Champagne of Teas
As rare as our teas may be, a feature in the New York Times is even rarer—and yet here we are, quoted among other loose-leaf tea revolutionaries!
The May 28 article entitled “Don’t Call It Darjeeling, It’s Nepali Tea” showcases Nepal’s rise to fame when it had often been regarded as the “poor cousin of Darjeeling.” We know better and have known for some time that our teas are anything but inferior.
Darjeeling, the “Champagne of Teas”
The story begins in Darjeeling, India, which is located on the foothill of the Himalayas (and borders the tea-growing regions of eastern Nepal). Because of its high altitude, the climate offers alternating sunny and cloudy days, plus semi-acidic soil that makes for perfect tea conditions.
Darjeeling’s production is labeled “orthodox” because farmers rely on colonial-era traditions and practices. Each batch of Darjeeling holds flavor variations, ranging from muscatel to floral to luscious chocolate. The result? A high quality, low yield profile that renders Darjeeling the “Champagne of teas.”
But while Darjeeling holds global notoriety, there’s an interesting conundrum that arises: the amount of tea labeled “Darjeeling” is roughly four times the maximum yield of the region’s estates. (Or another way of putting it: there’s some fake Darjeeling tea circulating the globe).
This practice is nothing new, and many in our community have known of this marketing scheme. Merchants purchase whole-leaf, orthodox grade teas from Nepal, then label them as Darjeeling. The truth is that many of these “Darjeeling” teas are Nepalese in origin, and most likely from the eastern Ilam district, that borders India.
Rather than carry the “poor cousin” title indefinitely, Nepali Tea Traders has chosen a different path. Our small batches come from an Ilam factory (approximately 50 miles from Darjeeling and about a 3-hour drive southwest), and the leaves are hand-plucked by farmers who “treat their plants as their own babies.”
We’re interested in getting to the peak of premium—from harvesting four times per year to hand-rolling the leaves to release natural juices. It’s all about flavor evolution: the continual experimentation and refinement that sets us apart from the rest.
We believe this is our time (and opportunity) to do something different. Call it a revolution, call it innovation.
Just don’t call it Darjeeling.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Do you prefer teas from Nepal or Darjeeling, and why?
Add your comment to share with the NTT community. ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ We can’t wait to hear from tea drinkers around the world.