Translated for you: don’t call it Darjeeling, it’s Nepalese tea

Translated for you: don’t call it Darjeeling, it’s Nepalese tea

Although Darjeeling is considered the champagne of teas, Nepalese tea is making its way into the hearts of aficionados – here’s why.

The original article “Don’t Call It Darjeeling, It’s Nepali Tea” by Max Falkowitz appears in the New York Times. With his short essay, the author explores a revolution involving Nepalese tea and growers: we have translated it for you.

In 1848, the British East India Company assigned a mission to the botanist Robert Fortune: to steal live shrubs from China, in contravention of the restrictive edicts of the Emperor, to transplant them at the foot of the Himalayan heights of West Bengal, darjeeling is defined as the champagne of teasin order to propagate a new tea industry under British control. The operation took many years. The plants did not initially react well to Indian soil six thousand feet above sea level. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Darjeeling plantations produced some of the greatest teas in the world: vibrant blends incorporating all the fruits and flowers of vast expanses of lawn and a refined airiness that contrasted sharply with the robust body of the teas of the Indian plains. Darjeeling quickly gained the nickname of tea champagne and in the wake of the English retreat from the colonies, its fame grew immeasurably.

But Darjeeling is suffering today . A century and a half of rigid agricultural policies have had negative repercussions on the land and the shift towards organic farming methods to meet the growing demand is very costly.Nepalese tea is rapidly gaining momentum  The prestigious allure of a career in plantations, which was traditionally coveted for Indians raised in the colonial system, is losing its luster and decades of labor disputes and subsequent strikes have drastically halved crops. A few hours away from the border, however, the Nepalese tea community is on the verge of a revolution centered on the precious leaf. Growers are planting the shrubs on the steep, high-altitude fields that have earned Darjeeling its reputation. Enterprising growers and factory owners, no longer burdened by colonial-era baggage, are developing remarkable new styles of tea at one-tenth the price, using younger and more vigorous shrubs than in richer soil they grow luxuriantly without hindrance.

You won’t find Nepalese teas at Starbucks, but North American and European specialty boutiques and online stores , which are dedicated to discovering and disseminating rare teas from obsolete regions, are becoming more and more popular and in demand. ” Nepal and Darjeeling are very close, but Nepalese tea has a number of unique characteristics that make it brilliant ,” says Jeni Dodd, 48, an American buyer, consultant for various tea rooms and cafes, who lives in an apartment. for rent in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, where he spends many months of the year. “ They have no astringency or bitterness. They are full-bodied but remain perfectly enjoyable “.

legend tells that in 1863 the Chinese emperor Daougang gave the Nepalese prime minister, Junga Bahadur Rana, tea plants: the records of the time show that the easternmost district, that of Ilam, near the Indian border, began production shortly after the creation of the Darjeeling plantations. Historically, the leaves of Nepalese shrubs were coarsely chopped and made into black tea blends intended for domestic use that were exported to the Indian retail market. The more orthodox selections of whole leaves were sold to Indian merchants, who sold them to wholesalers labeled as Darjeeling tea. Even today, the quantity of tea sold as Darjeeling exceeds the yield of the 87 protected plantations in the region by four times.

When the two brothers Bachan and Lochan Gyawali created the Jun Chiyabari Estate in the Nepalese district of Dhankuta in the early 2000s, the last thing they had in mind was to mimic the gardens of Darjeeling that stood just 150 miles away. “ Nepal has always been seen as a poor cousin of Darjeeling ,” says Bachan, now 57, “ and when we talked to tea buyers, they always told us that they had no reason to buy tea like that from Nepal, since Darjeeling would always remain Darjeeling ”.

Tradition and market demands have standardized Darjeeling production in particular styles called flush : leaves harvested in early spring are processed into a light blend with pine echoes, while more mature leaves are harvested later and used for a blend. more decisive and fruity.darjeeling production is standardized in styles called flushJun Chiyabari’s first flush brings out the fragrance of the alpine air with lively floral hints, the same ones that have made Darjeeling tea famous all over the world. But the real specialty of the plantation is the small productions influenced by teas from East Asian regions such as China and Taiwan. Under the direction of the Gyawali brothers, blend experts are encouraged to experiment and create new combinations of organic and unique Himalayan teas , which are then sold directly to wholesalers. Nepalese teas have in fact been banned from the Indian auction market. The result is season after season of full-bodied blacks, whites and oolongs, with flavors that evolve over a dozen infusions and linger for hours after the last sip.

Darjeeling plantations have also experimented with white teas in recent years, but their style has remained the best-known signature of Nepalese production. The white spring blossoms of Nepali Tea Traders , a Massachusetts tea importer dedicated exclusively to the Nepalese tea trade for the specialty market, produce a drink as unique as only white tea can be, which carries the essence of summer cobs smeared with butter, firm enough to leave a real film on the lips. Unlike Darjeeling tea, which is produced on plantations that themselves own the land, all Nepalese teas are grown in tiny plots owned by independent farmerswho then sell the fresh leaves to factories. Nepali Tea Traders imports tiny batches of produce from an Ilam factory that buys fresh leaves from a cooperative of 47 smallholder farmers.

The high number of players in the country’s tea-related economic landscape has made the industry difficult to organize , and Western critics of the sector think Nepalese producers have failed to maintain consistent quality over the years.they are farmers who treat their plants as if they were daughters“ It’s a chaotic scenario that closely resembles the far west ,” says Kevin Gascoyne, owner of a tea boutique in Montreal called Camelli Sinensis, who has been buying tea directly from Darjeeling for 25 years. “ Only a small part of the plantations are using the situation to innovate, but the others are actually much less developed. There are luckier harvests that work and others don’t ”. Rabin Joshi, a 36-year-old co-owner of Nepali Tea Traders, sees her as a strength. “ It’s not just about workers trying to make ends meet,” he says. “They are farmers who treat their plants as if they were their daughters“. The company was founded in 2012 by Maggie Le Beau, a former marketing director who saw the Nepalese tea industry as promising and wanted to give independent producers direct access to the lucrative American market. Joshi and his wife Sunita Karmacharya Joshi, both Nepalese immigrants, joined the company after the 2015 earthquake that devastated their homeland. ” We used to donate money ,” says Joshi, ” but we realized that collecting other people’s donations wasn’t enough .” The couple were fascinated by Le Beau’s approach to social enterprise and became co-owners in 2017.

For Nishchal Banksota, the 28-year-old founder of Nepal Tea of ​​New Jersey, expanding the Nepalese tea industry and improving the quality of rural life go hand in hand. Banksota’s father, Mr. Deepak,the Nepalese tea industry is improving its product and level of sophisticationcreated and organized the first Nepalese cooperative dedicated to organic tea, the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Center, in 1984. The organization pays for housing and education for their children and provides them with food at reduced prices, a model that closely resembles the colonial-era laws they imposed on Darjeeling plantations to provide housing and education for farm laborers’ families. These are notable exceptions in a global tea industry that usually relies on poorly compensated migrant labor to harvest fresh leaves and offers its workers little protection. As the Nepalese specialty tea industry improves its product and sophistication level, Banksota and his family are looking for ways to turn their country’s tea into a brand, like Darjeeling already. without, however, having to succumb to the pitfalls of such an operation. “We are in the honeymoon phase , ”he says. Tea is an ancient drink, after all, and even if trends move fast, fleshing out and sustaining a sustainable industry takes a long time. “ If we’re not careful, it’s going to end up being a very short-lived success story ,” says Jun Chiyabari’s Bachan Gyawali. ” To be sustainable, you cannot relax, and in the next 50 years you will have to work hard and be consistent .”

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