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Nepalese Archives - Steep Stories
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of the Lazy Literatus

Tag: Nepalese

The Green Teas of Nepal

I’ve confessed (here and there) to turning into a bit of a Nepalese tea fanboy lately. I may have even made a lofty claim that whatever it is they’re doing may very well be a possible future for the tea industry. (But that’s a whole ‘nother article.) While I’m not going to retract that statement, I am going to clarify it a bit. Simply put, imagine that India is the “Reinheitsgebot” (Bavarian Beer Purity Law”) of South Asian tea growing countries. Nepal would be Belgium. They take the old rules and just . . . toss ‘em out the window.

Nepal’s tea growers, farmers, farming collectives, and estates don’t have a solid model in which to base their industry on yet, but they have a pretty good start. They’re not afraid to buck tradition to try something wacky. And I  was recently sent three green teas – courtesy of Norbu Tea Company – that solidly illustrated my point.

Nepali green teas

Wrestling a Wild Yeti

The yeti – or Abominable Snowman – is a possibly mythical, ape-like beast native to Nepal and Tibet. The name “Yeti” derives from a Tibetan compound word that loosely translates to “manbear from the rocky place”…or something like that. “Abominable Snowman” was coined by a British lieutenant-colonel on a Mount Everest expedition. They located some tracks that their Sherpa associated with the illusive snowbeast.

My first “exposure” to the legend – or at least, the one that I remember – was from Disney’s Matterhorn ride. Along the rollercoaster’s path, you encounter a rather lifelike animatronic yeti on one of the many twisty turns. To a five-year-old, it was piss-your-pants scary. Beyond that moment, I never paid the mythical man-bear-ape-thing much heed.

matterhorn_yeti

Until I saw an oolong named after it; an oolong from a country I didn’t know did oolongs.

I’ve had plenty of teas from Nepal.  Not sure what region they came from, since I suck at geography, but I can run off the names of tea estates forever. Many of them had he word “Ilam” in their names. Still not sure what that means; too lazy to google it. What I didn’t know was that there was an actual region in Nepal called Ilam.

Nepali Tea Traders is a company based in Colorado founded by Maggie Le Beau. They are the first (as far as I know) company specializing in sourcing teas directly from private farmers in Nepal. I know plenty of vendors that source from tea estates, but not from actual farmers. The company first came to my attention when I saw mention of a Nepalese pu-erh. That sent me a-buzzing, and while perusing their site, I ran across their oolong selections. One had the word “Yeti” in it. By manly mandate, I had to try it.

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The leaves were black and gold with a curly, hand-rolled appearance – similar to a Darjeeling or Assamese oolong. It differed from these in scent, however, bestowing a toasty and slightly fruity aroma to the nose. Tearing myself away from the bag was a chore; I could’ve whiffed it all day.

Typically with any type of oolong, I like to try it both Western-style and gongfu-style to see what the differences are. But a tea with a name like “Wild Yeti”, there was only one way to go : Go big or go home. I brewed this in a pint-sized filter mug for the full three minutes using boiled water. Screw nuance, I wanted to see what kind of punch it delivered.

The liquor brewed up as ruby dark as any black tea I’ve ever had. The aroma from the steam was like…plumbs dipped in cocao batter by way of…lava? Unusual but enjoyable. Flavor-wise, I was in for a surprise. This actually tasted like a full-on mid-roasted oolong from Taiwan, very much like an autumn Dong Ding without the graphite lean.

IMAG0722

Most Himalayan oolongs maintain a bit of their muscatel nature, regardless of the oxidization. While this was still very pekoe-ish, it gave me more of an oolong impression than those of similar processing from Darjeeling. That and there was a very smooth, wine-like finish. I like wine; and I like…uh…finishes? Wait, that came out wrong.

Point being!…I love me some knew tea-ish experiences, especially good ones. This was mostly definitely a good one, and one that I’m hopped up on while writing this. Wow, this has a caffeinated kick. I could really wrestle a yeti now. And lose horribly.

© Kate McCurrach

© Kate McCurrach

For more information – or to buy – this beast, go HERE.

