Darjeeling is so close to Nepal, that some Darjeeling tea gardens are just a hop, skip and a jump away from the border. You may even be able to see a Nepalese tea field from a Darjeeling one.
Large quantities of green [tea] leaf grown in Nepal every year are smuggled over the border into India, and bought by Darjeeling factories via middlemen to manufacture Darjeeling tea.
Darjeeling teas are highly sought after and have traditionally commanded a much higher price, so it’s a way of Nepali farmers getting a better price for their green leaves. With the growing conditions so similar, Nepali tea is by no means the poor relation, but as it’s not usually disclosed by Darjeeling factories, it does mean that it’s not had its due credit so far. We think it’s time for that to change.
Tea from the source
Our policy at Canton Tea is to source our tea directly from the tea farm. It ensures that it is authentic, fresh and full of flavour. It also means that the farmers, the skilled teapickers, and our customers get a fair deal. To find out more about this you can read our blog on how we source tea.
Nepal tea revolution
In recent years small tea farms making handmade teas are popping up in Nepal and are developing their own styles of tea, distinct from the teas of their well-known neighbours. Now is an exciting time for the Nepalese Camelia Sinensis industry. At the forefront of this revolution is the pioneering Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden, and we are so excited to have sourced our first Nepali tea directly from there.
In 2000, brothers Bachan and Lochan decided they would start a tea garden in Nepal. Though neither of them had any experience in the tea industry, they had both been to school in Darjeeling, so had grown up surrounded by tea gardens and factories. Throwing caution to the wind, between 2000 and 2001 they began reconnaissance missions on foot to the remote areas of east Nepal to find the perfect spot. In 2001 the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden was established outside the town of Hile in the Dhankuta district (North 27o 01′ East 087o 19′).
The garden is spread over 75 hectares (50 of which are planted) of lush Himalayan hillsides, ranging from 1600m – 2000m. The fields were planted out with cultivars from all around the tea producing world; locally available cultivars like AV2, Darjeeling cultivars such as T1, T78 and Phoobshering 312, Yabukita came from Japan and Si Ji Chun from Taiwan amongst many others. Expert skills and knowledge were also brought in from outside. Garden managers who had formerly worked at the best Darjeeling tea gardens began to oversee production and they were also trained by Taiwanese and Japanese Tea Masters. So the incredible and innovative teas produced by Jun Chiyabari are no happy accident, they are a carefully considered and cultivated labour of love.
The philosophy of Jun Chiyabari tea garden
“In the field, we believe in sustainable farming practices with emphasis on bio-diversity and commitment to organic cultivation. Our support to the local community which includes farmers, local schools, children and old people’s home is well known. We have supplied computers to local school and are giving scholarships to some local girls. Further for our workers we have interest free loans for good income generating schemes. This is administered by a committee of workers and management. Through these income generating loans workers have established shops and some are in the process of buying cows.”
“All of these together constitutes and underpins our tea philosophy and gives Jun Chiyabari a well-respected name in the community.”
But is Nepali tea any good?
So, on to Jun Chiyabari tea. Last year we featured Nepali Himalayan Black in our Limited Edition collection, and it sold out fast. We bought it quite simply because of the stunning flavour. ‘A rich cup full of chocolate, muscovado and muscatel grapes’ and absolutely nothing like a First Flush Darjeeling. When asked about the making process of the tea, Bachan replied:
“Not in keeping with the traditional Darjeeling black tea making practices as we move away to create a style that is unique to Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden. Part of the reason why we opt to not disclose the full manufacturing process.”
Fair enough we say, as long as the tea tastes this good, we don’t mind a bit of mystery.
Nepali Himalayan Black looseleaf tea from the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden has now sold out. Further tea from Jun Chiyabari may be available in future Limited Edition collections. For more information please contact your Canton account manager.