This spring one of the exciting things we look forward to is introducing tea from Jun Chiyabari, an Organic tea garden located in the eastern Himalayas of Nepal. It will be our first Nepalese tea.
In the last ten years, Nepal tea has carved a respectable niche in the shelves of tea connoisuers around the world. After lying in a moribund state for nearly a over a century, Nepal tea has come from obscurity to vying in stature with the legendary Darjeeling.
The hills of Nepal where tea is grown are contiguous to the tea growing region of Darjeeling, India. The two are separated by inconspicuous "border markers", and until the Moaist trouble in the ertwhile Himalayan kingdom erupted in the 1990s, people freely moved across the open border.
It was part of this free movement of people, that brought the founders of Jun Chiyabari to Darjeeling as students in a boarding school in the 1970s. The school where brothers Lochan and Bachan Gyawali studied in was located smack in the middle of tea plantations. Little did they know that 30 years later they would be starting their own tea farm back in their home country.
Jun Chiyabari (literal translation Moon Tea Garden; the Nepalese call tea"chiya") is a relatively small garden with around 50 hectares of tea plantated area, located in Dhankuta district. This is around just 40 miles west of the Darjeeling border.
When we expressed our intention to offer our customers Jun Chiyabari this spring, the owners very kindly sent us samples of their 2013 autumn flush. They wanted to familiarize us with the range of their teas. And what we experienced was very impressive.
The teas had the refinement of Darjeeling and also a youthful energy about it. The latter may seem a strange description for a tea - also perhaps a bit contrived - but for the kind of tea made in this part of the world, young bushes bring vitality to the tea. Considering that Jun Chiyabari is only around 13 years old, the bushes are all entirely young.
The teas were crafted with great skill, many of them handrolled, recalling some of the best open leaf oolongs with mid-to-high oxidation. Jun Chiyabari clearly did not shy from ambition
Uniquely, the owners have involved local farmers who grow tea for them in their own fields. Around 30% of the tea produced by the garden come from the local farmers. For a nation where poverty abounds - worse so in the remote mountains - a souce of income is a welcome thing.
Given that Jun Chiyabari produces great Organic tea, has a Darjeeling connection and is bringing income to rural Nepal, there was no question Happy Earth Tea had to partner with them.