Exploring the Richness of Nepal's Tea Harvest Seasons

In Eastern Nepal, the tea season unfolds like a long play with distinct acts. Spring brings the first flush, delicate leaves bursting forth after winter's sleep. These young shoots brew light, floral teas treasured for their subtle complexity. As summer arrives, the tea bushes reach their peak, producing full-bodied leaves perfect for robust, muscatel-scented brews. The monsoon rains usher in a unique act, the monsoon flush.

The rhythm of life mirrors the rhythm of nature. Like the sweet and rich harvest of summer, where the air is heavy with anticipation and the earth yields its bounty generously, to the quiet and contemplative winters when the world seems to hush in reverence, the tea community follows suit. With the arrival of monsoons, the people of Eastern Nepal embrace the slower pace, finding solace in the rhythm of raindrops.

Then, as spring awakens with its vibrant hues and sparkling excitement, the community bursts forth with renewed energy, eager to embrace the promise of new growth and fresh beginnings. In this dance between the human hand and the forces of nature, the tea community finds its harmony, each season weaving its tale of transformation and renewal amidst the ancient tradition of tea cultivation.. From the first delicate bud to the final harvest, tea season captures the essence of Eastern Nepal: resilience, community, and a deep respect for the land. It's more than a harvest, it's a story steeped in tradition.

But the tea season isn’t a single season.  

Let’s take a deeper dive into these seasons:

Spring Tea Harvest Season

Spring tea with pink flowers.

The first flush season, which typically takes place from late March to early May, is one of the most anticipated tea harvest seasons in Nepal. This is when the tea gardens come alive with the plucking of tender, delicate leaves that are highly sought after for their exquisite taste and limited availability.

Often welcomed with an appreciation of this nature’s wonder, the first tea leaves are plucked during an auspicious time. Astrologers are consulted and gods are invited and thanked in the tea gardens of Eastern Nepal.  The higher-elevation farms tend to harvest later, with their first flush even coming in as late as May. Lower elevation farms harvest a bit earlier, yielding a fuller-bodied first flush with a touch more astringency

But no matter the height, the cooler temperatures and high altitudes in the Himalayan foothills result in a cup that is bright and light, with a refreshing taste that is often described as grassy or vegetal. Also popularly known as the first flush, the tea leaves during this season have a vibrant green color and a distinct floral aroma. 

Nepal Tea Collective strategically offers tea tours so that tea enthusiasts can witness the beauty of the flushes, and make their treasures out of tea. The first flush teas are highly prized and often command premium prices in the international tea market. They are known for their complexity of flavors, ranging from subtle vegetal notes to hints of citrus or honey. The teas are best enjoyed without milk or sugar to fully appreciate their delicate nuances. 

To read more on Eastern Nepal’s first flush in detail, check this blog out! 

Summer Tea Harvest Season

Iced teas with fruit slices.

The second flush, occurring from late May to late June, brings forth teas with a fuller body and a delicate muscatel flavor. These brews are a connoisseur's delight. The season for connoisseurs, tea bushes are bursting with life, their leaves larger and more robust than the first flush. 

This is when the magic happens - the leaves go through a special "partial oxidation" process. This allows the leaves to develop their richer flavor profile, transforming them from the lighter notes of the first flush into the more complex and nuanced cup enjoyed by tea connoisseurs. By stopping oxidation midway, the tea leaves maintain a vibrant color and develop their characteristic muscatel aroma, reminiscent of grapes.  

Imagine sunshine gently coaxing out the flavors, transforming them into a deeper shade of amber. This process unlocks their exquisite muscatel character, often described as grapey or wine-like, a delightful balance between sweetness and complexity. The resulting brew boasts a rich aroma and a full body, perfect for enjoying on its own or with a touch of milk.

Monsoon Tea Harvest Season

Two cups of steaming tea after a drizzle.

The monsoon season, from July to September, presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for tea production in Nepal. The heavy rainfall during this time can affect the tea plants, making them grow rapidly and producing larger, coarser leaves. However, this also results in teas with a distinct character and flavor.

The Monsoon teas are often described as having a strong, robust flavor with earthy or woody undertones. They have a dark amber color and a bold aroma. Despite their unique qualities, monsoon teas are less popular compared to the first and second flush teas. They’re the lesser-known teas in the global market so there aren’t many tea lovers actively seeking brew harvested during the monsoon season. 

The tea estates usually take a break from producing orthodox teas. Monsoon season is the time for machine maintenance and other explorations. For example, Nepal Tea Collective and our partner farms have been looking into growing and preserving herbs and spices like Yacon, ginger, and chamomiles. 

Autumn Tea Harvest Season

A cup of tea during a sunset in autumn.

The autumn harvest season, spanning from September to November, presents teas with rich, robust flavors and a distinct hint of fruitiness. These teas are perfect to warm up during the chilly Nepali evenings.

Autumn teas are known for their deep coppery color, full-bodied taste, and sweet, mellow aroma. They often have notes of dried fruits, spices, or honey. The teas are popular for their comforting and soothing qualities, making them a favorite choice during the cooler months.

Winter Tea Harvest Season

Harvesting tea in winter is a challenging task due to the cold temperatures and limited sunlight. However, the rewards of winter teas are well worth the effort. Winter teas from Nepal are known for their unique flavors and the distinct character that comes from being grown in such harsh conditions.

Winter teas have a light, delicate flavor with a subtle sweetness and a refreshing aftertaste. They often have floral or herbal notes, making them a refreshing choice during the winter months. 

Tea Tourism in Nepal

Tea tourism is gaining popularity in Nepal, as more and more visitors are drawn to the country's tea gardens and the unique experiences they offer. Tea enthusiasts can now embark on tea tours that take them through the various tea harvest seasons, allowing them to witness the entire tea production process firsthand.

Guests visiting a tea farm in Nepal.

Nepal Tea Collective’s tea tours include more than just visits to tea estates, tea factories, and tea-tasting sessions. You get to make your tea and curate your interest in the cultural hotpot that Nepal is.  Visitors can experience and learn about the art of tea plucking, processing, and brewing. You become tea farmers and workers for a day or two and gain a deeper understanding of the tea industry in Nepal. 

The tea gardens of Nepal, nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, provide the perfect backdrop for an immersive tea-tasting experience. Whether it's the delicate floral notes of the first flush or the comforting warmth of the autumn teas, Nepal's teas are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Nepal's tea harvest seasons offer a truly enchanting experience for tea enthusiasts worldwide. From the delicate first flush teas to the robust autumn brews, each season brings forth teas with unique flavors and characteristics that reflect the country's rich tea heritage. So, join Nepal Tea Collective’s tea tourism in this enticing journey as we explore the richness and diversity of Nepal's tea harvest seasons and culture. Discover the hidden gem that is Nepal's tea industry and indulge in the captivating flavors of its aromatic brews.

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