by kate on May 24th, 2013
Canton Tea Club Week 34: Nepal Snow Mountain White
As you sip this week’s robust and sweet white tea, you can read about the luscious surroundings from which it originated.
Sandakphu is the highest peak in Ilam, a Nepalese province famed for its biodiversity. Ilam is located in eastern Nepal, bordering the Darjeeling area of India. In fact, because the eastern slope of the Sandakphu technically lies partly in India, the peak is often claimed as Darjeeling territory – Wikipedia describes it ‘the highest peak in the state of West Bengal, India’. But we’re not here to debate on border disputes, let’s talk tea…
The Sandakphu Estate was (unsurprisingly) named after the spectacular mountain which is visible from the farm. The farm itself located at Jasbirey village, at around 6500 ft above sea level, nestled into the third highest peak below Sandakphu. Jasbirey village and the surrounding area is known for its biodiversity and organic agriculture, mainly herbs and tea, which is grown at elevations of up to 7800 ft. Tea crafted at such elevations falling within 26 degree North Latitude are rare and unique.
Set up in the early 1990s, the tea plantation at Sandakphu is composed of plant varietals which were brought to the area by experienced tea farmers migrating from other villages within the Ilam district. It is believed that the young age of the plants enhances the aroma of the tea, and within the area these teas are regarded very highly. Focussing on a range of hand-rolled teas, all organic, with lots of unusual varieties, it is easy to see why Sandakphu teas command respect in the tea community.
Over the past few years, small Nepalese tea farms have gained recognition in areas beyond taste: most, including Sandakphu, are fully organic, and many are promoting women to supervisor levels and above from their traditional role in picking the tea (indeed Sandakphu’s farm has a female boss). Not only this, but the tea estate is owned by the farmers, who are also the share-holders, meaning that they are essentially self-employed, allowing them to pick only the finest leaves for production and present what they believe are their best teas to the world.