Since this little bakery opened there 3 years ago, the bread has dramatically evolved (the few loyal customer could confirm that). The selection of ingredients has a lot to do with it : organically grown ancient wheat, fine Guérande salt only, filtered water (unfortunately there is no spring nearby), organic seeds and fruits. The menu has also been simplified over the years : no more butter cakes, sweet, creamy, fancy breads (things that I personally don’t eat)… I guess, my mistake was to try to satisfy everyone. Right now, there is only natural levain bread and natural levain brioche (for regular customers with a sweet tooth!).
Looking back in time, I realise that after all those years, I’m constantly driven by the same gravitational force; always eager to climb to the top of the mountain, contemplate the view and finally go along with the stream toward the ocean. Those who have known me for a long time, know how China caught my attention and my living experience over there. I am thinking about the years I spent in Yunnan, how fortunate I was to be taught by a real tea master and the lasting memories of backpacking and learning in the Yunnan tea mountains.
Recently I understood the analogy between the “way of tea” and the “bread’s path”. Obviously, there are many similarities between real bread and real tea.
Puerh tea, like grain (and wine) are environmental imprint and sensorial terroir-recollection.
Puerh trees grow in south Yunnan mountains (mostly between 1200 and 1800m), naturally sheltered by large subtropical trees. Tea leaves are handpicked. Most of the preparation process does not require machines. The leaves are shortly dried in big pans, rolled, sun-dried and finally compressed. Then starts Puerh’s uniqueness : a long fermentation that can last for many years !
The best flour comes from organic landrace wheat, delicately grind under a millstone. It contains, endosperm, germ and part of the bran. Nothing is added or mixed, no improvers, nor preservatives (unlike 99% of the flour sold here). Flour is then gently mixed with water and salt by hand. Hand kneading is short to preserve all the virtues of the flour. Fermentation is long (between 15 and 18 hours). Slowly, the dough structures itself, the gluten inside is slowly pre-digested, aromas improve. After that, the dough is gently shaped, and the second fermentation (around 2 hours) starts. Finally, the bread is baked.
The entire process takes 20 hours, but my hands touch the dough 15 minutes at most !
Following the natural flow of things without disturbing or attempting to modify it. Paradoxically, let’s call that a ‘no-action’ process. Both process might be connected to the fundamental thinking of Taoism, the wuwei / 无为. By the way, when I moved back to France in 2013, I called my tea shop like that.
Wuwei means following the natural flow of things, without disturbing or attempting to modify it. Let’s call that a ‘no-action’ philosophy. One is dried, the other is mixed … For both the long fermentation process of nature does the rest. It is acting according to the movement of nature, an empirical notion that is experienced in a non-assertiveness process. And finally eat the grain, feel the soil, smell the fragrance, value a terroir.
Simplify bread-making as much as possible, remove any signature, any personal touch. Once again the parallel with tea is obvious.It is essential to restrict physical or mechanical contact with the raw material, in order to keep the aromas intact. Artist’s ego stains the purity of the object.