Sidenote: Nepali Tea Traders has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help further their business model. Their goal is to expand their merchandise selection by buying some of the Ilam region’s first flush 2013 teas directly. This is a Kickstarter campaign I have NO problem throwing my hat in for. As per their business model, because they’re purchasing these teas from the private growers directly, more money goes to them and their families.

High-Fives to O5 and a World Tea Expo Update

Late last week, I received a package in the mail. A tea delivery – my favorite kind.

o5 Tea

This was the last of my frivolous tea purchases for a while. The reason? I was in hunker-down mode for financial reasons. Before that declaration, I had made one last buy of some rare and unique offerings from a tea bar in Vancouver, B.C. called O5 Tea. There was no way I was missing out on a wine-casked Nepalese black from an estate I’d never heard of.

When this (and a few others) finally arrived, it was my intent to wait until a special occasion to cup it. Either that, or as a reward for a job well done on…something. Well, I didn’t hold out that long. A mere week after, I tore into it. And, boy, was I glad I did.

Justifying the cupping reward as payment for a hard work week endured, I brewed a pint of this sucker. It was nice to see other tea vendors answering my indirect call for more alcohol barrel-aged teas. So far, only Smith Teamaker had done it to any degree. Others had merely added alcohol flavoring. That was no fun. The joy was in the scenting of teas.

This wine-casked Ghorka estate autumn flush wasn’t as strong on the winy note as I was expecting, but part of that could’ve been due to the tea base used. A lot of Himalayan teas are naturally muscatel-ish to the palate. So, any wine-grapiness might be dulled by the flavor the leaves already impart. That said, I did pick up a bit of Cabernet Franc on the aftertaste. A second steep confirmed my suspicions.

ghorka

While I was in the middle of my second pint, I decided to give my Dad a call. I hadn’t spoken to him for well over two months. Neglectful in my sonly duties, I decided to rectify that. Amidst the conversation, I casually mentioned I had won an iPad from my work.

He said, “Y’know, you should give that to your dear ol’ Dad.”

“Fat chance,” I replied.

“Okay, I’ll buy it off of you.”

That triggered something.

I hadn’t even opened the iPad since I got it over a week ago. Truth be told, I wasn’t even sure I wanted it. The only use I had for it would’ve been as a word processor, but that would’ve required the additional purchase of a keyboard and stand.

Coupled with that was the fact that I was trying to save money for a trip to Vegas in June for World Tea Expo. I had no idea how I was going to pull that off, given the fact that I lived from paycheck to paycheck. My Dad’s offer changed all that. There was my ticket to Vegas.

So…

The wine-casked tea wasn’t the reward for a job well done, but it was the prologue to something wonderful. The Tea Fates are smiling on me. And I’m returning the gesture with cup (and eyebrow) raised.

Noel

Blending Tea and Fiction

To those that have been following the sporadic attempts to give this blog focus, you’ll know I’ve been experimenting with tea fiction. Sometimes with wondrous results…and other times with startling missteps. Train-wreck or not, I figured an exercise on how these yarns developed was worth exploration.

Up until the “Great Vanishing” of September, I had two more entries planned. The process of how they came to fruition was simple. I would first try a rare tea, I would photograph the finished brew, I would jot down taster notes (like from my review days), then I would weave a story around said notes. I only made it halfway through this process on the last five teas I tried. So, what I’m going to do for you – fair reader(s?) – is show those taster notes, and the fictional blurbs I’d come up with around them.

WARNING: The results are…weird.

Tea #1: Lochan Teas Doke Silver Needle

 

Acquisition: This was one of three samples I received from Mrs. Tea Trade herself, Jackie D. I think she caught wind of my whimpering whenever someone mentioned the Lochan-purveyed, Bihar-located tea estate. She kindly donated this tea and a couple of others for my perusal and odd use.

Taster Notes: The leaves were actually much smaller than I thought they’d be – what with a name like “Silver Needle”. I was expecting plump, down-furred, rolled leaves, but these actually looked like tiny needles. They were comparable to a Risheehat Silver Tip I tried three years ago. There wasn’t much aroma to the leaves, either – spry, somewhat grassy, and mildly lemon-like.

