Teas are grown in Nepal at the altitudes more than 1500 meters above sea level in the Eastern Districts of Nepal, especially in Ilam, Dhankuta, and Panchthar. Ilam is often considered as the tea capital of Nepal. It lies in the far eastern hilly region which is mostly known as Mahabharata range sharing a border with Darjeeling, West Bengal, India.
LEAF GRADING OVERVIEW
Nepal has a simple way of grading specialty teas. Buds or tips are the most valued leaves.
Bud or the tip is locally known as Suiro in Nepal. Suiro in literal meaning is a pointy or pointed object, so here, it refers to the tip of the plant; bud. If “Suiro” is bud then there is another word for leaf, it is called “Paat.” Therefore, their definition simply sums up with 2 Paat 1 Suiro, meaning two leaves and a bud, “Dui Paatay Suiro” in a local dialect. Two leaves and a bud is a minimum standard here to categorize as Specialty Tea. Bud is regarded as the most valued segment of the tea plant. Picking just the tip or the 1st leaf along with its tip is a painstaking labor-intensive job. It demands balance and accuracy in the hands of a plucker. On the other hand, picking just the tips or the leaf-with-the-tip will have an impact on the production volume, which will automatically put them to small batch production. These type of high-grade specialty teas are only produced by small tea farmers. In other words, small farmers focus on quality in the race between quality vs. quantity.
Nonetheless, small farmers do produce other specialty teas apart from the above-mentioned grades. Oolong and Ruby teas are the best examples. Specialty Tea in Nepal is widely known by its generic name Orthodox Tea. All hand-made or traditional method of tea production is known as Orthodox Tea regardless of leaf grades. Nepal is one of the major producers of Orthodox Tea.
The best of the Nepali green teas can only be evident in experiencing these teas on a regular basis. The Green Tea in Nepal processing has evolved substantially. The small tea processors offer varieties of green teas, from Japanese Sencha style to their own original roasted style. This tea category accounts for more than 60% of the tea produced by the small tea processors of Nepal. Nepali green tea is highly appreciated by tea lovers for its varied taste profiles that comes naturally from the tea plant.
Nepali black teas stand apart from the black teas produced from other tea producing regions of the world. These teas showcase the diversity of Nepali tea producers to exhibit all kinds of seasonal qualities of high-grade whole leaf teas at economical offers. These teas accommodate a space to offer high grown Nepali tea to a curious tea drinker, all over the world.
The high mountainous terrain and harsh climate make the character of Oolong diverse along with high quality. Predominantly, Oolong producing districts of Nepal are Ilam, Dhankuta, Panchthar, and Kaski. These teas generally reflect the environment and characteristics of the soil. Oolongs from Dhankuta and Kaski are subtle whereas Oolongs from Ilam and Panchthar are stronger due to the distribution of rainfall and variables in sunshine hours.
White teas are primarily rare pickings during Spring, Summer and Autumn seasons. Fine, tender sprouts, even the buds are selected for producing this category of tea in Nepal. There are three categories of white teas produced by excellent single farmers. It needs precision and acute judgment of time while picking and processing, these teas. The art lies in determined efforts to preserve the goodness of the leaf in its most natural form.
First Flush – Second Flush, the beginning of the harvests
AFTER A WINTER HIBERNATION
The first harvest of the year begins in April, which is known as Spring Harvest or the First Flush. Spring tea leaves are the first and the finest pickings from the bushes that are pruned halfway through the stem during the winter. That consequently supports the bush to produce fresh vegetation during the spring in abundance. The buds and the leaves appear to be shiny and lush in the field allowing to pluck at the beginning of its pubescence.
Golden Himalayan Raspberry
Known as Aiselu, is a native plant of Nepal.
SUMMER AND MONSOON HARVEST
Seasons of the darker teas
ABUNDANT OXYGEN AND TRANQUIL AIR OF THE HIMALAYAS
Summer harvest, this picking begins in early Summer (June) and ends during mid-July. Almost all good cultivars are mixed during the picking, which leads to a complex character of the finished product. During this season the tea bushes lush in a high density. Summer and Monsoon are the best time to produce high-quality Black Teas, although there will be less picking during Monsoon due to harsh weather condition.
Showcased in a shop
Stinger / Nettle Leaf
People from the eastern region take Nettle leaf soup in their dinner. They believe it to be a different source of energy than the regular diet.
Unpredictable and Stunning!
AFTER THE RAIN
Picking begins in early autumn (end of September) and ends during mid-November. Almost all good cultivars are mixed during the picking which leads to a complex character of the finished product. The leaves in this harvest are mature and full of dry matter as they move towards winter hibernation. Autumnal flush tends to produce rare teas before the leaves go on a winter-long hibernation. And this will end all harvests of the whole year until another cycle.
It’s foggy again after the rain, slowing moving towards the winter.