The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Nepal's Up & Coming Tea Industry-Producing
Quality Teas Comparable to Darjeeling
While visiting China in 1863, Nepal's Prime Minister, Junga Bahadur Rana was
given a token gift of tea seeds by the Chinese emperor.  Upon his return to
Nepal the Prime Minister instructed his Governor general, Colonel Gajraj Singh
Thapa to plant them.  Two plantations were quickly set up by Colonel Thapa to-
gether with his Royal Army in 1864 in Ilam and Soktim, in the far eastern corner
of Nepal.
Today Nepal produces both CTC
(cut-tear-curl) teas, and stylish, quality orthodox
teas that are tippy, full-bodied, and flavorful.  

Their orthodox teas are nearly indistinguishable
from Darjeeling teas grown within view, just a few
kilometers from the border of India and Nepal.  
There the lush green tea gardens of the Darjeeling
Hills lie at the foothills of the beautiful Himalayan
Mountains, physically connecting Nepal and
India.

After overcoming the
early years filled with
major obstacles such
as severe government
mismanagement, a
poor or nearly non-
existent infrastructure,
political unrest, and severe poverty, Nepal's tea industry is finally moving forward, having made
great strides in growth and production.

                                Various organizations have come together, working with the tea growers,    
                                 packers, manufacturers, and exporters to help insure the continued suc-      
                                 ces of Nepal's tea industry.  Among them is the Nepal Tea Planter's Associ-   
                                 ation (NTPA), which is made up of 23 CTC factory members; the Himalayan   
                                 Orthodox Tea Planter's Association (HOTPA), a non-profit, non-political or-    
                                 ganization which represents 18,000 small tea farmer members and entre-    
                                 preneurs with the common goal of promoting orthodox tea manufacture in   
                                 the hilly eastern region of Nepal, with 11 orthodox factories. Representing   
                                 the marketing arm is the Himalayan Tea Marketing Cooperative (HIM-           
                                 COOP), working to increase worldwide exposure of Nepal's teas.

Even though most of Nepal's tea gardens are privately owned there are still a few that remain
under governmental management by the Nepal Tea Growers Association.

Smallholders own the majority of tea gar-
dens with approximately 25,000 smallholder
gardens.  One successful smallholder model
to follow is the Kanchenjunga Tea Estate,
located at Ranitar in the remote, hilly region
of the Panchthar district.  Lying in the foot-
hills of Mount Kanchenjunga, the second
highest peak of the Himalayas, the 232 acre
estate is owned collectively by 100 small-
holder tea farmers.

Approximately half of the total 25,000 cultiv-
ated acres of Nepal's land is devoted to orth-
odox tea production with the largest concen-
tration of orthodox tea produced from small-
holder tea farmers in Ilam and Panchthar.

                                               The two original tea gardens at Ilam and Soktim planted in 1864
                                               with tea seeds from
China are still under cultivation, and along
                                               with five other tea estates originally owned and managed by the
                                               government agency, Nepal Tea Growers Association, today are
                                               owned and managed by the Triveni Group, a well known indus-      
                                                trial house.  Look for teas from these seven prime tea gardens
                                               which they own:

                                               Ilam Tea Estate (Taste of the Himalayas) - originally planted in
                                               1864 w/tea seeds given to Nepal's first Prime Minister, Junga
Bahadur Rama, the Ilam Tea Estate lies in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas at an elevation
of 4,500 to 5,000 feet.  This garden produces
high-grown orthodox black teas and has
successfully branded itself, with Ilam teas known for their brisk full-bodied flavor and quality,
producing about 35,000 kg of tea annually.  (To purchase see Amazon link below)

Soktim Tea Estate- this estate was planted in 1864 as an extension of Ilam.
It lies at about 1,000 to 3,000 feet, and approximately 20% of the total
100,000 kg of tea produced yearly comes from the original gifted Chinese
tea seeds.

Kanyam Tea Estate (Sip of the Himalayas) - located near Mount Kanchen-
junga, the tea garden was planted w/technical collaboration of the British
government, with His Majesty the Late King Birendra planting the first sec-
tion.  Kanyam lies at about 6,000 feet, with the tea factory at around 5,500
feet.  They produce about 125,000 kg of high quality orthodox teas per year.

Tokla Tea Estate - virgin land in the mountainous foothills of eastern Nepal was chosen to build
Tokla in 1974 to help meet demand for quality CTC teas, today producing about 600,000 kg/year.

Chilingkot Tea Estate (Oasis in the Forest) - the
surprising location is the middle of a dense forest lo-
cated in the foothills of Mahabharata Mountain.  
Chilingkot also grows CTC teas, pro- ducing about
100,000 kgs/year.

Burne Tea Estate (Mid Grown Envy) - Burne tea gardens lie in the middle where hills and
plains meet.  The rich soil provides a sound base for high quality teas comparable to
Darjeelings.
 They produce about 600,000 kgs/year of
mid-grown CTC, and some orthodox teas.
Bardasi Tea Estate (Taming the Wild) - planted during the challenging year of 1974 this garden is known for its
wilderness, producing about 35,000 kg/year, mainly black
CTC teas.

Nepal produces tea throughout the year with four distinct seasons before the bushes go
dormant for winter.  Each season's teas have distinctive character and flavors, with the
spring crop beginning in late February through mid April, producing small leaf teas that
are fresh and aromatic.  Next comes the summer crop of May and June with somewhat
larger leaves, with a full- bodied flavor and bright rose-hued infusion.

In June the monsoon flush starts in eastern Nepal and lasts through the end of Septem-
ber.  Due to the abundance of moisture the leaves receive during these months the quality is considered to be
average.  October heralds the final flush of the year-the autumn flush.  Autumn teas have rich aromas and deep,
full-bodied flavors.  No longer rose colored, Autumnal teas have a deep, dark amber color.  
Enjoy.
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