The liquor brewed to a pleasant yellow-green with an aroma of apples and lime.  Taste-wise, they more than lived up to their Yinzhen-ish moniker, delivering on the promised melon notes with added dollops of citrus and muscatel grapes. The finish reminded me of a warm Reisling, minus the alcoholic headache.

Fictional Use: This would’ve been the first tea tried by “the other me” (The Lazy Literatus, made manifest as a fictional character), Zombie Robert Fortune, and Thed the Gnome while at a subterranean train station. Formerly Fortune then gets nervous when he sees a literal Grim Reaper sipping tea from the far corner. Soon after, a literal tea trolley pulls up…that is also an actual trolley.

Tea #2: Lochan Teas Doke “Rolling Thunder” Oolong

 

Acquisition: The second of the three Lochan samples, this was a rare Bihar, India oolong that had me all sorts of excited.

Taster Notes: The visual presentation of the leaves was rife with uniqueness. It looked like an orange pekoe black on first impression but possessed silver-tipped leaves amidst the darker brown ones. The aroma alternated between spice, chocolate and olives. It smelled quite a bit like an oolong I tried from the Phoobsering estate last year.

I gongfu-ed the heck out of this, but didn’t pay attention to brewing times. The liquor alternated between varying shades of amber and bronze throughout the successive infusions. On flavor, it was a surprisingly malty oolong with nutty and fruity notes sprinkled in for good measure. Overall, though, it resembled a more nuanced Nilgiri oolong.

Fictional Use: Once the three companions boarded the tea trolley-that-was-an-actual-trolley, they would’ve been greeted and waited upon a British rabbit in a suit – named Peter. (The security officer of the trolley.) Then their tea needs would’ve been tended to by his spouse, Jackie Rabbit. (Yes, I know, bear with me here.) That is when my alter-ego would’ve encountered another Doke offering – an oolong. All three would’ve found it exquisite, but it would also draw the attention of the Grim Reaper further back in coach.

This would’ve sparked a chase throughout the trolley, with a scared Zombie Robert Fortune attempting to run for his life. Reason being, he thinks the Grim Reaper is after him for escaping “actual death” – given that zombies are considered a clerical error. The three of them are finally cornered by the Reaper, who stops short and looks at “my” teacup, and says…

“Is that Doke?”

Then a gust of wind would’ve knocked the Reaper back, thus allowing him to be restrained by a British sweater.

Tea #3: Taiwanese Sencha

 

Acquisition: I received this lovely sample from the kind couple that own The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants. It was a simple blending green tea from Taiwan, done using Japanese techniques.

Taster Notes: I never actually took formal taster notes of this when I tried it. I guess I was just distracted by its awesomeness. In short, it reminded me a lot of Chinese sencha (which I love) and other Formosa greens I’ve sampled. There wasn’t much grassiness to it or much of a vegetal profile. It was slightly fruity and damn strong. One could even boil the heck out of the leaves for a bolder brew.

Fictional Use: This would’ve been the tea The Lazy Literatus was sampling as they all interrogated a restrained Mr. Death. Turns out the Reaper was actually a temp by the name of Solomon Grundey – a character I borrowed from a Devotea story – and that he wasn’t after Zombie Fortune at all…but rather the Doke Oolong that they were all drinking.

It would’ve been also revealed that the “tea trolley” trolley was run by two air elementals – Milly and Mimsy.

Tea #4: Guranse Estate Soun Chandi – Nepalese White Tea (2012 2nd Flush)

 

Acquisition: Also picked up from the folks at Jasmine Pearl. I practically had to beg for this one. I mean, Nepalese white tea?! Who’s ever heard of that? I didn’t pick up just one, but two! Both were exquisite, but this one was really something special.

Taster Notes: The visual presentation wasn’t much to write home about. It looked like a typical orange pekoe with downy-fuzzed leaves strewn into the mix. Nothing about it immediately screamed “white tea”. However, the aroma was leafy and slightly zesty – very similar to Bai Mu Dan.

