Teas of other origins

Nepal is a South Asian country with an area of 140800 square kilometers, bordered by China (Tibetan Autonomous Region) to the North and by India to the South. By adopting and combining vast knowledge and experience of these two countries, Nepal managed to create a novel peculiar culture based on the spiritual elements of different religions. This land is said to be full of so-called “places of power” due to great amount of ancient sacred points, cave temples high in the mountains and the sensible presence of great spiritual Masters.

Nature has blessed this tiny country with multifarious flora and fauna, majestic mountain ranges, mighty rivers and scenic valleys. More than 40% of Nepal’s territory stands on a height of 3000 m and above. The Great Himalayan Range which abuts the country’s northern part is notorious for several peaks exceeding 8000 m above sea level including the planet’s highest, Mount Everest (8848 m) known as “the crown of the world”.

According to some sources, first tea bushes in the country were grown from the seeds gifted from the Chinese Emperor to the Nepal Prime Minister. Others suppose that bushes were brought from India, Darjeeling district, in the late 19th century, and were planted at the height about 5000 feet above sea level.

Up to the end of the 20th century Nepal was considered to be inaccessible, almost mythical country. Local tea was forbidden to export on account of unstable political environment and high demand for it within the country. In the year 1982 His Majesty King of Nepal declared five districts (Jhapa, Ilam, Panchthar, Dhankuta and Terhathum) as special Tea Areas and gave a support to small farms. In this way, world-famous tea plantations were established.

Darjeeling tea is a tea from the Darjeeling district located in the northern part of West Bengal, India. It is grown in hilly area surrounded by unspoiled pine forests and luxuriant valleys sprinkled with mountain streams. That place offers a magnificent view of Kangchenjunga peaks (8585 m) covered with snow and an opportunity to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. The Himalayas are believed to be the abode of God, whose breath brings a refreshing wind and dewy mist “cooling down” the sun.

History of this tea dates back to the first half of the 19th century when Dr. A. Campbell, a British Governor-General, insisted on planting some tea seeds near his residence in Darjeeling. After the success of his experiment in the year 1847, this region was chosen by the British Government to put out tea nurseries, or “tea gardens”.

The tea needs to grow at a certain height between 700 and 7000 m above sea level. Lush mountainside fields, rainy weather, cool fresh air and naturally occurring mist protect the bushes from direct sunlight and make the place excellent for tea cultivation. Nowadays, there are 144 tea estates (still traditionally called “gardens”) in the area, each of which is over 100 years old. Every tea is named after the garden it was produced by. Darjeeling has an unparalleled gentle taste; even a small difference in growing conditions can change the flavor, so this tea cannot be manufactured anywhere else in the world.

This type of tea is semi-fermented (~90%), which makes it a bit similar to Chinese Oolong teas. The tea plucking season is from the early spring till the late autumn. Unique climate conditions let Darjeeling tea be well-balanced throughout the whole year, but early spring harvest (so-called “first flush”) is the most valuable and expensive due to its very light color, particularly mild flavor and fresh floral aroma. Picking of the first two leaves and a bud is done manually, and the processing afterwards lasts more than two days including withering, rolling, fermenting and drying.

Assam tea is named after the region of its production, a northeastern state of India lying in the Brahmaputra River valley along the Eastern Himalayas foothills.

This black tea was discovered and introduced by the East India Company in the late 19th century. The plant got the name Camellia sinensis var. assamica (literally “Assam variety of the tea flower”) and its cultivation soon became widely popular in the area. Lots of tea plantations were established to grow tea of every sort and kind, including both Chinese and Assam varieties and special hybrids between them. Thus, historically, Assam has been the second large tea production region after China, with its own unique well-balanced blends.

This tea is harvested twice a year – the “first flush” is picked during the late March and beginning of April while the second, the most prized tea with the gold tips on the leaves, is harvested later. This second flush, so-called “tippy tea”, is more full-bodied and deeply sweeter comparing to the first flush and generally considered superior.

Assam deserves the second name “tea brandy” given to it for distinctive features and a special flavor of this tea. It is well-known for being strong, with rich burgundy-red color and smooth, a bit spicy aroma with unusual for black tea slight notes of flowers, honey and almonds. The taste is rough, pungent with a long pleasant aftertaste.