Where Does Our Tea Come From?

Imagine you’ve just received your very first sample of Nepal Tea Collective’s organic loose-leaf teas. The delicate freshness of the tea leaves and their heady aromas heighten your senses, gently calling you to brew a fresh cup and enjoy a delectable brew. You ask yourself, “Where do teas like this even come from?” 

Of course, your answer is right there on the package. Clearly, Nepal Tea Collective’s farm fresh tea leaves come from Nepal. But where in Nepal? 

In this blog, we’ll take you on a short journey to our tea mountains in Nepal, all the while introducing you to the diverse and enchanting topography of this beautiful mountain paradise. 

A country of rare geography and rarer climates: 

Though Nepal is a small territory landlocked between the Asian tea giants, India and China, this land contains a stunning diversity of geography. The formidable Western Himalayas of Nepal rise to breathtaking heights, including Mt. Everest, a peak that towers over the entire world. A land cradled by 10 of the tallest mountains in the world, most of Nepal’s topography rises thousands of meters above sea level. Icy towns along the Himalayas give way to rugged hills along the Lower Himalayan region. This belt experiences climates ranging from frigid Alpine zones and subalpine zones to Temperate and even Subtropical zones. As you descend from Nepal’s incredibly rugged highlands, you can feel the altitude drop away as you near the Southern Plains. 

Tea farmers working in the tea farm.

 Parts of Nepal’s plains, also called the Terai, experience tropical climates, with scorching afternoons and stinging heat. The tea gardens in these regions, like Jhapa, are known for their robust black CTC teas. The tea leaves grown here are similar to black teas grown in the Bangladeshi or Sri Lankan lowlands. The leaves grow faster due to the extreme heat, and because of the high exposure to UV rays, the tea leaves contain more tannins. These tea leaves are industrially farmed and mass-processed, and the dried leaves are often boiled with water, milk, and sugar, with varying choices of spices depending on where you are in South Asia. 

 If you’ve ever seen any of Nepal Tea Collective’s dry tea leaves, you’ve probably already figured out that the southern lowlands of Nepal are not where our farms are located. Typically, tea plants are most suited to subtropical regions, though they are highly adaptive plants. Orthodox teas like ours, which are hand-plucked and traditionally crafted, following the careful and exact process of withering, rolling, fermentation, and kill-green, are most suited to the environment of our high-land tea mountains of the East. 

Orthodox Tea from the East: 

 Since the late 1800s, the East of Nepal where the districts Illam, Paachthar, and Terathum are situated, has been famous for its high-grade tea production. There is a lack of proper documentation of the first few tea farms in Nepal, but we trace back our loose-leaf tea-producing history to Illam, where the son-in-law of Nepal’s 19th-century dictator brought a couple of tea plant cuttings from Darjeeling and planted them on his estate in Illam. Finding the climate, soil, and water in Illam incredibly conducive to the production of aromatic and flavorful teas, tea production took hold in this region of Nepal. Read the full history of Orthodox tea making in Nepal. 

Nepal Tea Collective’s family farms are further East of Illam, located in the Paachthar district’s Phidim municipality. It was founder Nischal Banskota’s father, Deepak Prakash Banskota, who started the first organic tea farm in his own backyard, cultivating tea saplings with the help of his wife, Dambar Kumari Banskota. This backyard tea garden grew into what is today the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Center. Named after the third highest snow peak in the world, Mt. Kanchanjangha, a peak that glimmers with ice over the pristine tea gardens, Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Center was the first certified organic, Orthodox tea garden founded in Nepal. Read the history of the family tea garden here. 

Four decades later, Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Center is now one of our closest partner farms in Nepal. Small-holder and community-driven farms cover the lush, green mountains of Phidim, which rise from 4000 to 6000 ft above sea level. During these forty years, KTERC has come from not even having proper road access to transport teas from the farm to the factory, to now supplying the best of Orthodox teas Nepal’s terroirs have to offer to the entire world, including tea connoisseurs like you. And it has been the curiosity and awe tea lovers like you have towards rare Nepali teas that have made this possible! 

Why Choose High-Altitude Farms? 

Besides our family farms at KTERC, Nepal Tea Collective also partners with small to mid-size farms and factories across Illam, Solukhumbu Mt. Everest Region, and Lalitpur. From the Solukhumbu region comes one of our most special teas: Our black teas from the Top of the World Series. Hand-plucked and crafted from the highest organic tea gardens in the world, these black teas have an incredible mountain freshness to their flavor profile. The snow-melt waters that come spating down Mt. Everest impart a breezy brightness to the tea, underpinned by the one-of-a-kind floral and uplifting characters of the black teas from Nepal’s gardens. 

The youngest bud and two leaves of a tea plant.

Most of the teas produced in Eastern Nepal share these delicate, bright, and nuanced characteristics. Unlike the teas produced in Nepal’s lowlands, teas from Nepal’s tea mountains are often traditional, or Orthodox loose-leaf teas. The well-drained steep slopes, fresh and mineral-rich soil, and Nepal’s unique micro-climates are best suited for traditional tea making, enriching the tea leaves with fewer tannins and higher concentrations of flavonoids, which in turn impart sweetness and smoothness to the brewed tea. As most of the tea farms in Eastern Nepal are community-driven or family-owned, tea masters and producers also have a higher degree of artistic freedom in the cultivation and crafting of Nepali teas. And though Eastern Nepal has gone unnoticed as a rich, tea-producing region, tea connoisseurs the world over are now recognizing and awarding the special characteristics and uniqueness of Nepali teas. (You among them, we’re sure!) 

The Ins and Outs of Partnering with High-Altitude, Organic Farms: 

Nepal Tea Collective builds direct relationships with tea farmers and producers. We never source our fresh tea leaves from farmers and producers with whom we have not yet formed close relationships. This ensures that our teas only come from Nepali farms we know intimately, having worked with them for a few years. Not only do we fully get to know the tea farms and the producer, but we also provide any support required by the producer or farmer to produce the best possible teas. Furthermore, our personal relationship also holds us accountable to our mission: that farmers and producers should be centered, appreciated, and fairly compensated! 

We also bring you in on this process. You, as our buyer, are able to trace the entire journey of the gorgeous leaves you have in front of you. On your package, you’ll find a QR code. Scan the code, and we’ll give you all the details about where your teas were plucked, including the names and altitude of the farms, photos of your tea pluckers, farmers, producers, and even the people who vacuum seal and package your teas for ultimate freshness. 

And finally, getting your teas fresh off the farms: 

As tea connoisseurs with a family history of tea making, we take pride in the freshness of our tea leaves. Fresh tea leaves reveal the best of Nepal’s tea mountains, capturing the very essence of the highlands that are ordinarily difficult to travel to. The quality of teas also reflects the diligence and skill of our farmers and tea-making communities in the region, and platforming their hard work and kinship with tea while also making direct improvements to their livelihoods is central to our ethos. 

We’re glad to have you on this journey, and we’d be gladder to bring you directly to our farms on our tea tours, allowing all the magic to unfold in person! 

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