The liquor brewed to a pale yellow and bombarded the nostrils with a fruit-sweet aroma. The taste – oh my, the taste! There were many things I could compare it to – a Darjeeling white tea from the Arya estate, a 2nd flush black tea from Sikkim – but it was entirely on its own in excellence. The flavor alternated between grape and citrus with a dash of sugar. The finish was tart and sweet.

Fictional Use: After disembarking from the Tea Trolley trolley, The Lazy Literatus, Thed the Gnome, Zombie Robert Fortune, and Grundey the Grim Reaper would’ve made their way to Nice, France. Their goal? A tearoom that caters only to immortals run by a guy named Tim.

Upon entering, Zombie Fortune’s original human color would’ve returned, and Grundey’s skeletal form would’ve grown skin. Tim greets them and explains that this is a refuge for immortals from all walks of life, then proceeds to sit them. The first tea offered would’ve been the rare Nepalese. After the initial sip, though, the tranquility of the establishment would’ve been interrupted by the arrival of the King and Queen of the Faery Folk – Oberon and Titania.

Tea #5: Guranse Estate White Crescent – Nepalese White Tea (2012 2nd Flush)

 

Acquisition: Same story as the other Nepalese white. Great but not perfect.

Taster Note: The leaves for this were rather lovely and looked quite similar to a Silver Needle white – save for their darker appearance. The aroma was also startling in its peppery presentation. I was reminded of a Huang Ya yellow tea on first whiff.

The liquor brewed up rather clear; only a smidge of pale yellow was detectable. The soup’s aroma echoed the dry leaf pepper lean but with a dash of muscatel. Taste-wise, it gave me a vague impression of Yunnan Gold black tea by way of a Darjeeling 1st flush – honey-like, fruit-filled, but with a hint of spice.

Fictional Use: Oberon and Titania would’ve arrived with much pomp and circumstance (and some wanton destruction). Their tea demands would’ve been a riddle: “We want white tea and/or green tea not of the normal East.” The request has Tim wracking his brain, but Grundey the Reaper answers the riddle by handing off the newer Nepalese white (the White Crescent) he was sampling. This appeases Oberon…but not Titania.

That’s when The Lazy Literatus realizes he still has some leaves from his Taiwanese sencha left. He (or rather, I?) passes it on to Grundey to brew up. It pleases Titania to an…almost embarrassingly orgasmic effect. The two faeries sit down and enjoy their teas peacefully. After the commotion dies down, The Lazy Literatus sees that one of the immortal patrons is Guan Yin – sipping from Liddy, the gaiwan he thought he lost.

Tim invites Grundey to stay on as an expert brewer. Thed and Robert Fortune also tell the Literatus that this is where they’ll be parting ways. Tim sadly informs the pajama’d writer that he cannot stay because he is neither magical nor immortal, but offers him a free ley-line teleportation home. After a sad farewell, the Literatus prepares to leave Tim’s ImmortaliTea Room. Not before Tim finally reveals that his name was actually Utnapishtim – the Babylonian Noah, and first immortal. He also offers him some sage advice – to apologize to a certain someone.

The Lazy Literatus finally approaches Guan Yin and says he’s sorry for writing the “adult” story about her and Robert Fortune. She accepts his apology, and tells him that’s all she ever expected of him, and returns the gaiwan. This allows him to successfully ley-line travel home.

Conclusion:

After that particular arc had wrapped up, I’d also planned on relaying the adventure Liddy the Gaiwan would’ve had in nursery rhyme form. The story would’ve dealt with her forced journey into the Land of Leaves and her exploration of aged oolongs. I don’t know what I was smoking when I came up with that idea…seriously…

All said, I still haven’t abandoned tea fiction as a possible outlet. I mean, I still have a yarn about a cat-owned flying tearoom I want to write. But I will humbly acknowledge that I have a long way to go before I display it in the future. There are far better tea fiction stories out there. I can think of two right off the top of my head.

Some of The Devotea’s stories can be found on his blog HERE.

There’re also the fictional interviews put forth by The Purrfect Cup HERE.

In the meantime, I have some sci-fi to get back to. Un-tea-related. (-Ish?)

 

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