Stretching as far as morning light travels in the early hours of the day, you can see fields of green luscious leaves sloping down the foothills of the Himalayas. While the sun is slowly crawling up Kangchenjunga, its white peak gleaming over the horizon, there is a thick layer of clouds grazing the grounds below. Slowly the fog evaporates into the crisp mountain air. Yet, the tea pickers of Nepal are already practicing their craft in the hazy morning hours of spring, carefully plucking each leaf by hand, wading their way through a sea of emerald green tea trees. Imagine being there with them, far off the crowded cities of the south, surrounded only by nature and the towering mountain crest on the horizon. Let us take you there with five fascinating teas from the Himalayas.
The unique taste of Himalayan tea stems from the hard work and effort the tea plant has to put into each little bud. The harsh environment at this high altitude provides the tea trees with less oxygen and colder temperatures, which means that some Himalayan tea plantations are only able to harvest twice a year. In winter the plants lie dormant, hibernating and cultivating all their strength and resources to survive. Come spring, the tea plant pushes all this accumulated energy out at once, producing the smallest leaves and yet an incredibly concentrated and full bodied flavour. You can taste this in each and every sip of MAKALU WHITE N°908. This First Flush couldn’t be more first, as it is born in the early days of Himalayan April. Each sip seems to take you through an entire spring garden, there are distinguished notes of vegetation, a surprising intensity with a lingering sweetness and a breathtakingly floral smell. This limited harvest must not be missed.
The tea tradition of Nepal is relatively young compared to its neighbouring states like China or Assam in India. Whilst most tea plantations of Nepal continue with the regional tradition of producing predominantly darjeeling style black teas, Jun Chiyabari brings us a surprisingly diverse range of different styles. Take for instance PALACE OF PATAN N°322, an organic green tea from the Nepalese side of the Himalayas. The tradition of green tea is supposedly in its infancy in Nepal and yet PALACE OF PATAN N°322 is such a sophisticated well-rounded experience as if the plantation had practiced this craft for centuries. Typical of Himalayan teas, PALACE OF PATAN N°322 has brisk spring-fresh floral notes of an almost minty quality. Yet the sensation in your mouth is soft and buttery with an airy finish, which makes this an equally intense and smooth green tea.
Our limited harvest SHIIBA’S GIFT N°915 is an ode to a friendship that spanned over the Himalayan mountains and beyond, between two tea growers from Japan and Nepal. The latter was eager to learn more from experienced tea cultivators throughout Asia about their different styles and techniques. On arrival in Shiiba, a village on the Japanese island of Kyushu, he deeply connected with a Japanese green tea cultivator over their shared love for tea. Despite what cultural differences might have existed between their two countries, at the end of his stay the young man was given rare tea trees native to Kyushu as a gift to take back home to Nepal. Unfortunately, his Japanese friend didn’t live long enough to taste the resulting incredible green Oolong as the tea trees took more than a decade to acclimatise to their new Nepalese environment. But the friendship lives on in SHIIBA’S GIFT N°915, a Japanese plant originally native to Kyushu, cultivated at high-altitude in Nepal, and to top it off made in the intricate Taiwanese tradition of Bao Zhong. The complexity of this First Flush is tastable in every cup. As an experienced tea drinker, we would invite you to carefully sip SHIIBA’S GIFT N°915, close your eyes and try to find each of these three countries in it.
The most renowned tea region of the Himalayas is obviously Darjeeling. The famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, originally built for the British colonials to escape the blazing hot summers of Calcutta, still puffs its way up the mountains today. This mesmerising old steam engine, a world heritage site, takes locals and tourists up in endless circles via 120 sharp turns and over more than 550 bridges until it reaches 2250 meters above sea level. There you find the swaying hills of Darjeeling tea.
A Hindu legend says a benevolent god once struck the ground with blessed lighting. But even for non believers it is undeniable that the particular nutritions in the soil give Darjeeling tea a distinctive and unmistakable aroma. No wonder this world famous and unique tea is widely known as the Champagne of tea. The British elite even got so addicted to it, they eventually didn’t want to drink anything except Darjeeling, even referring to it as the only okay tea. (A name that is now still traceable in the tea plantation OKAYTI).Darjeeling tea comes in many different forms, as you can tell from our beloved First and Second Flushes we regularly import from the "Queen of the Hills,” as the Darjeeling region is also called. QUEEN'S GRACE N°502 is a delicate organic black tea, yet it feels almost green with its floral notes. This First Flush Darjeeling, carefully plucked at the beginning of spring, has a brisk and lively character, reminiscent of the crisp, cool air of its Himalayan home. MUSE N°504 is a much stronger flavoured and more traditional summer Darjeeling. It tastes sweet and ripe, like summer when the air is so thick you could slice it. This handsome amber colored Second Flush is saturated with flavour from the hot Indian summer with succulent fruit and full-bodied spice.