STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 5, Number 2

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56 STiR tea & coffee industry international / Issue 2, 2016 (April/May) By Jane Pettigrew Teas from the Hills of Nepal Nepal's ideal growing conditions are identical to neighboring Darjeeling, India HImalayan Gold leaves and liqour The origins of the tea industry in Nepal ran parallel with those of Darjeeling. While the British were busy planting stolen seeds that grew into today's Darjeel- ing bushes, the Chinese emperor gifted seeds to Nepal's Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana. The Nepal seeds went into the ground in Ilam in the east of the country. More land was planted out and a factory was built in 1873. But due to the country's political system under the Rana dynasty, isolation from the rest of the world, and economic uncertainty, the industry came to a halt. In 1959, Rana domination came to an end and Nepal was able to move forward. Private and government investment helped establish new gardens, the original Ilam garden was expanded into 7 estates and, in 1966, these were collectively named the Nepal Tea Development Corporation (NTDC). In 1982, the King designated 5 tea zones – Jhapa, Ilam, Dhankuta, Terhathum, and Pachthar – and encouraged smalholders to grow tea. Through the 1990s and 2000s, the focus was on improving processing and quality, developing essential ancillary services, making more land available for tea, and privatizing the NTDC. In 1998, the Himalayan Orthodox Tea Producers Association (HOTPA) was set up, and in 2003, the Himalayan Tea Producers Cooperative Ltd (HIMCOOP) was established by HOTPA to help producers of specialty orthodox teas find a foothold in international markets. Today there are some 140 registered estates, 18,000 smallhold- ers, 40 bought leaf factories, and a growing number of village cooperatives. But in the past a large quantity of the fresh leaf and the made teas were exported over the nearby border into India and sold as Darjeeling teas. That continues today and a number of factories in Ilam are owned by Indian com- panies. Not surprising then, and a great shame, that few people have had the chance to sample Nepal's high mountain orthodox leafy teas. For too long Nepal has been overshadowed as an important tea region by neighboring Darjeeling. In the past few years more and more tea lovers have praised the exquisite char- acter and quality of the orthodox artisan teas produced in the country's high mountains.

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