have different levels of oxidation, somewhere between green and black tea. The appearance and aroma of the tea leaves determines their readiness for the next process step. At the tea plantation, a single individual holds the authority to make this crucial decision – a right he has earned with over 15 years of expertise.
“There is as much art as there is science in tea production,” Leo tells us. Certain elements require the utmost precision and careful measurement, while others rely on the tea farmers’ seasoned expertise and intuitive understanding. In tea production, manual labour abounds. Observing the workers’ simple and functional motions reveals a captivating natural elegance, with a continuous repetition that is almost soothing to behold. Perhaps it is the subtlety of their movements that entices us to perceive an added layer of care invested in each gesture. Our memory recalls the genuine satisfaction of savouring something thoughtfully crafted and how we consciously appreciate every sip or bite. Because care and attention to detail do taste better.
THE SEARCH FOR INNER PEACE
With a desire to uphold the essence of serenity and mindful care found on Mount Halimun and in every sip of tea, we selected the artwork of an artist we know well and love for the exclusive AGOBAY tea collection. It honours us that selected works by Paul Cupido will enrich your tea experience. Born on the small Dutch island of Terschelling, where the inhabitants’ lives are intertwined with nature, Paul’s photographic explorations speak of the connection between mankind and nature, but are also a spiritual journey in themselves. His images float between light and darkness. Borne of the moment when day turns to night, they exist in a realm beyond time and without an abode. Their poetic allure draws us closer to the mystique of our tea and infuse our day and night with enchantment.
POETIC TEA ENSEMBLES
“Tea exudes a natural and effortless simplicity,” says Shinichiro Ogata, the Japanese designer, visionary and founder of OGATA. Just pour hot water over tea leaves, allowing their flavour to unfold, and you are ready to savour it. He has always appreciated it for its authentic essence. Although its harvest and production demand the utmost care, keen observation and meticulous precision, once it is ready, it’s simply a matter of enjoying it.
At AGOBAY, we have collaborated with East Java & Co and OGATA to bring you a selection of handpicked exclusive teas from Indonesia and Japan. Together, we invite you to celebrate a centuries-old tradition while adding a peaceful escape to your day.
OOLONG TEA, INDONESIA
Oolong is renowned for its broad variety of flavour, complexity and body. The careful handling of the tea leaves at various stages, particularly during exposure to air and bruising in bamboo rollers, is essential in defining its characteristic profile. Grown at a single estate on the cool and misty slopes of Mount Halimun, Indonesia, our Oolong Tea presents rich floral notes and a mineral finish reminiscent of the Javanese highlands and its volcanic soil.
BLACK TEA, INDONESIA
Black tea, with its deep reddish-gold hue, is often referred to as ‘red tea’ throughout many Asian regions. The tea leaves develop their bold and robust flavour profile through extended exposure to air. Grown at a single estate on the cool and misty slopes of Mount Halimun, Indonesia, our Black Tea evokes the deeply elegant complexity of Javanese spices, highland, terroir and culture.
GREEN TEA, INDONESIA
Green tea is deeply ingrained in the daily traditions of the East. Appreciated for its refreshing and invigorating characteristics, this tea’s rejuvenating spirit and natural green colouring are preserved by managing its exposure to air with precision. Grown at a single estate on the cool and misty slopes of Mount Halimun, Indonesia, our Green Tea tastes clean, bright and delicately balanced – a genuine Javanese soul.
WHITE TEA, INDONESIA
White tea owes its name to the pearly hair that emerges on the young, unopened tea buds. Harvested before the leaves are fully open, it is celebrated for its pristine and subtle taste profile, which is retained through meticulous and gentle care. Grown at a single estate on the cool and misty slopes of Mount Halimun, Indonesia, our White Tea reflects the fresh, delicate aromas of early morning walks in the Javanese highlands.
Gyokuro is Japan’s rarest and most exclusive Sencha green tea. Due to its harvest period and the utmost care required in its cultivation, only limited quantities are available. To attain its robust umami flavour, the tea leaves are shielded from direct sunlight for 20 days before harvest. Grown at Uji in Kyoto, at Japan’s most traditional and finest terroirs, our Gyokuro’s characteristic fragrance is that of a covered scent – the jewel of dew.
SENCHA GREEN TEA, JAPAN
Sencha is the most commonly enjoyed tea in Japan. It is made with the first buds of tea and is known for its balanced bitterness and umami flavour. Grown at a single estate spread out on sloping terrain around Higashi-Shirakawa, Japan, our Sencha refreshes the palate and is rounded out by a subtle, sweet aroma.