Life Beyond the Teabag – April 2015

Diane Eddy

During the past six months our tea tasting classes have explored both exotic and well-known teas from China, Japan, Taiwan and India. On April 21, in the final class of this season, we will venture high into the Himalayas to a relatively new tea producing region — Nepal. The story of tea growing in Nepal begins in 1873 when the country’s Governor-General, Colonel Gajraj Singh Thapa, visited Darjeeling, India. Tasting the teas grown there prompted him to determine that tea could be successfully cultivated in the eastern regions of his home country. Just over a century later family-owned tea plantations and factories are flourishing in Nepal.

Lying in the shadow of Kathmandu and Mount Everest near India’s Darjeeling region, Nepal’s eastern areas of Dhankuta, Ilam, Taplejung, Terhathum, Jhapa, Terai and Panchthar are collectively known as Nepal’s Tea Zones. Soaring mountains and rarified air slow the growth of tea leaves and impart a complexity and great delicacy to Nepalese teas. Scarce and difficult to obtain, teas from Nepal are stylish and tippy with a finesse similar to fine teas from its neighboring country, Darjeeling.

Situated at altitudes from 3000 feet to 6000 feet, Nepal’s small family-owned tea gardens produce teas from China tea varietals. These regions enjoy a four-season tea harvest before the frigid winter sends the tea bushes into icy dormancy. The first new shoots appear in February, producing the first flush crop that gives a soft golden liquor and mild, delicate flavor. The second flush in May and June produces a fuller flavor with hints of fruit. Monsoon rains drench the Tea Zones through September, producing teas of stronger flavor. The autumn month of October brings a rich muscatel flavor to Nepal’s teas.

The teas from this Himalayan kingdom have recently come to North America and are being received with great compliments and awards. Producing delightful white, oolong, pu-erh, and black teas has become a point of pride with the tea growers in the area. Named for Nepal’s Dazzling White Beautiful mountain, Dhulagiri is a delightful first flush white tea exhibiting all the purity and freshness of Nepal’s Himalayan highlands. While at the other end of the tea spectrum, Kalo Chia black tea and Ruby Pu-erh tea exhibit long-lasting gentle finishes. In between the white and black teas is a charming Wild Yeti oolong—with a taste as captivating as the wild creature for which it is named.

You are invited to join us on April 21 as Diane Eddy, Certified Tea Professional, leads a tea tasting class in exploring these delightful and glamorous teas from Nepal. Class is from 10:00 a.m.-noon in the Sun Lakes Country Club Navajo Room. The cost is $4 and each student should bring a cup and saucer. Reservations are a must and can be made by calling Diane at 480-266-5562 or sending her an e-mail at [email protected]