Although Nepal is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful countries in the world, it is also one of the poorest. Majority of the population live in rural areas and depend on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Food insecurity is widespread with half the children, under 5 years of age being undernourished. Most rural households have little or no access to basic health care, education, clean drinking water and sanitation services. Life is a constant fight for survival. Then again, standing in stark contrast to this struggle, is our nation’s never-ending passion for HOPE – of a better future and RESILIENCE – to do something about it. Combining these emotions in a platform that can truly change the face of development from the grassroots, is Nepal’s Tea industry
Nestled in the lap of the wondrous Himalayas, this paradise of a country unites with the sun, the wind and the rain – combining together with the fertile earth and the healthy young tea bushes to bring you the best teas in the world. All this natural magic brings out a unique character in the tea, a brew that produces a bright infusion with a relaxing aroma and an exquisite flavor – a satisfaction that tea aficionadas around the world swear by!
Even though tea was discovered in neighbouring china about 5,000 years ago, the first tea plantations were started much later in the Himalayan Kingdom, around 1873 AD. It is believed, Col. Gajraj Singh Thapa, son-in- law of the erstwhile Prime Minister of Nepal, Jung Bahadur Rana, while on a tour of the then British sanitarium, Darjeeling, was so overwhelmed by the scenic tea gardens and the flavorsome drink that upon his return, he quickly established the first tea plantation in the hilly district of Ilam, near Darjeeling and a second in the foothills of Ilam, in a place called Soktim, now in the district of Jhapa and thus, began the saga of tea in Nepal.
While, orthodox black and CTC tea are the majority of teas produced in Nepal, other Specialty variants such as green, oolong and white teas are also processed in lesser quantities or as per their demand. Similarly, hand-rolled teas – a traditional variety that is dried naturally and rolled by hand, in the upper mountainous tea growing regions of Nepal are also made and sold in limited quantities.
Orthodox and Specialty teas in Nepal are usually produced in flushes or tea growing seasons (particular time phases) and are characterized by 4 major flushes:
First flush: The first flush is usually gathered around the mid of March and continues until the end of april. The young leaves yield a delicate taste with floral aroma in bright yellowish liquor. The first flush teas are usually considered to be more expensive as it is produced in limited quantities and encompass maximum strength in addition to more minerals, due to a rest period of almost 4 months for the tea bushes, preceding the flush.
Second flush: It generally begins during the third week of May and lasts until the first week of July. In the second flush, the teas demonstrate an optimum balance of flavour and aroma in comparison to the first flush teas. The tealeaves have a purplish bloom and a fruity taste in amber liquor. Some experts believe that the best teas are produced during the second flush.
Monsoon flush: also referred to as “Rain teas” usually starts during the Monsoon season in Nepal from the last week of July and continues until the end of September. The teas produced during this period yield a mellow flavour with a delicate aroma and dark infusion.
Autumn flush: The Autumn flush starts in October and lasts until the end of November. The Autumnal features an extraordinary combination of Musky flavours, rich tangy aroma and amber liquor. It yields another batch of vintage teas to go with the season.
Like Orthodox Tea, Nepalese CTC teas are also categorized by four flushes and like their counterparts, exhibit differences throughout the year. Moreover, It should be noted that the time periods are not fixed and are wholly dependent on the weather patterns in the region. The advantage of various flushes is that they bring out different flavours from the tealeaves, picked from the same plants during different times of the year. Such variations in tastes from the same flora positively satisfy differing palates of various tea drinkers, around the world.