The tea plantation in Nyungwe Forest National Park I mentioned in my last post reminded me of holidays in Mauritius in December 2014. I lived in South Africa at the time so it was easy to get to this tiny island nation from Johannesburg, the flight takes 4 hours. Mauritius is mostly associated with luxury holidays but we saw its different face 🙂
We don’t normally travel with agencies or on organised tours. Sure, you can go to Mauritius and stay in a 5-star resort with a private beach where you can bake in the sun for a week, drink cocktails and take advantage of the all-inclusive package, but I don’t think you would feel the real atmosphere of this country. You might miss the everyday life of its ordinary people… Although actually, maybe not so ordinary as Mauritians are an interesting ethnic and cultural mix. Most inhabitants (ca. 70%) have their roots in the Indian Subcontinent, while 25% are Creoles whose ancestors came mainly from Mozambique and Madagascar. The remaining 5% are Sino-Mauritians (of Chinese origin) and Franco-Mauritians (of a self-explanatory provenance). As a result of this, Mauritius boasts lots of diversity: religious (half of the population is Hindu, 25% – Catholic, and 15% Muslim; interestingly, 90% of Sino-Mauritians are Christian, and the remaining 10% – Buddhist); linguistic (most people speak Creole but you can easily get by in French, although it’s an interesting experience to chat with a lady wearing a sari and a bindi on her forehead, and speaking French with a strong Indian accent 🙂 ), and of course – culinary (have you ever tried prawns in sweet and sour curry sauce? Yummy 🙂 ).
But I wanted to write about tea 😉 It grows beautifully in Mauritius, although obviously not on such a spectacular scale as in other African or Asian countries, but this is a very small island after all. I got the chance to visit Bois Cheri, a tea factory which transforms those bright green leaves into my favourite drink. It is an automated process but not fully. The machinery is still run by people, and since it’s not exactly very modern and things break rather regularly – like the machine which puts tea in teabags – there are quite a few workmen with screwdrivers wandering around 😉 After the tour (with a guide who explains everything in an engaging manner) you can try out different flavours of teas produced there – tea tasting, a bit like wine tasting 😉
Tea is not the only drink typical for Mauritius. Do you know what the other one is? I can tell you that it’s made from sugar cane and is quite strong! And it also comes in different flavours, coconut was my favourite… But I’ll tell you all about it another time 🙂