The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Nepal - High Quality Teas
From a Modern Day Xanadu
The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is but a tiny slice of land sandwiched between
tea giants,
China and India.  In 1873 while visiting India's Darjeeling region,
Colonel Gajraj Singh Thapa sampled their tea and was so taken by it, he decid-
ed to try cultivating it in his nearby homeland of Nepal, where he was then
Governor-general.
Two tea plantations were
thus established; one at Ilam, and the other
Soktim, where the very first Neplalese ortho-
dox teas were produced.

One of Nepal's major tourist draws is, of
course, the majestic Mount Everest.  Hikers
and mountain climbers alike are also drawn
to the Himalayan regions, traveling through
the capital city, Kathmandu, located between
eastern and central Nepal.

Kathmandu is a chaotic mix of religious and
cultural activity, drawing both Nepalese and
Tibetan Buddhists and other religious pil-
grims and zealots.  Everywhere you look
there's a chaotic hodge-podge of temples,
street bazaars, and Freak Street, running from the main town square, so named for the
counter-culture American and European hippies of the 1970s who gathered there.

                                                 The
Darjeeling tea growing region lies within six hours driving
                                                 distance of Nepal's own tea growing region.  Both areas grow
                                                 tea at soaring elevations of around 7,000 feet where the air is
                                                 thin, slowing the growth and maturation of the leaf and provides
                                                 that added special element present in both Darjeeling and
                                                 Nepalese teas, making it hard to distinguish between them
                                                 sometimes.

Nepal's tea industry never derived the early
benefits of private development and invest-
ment that many other countries that privatiz-
ed their tea industries enjoyed.  Add the lack
of modernization and Nepal's relative isola-
tion, and you can see why there was little
growth.

Nepal's tea industry suffered through years
of ineffective government control and owner-
ship while waiting for privatization, help, and
opportunities to grow from outside investors.

Even though Nepal produced some excellent
quality orthodox teas, they had many obsta-
cles to overcome before their tea industry could truly flourish and grow again.  From isolated  
          areas, in rugged, harsh parcels of land, poorly maintained, to non-existent roads, and
          political unrest, along with severe poverty and horrible mismanagement by the former
          government controlled tea industry, all conspired together to prevent much hope of even
          marginal growth.

                                                           Added to that the Nepal government provided no subsid-
                                                           ies or cost incentives to the tea farmers to help offset the
                                                           cost of producing tea that was already high to begin with.
                                                           Like Darjeeling teas, Nepal tea grows high in the moun-
                                                           tains on steep slopes making plucking and harvesting
                                                           difficult and costly.

                                                           The good news is that in the past 20 years many of
          Nepal's tea gardens have become privatized and with aid and investment from the pri-
          vate-sector there has been great progress made in increasing tea production.

          Between 2002 and 2004 there was a 10% increase in tea
          production, and for the first time their export quantity reach-
          ed just over 1,000 metric tons.  Approximately 10% of Nepal's
          entire production is made up of quality orthodox leaf market-
          ed and exported to
Japan, Canada, and the United States.  

          Nepal also produces
CTC (cut-tear-curl) teas, with most either
          consumed locally or sold abroad for
tea bags and blends.  

                                                            Recognizing the future potential for orthodox tea produc-
                                                            tion, the Nepalese government has given the green light
                                                            to increased tea production in the eastern districts.
                                                            Attention and work is being given to improving cultivation
                                                            practices, and keeping abreast of the latest technological
                                                            information, and efficient management techniques, all to
                                                            keep Nepal's tea industry up to date and current with
                                                            other nearby tea producing countries.

          Several different organizations are working together with Nepal tea growers, packers,
          manufacturers, and exports to insure their continued growth and success.

          One of these organizations is the Nepal Tea Planters Association (NTPA) made up of 23
          CTC factory members, as well as the Himalayan Orthodox Tea Planters Association or
          HOTPA, a non-political, non-profit organization representing 18,000 tea farmer members
          with 11 orthodox tea factories.
HOTPA is a joint effort of small farmers and entrepreneurs, with the goal of promoting the manu-
facture of orthodox tea in the hilly region of eastern Nepal, with the hope of motivating smallhold-
ers to cultivate tea, and encouraging Nepalese entrepreneurs to invest in tea-processing factor-
ies of which they're dismally short of.

With the help of these and other organizations, Nepal's tea industry has nowhere to go but up,
with the emphasis on high quality tea grown in a pristine, pollution free environment, there are
good things in store from this tiny tea producing country.

The West hasn't quite caught on yet to Nepal's top quality orthodox
black teas, but three to
watch for are:  First Flush Guranse
Organic, that's amazingly similar in taste Darjeelings, and Everest Hand-Rolled Tips
from the Sindhupalchok District of Nepal.  This hand-rolled
artisan made orthodox black tea is mild and smooth
tasting.  And lastly an autumn flush tea - Nepal Autumnal, also smooth and mellow with a slightly nutty flavor.  
Enjoy.  
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