We begin our Himalaya travels in Darjeeling for the First Flush of teas with Joshua and crew to end this leg of the journey in Nepal. The voyage never truly finishes, as Joshua will return to the Himalayas for the 2nd flush harvest.
Taking the drive from the Tumsong Estate in Darjeeling, India through the Nepali border to Jun Chiyabari, looks like a quick 7-hour trip on a map, but when one considers the terrain and mountains of the Himalayas, it is certainly a long, rugged journey. Many roads on this expedition, particularly on the farms, are only traversable in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Our team took this passage at the beginning of April in 2019 to explore and taste teas at the Jun Chiyabari Organic Tea Estate.
Since 2011, Rishi has sourced teas from the Jun Chiyabari Organic Tea Estate. “Jun chiyabari” translates as “moon-lit tea garden” from Nepali. The ethos of this tea farm exacts just that amount of peace one would experience in the serene gardens of the estate in the sky. To the north, one can see Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain rising to 8848 meters.
At the Jun Chiyabari Organic Tea Estate, Joshua experienced the harvest and processing of some of the ultimate tea micro-lots. During his stay at the estate, the strong women who pluck the tea welcomed Joshua onto the steep slopes at elevations more than 6000 feet above sea level. When out on the slopes, you can feel the positivity of these amazing humans and the good vibes of the tea garden. Rising before the sun, Morris guided Joshua through tea production on the property. Morris is a 3rd generation tea maker who leads the tea production at the estate on every level with his vast experience and massive creativity.
Jun Chiyabari is headed by two brothers, Bachan and Lochan Gyawali. The brothers are dedicated to exploring the growth of cultivars from many origins in the gardens on these high slopes. They have introduced dozens of tea cultivars to Nepal that were never previously grown in this locale.
What we see in the plants are brilliantly unique genetic mutations due to the plants’ will to survive in the higher elevation environment. Though some of these plants are not yet fully grown for production to release for retail, we can see how special the teas will be due to the adaptations of the plant. Pictured below is a tea plant that has developed pigmented polyphenols—anthocyanin and other red and purple pigments—to protect from the extreme high mountain UV rays. The multi-colored tea plants will have an amazing tannin structure for making black and semi-oxidized teas. The tea bushes exude flavors and fragrances that are different from what one would experience with the cultivar growing in its origin country. The brothers of Jun Chiyabari Estate have countless breeds from all over the world that have acclimated to the Himalayan terroir and provide something that is totally new, tasty, and only from this place.
The teas the buying team selected for Rishi from this year’s First Flush Harvest are truly fantastic. We are featuring 3 teas—2 of them different lots from the same cultivar blend. Though technically black teas, the leaf color is pear green and the liquor of the brews are a delicate, golden hue. We are presenting Himalayan Spring in two lots– Himalayan Spring Lot J28 and Himalayan Spring Lot J7.
Both are processed in similar ways: crafted by skillful withering, delicate Britannia rolling, and gentle oven baking. The cool temperatures at the high elevation of 1,800 meters inhibits tea leaf oxidation. Lot J7 has luscious notes of orange blossom honey, oats, and apricot, and Lot J28 has sweet, tropical notes of alphonso mango with a nectar-like body reminiscent of chamomile and finishes with hints of lemon thyme. We experience different flavors from these lots due to the micro-climates that occur on the slopes of the Himalayas.
Himalaya Jade Lot J1A is a lightly oxidized black tea with leaves that are greenish-golden in color and brew as a golden liquor. The methods used to process this tea differ slightly from the Himalaya Spring lots—skillful withering, gentle Britannia rolling, moderate oxidation resting, and careful oven baking. Lot J1A has luscious notes of plumeria, pluot, and iris.
The artisans at the Jun Chiyabari tea garden are exceptional at capturing the radiance of spring in these teas, maximizing springtime and flowery notes. We hope you enjoy the innovation and flavors in this First Flush of Himalaya Teas from Nepal.