by Connor Lofink
Support Nepal – Simpson & Vail recently imported five new teas from Nepal’s Aarubotay Gardens. This organic and ISO-certified garden is located almost 400 miles east of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, and is perched in the misty hills of Pashupati Nagar at an altitude of 6000 feet. Aarubotay, which means “Plum Tree,” is a small, family-owned garden that produces between 11,000 and 17,500 pounds of tea each year. They are the first Nepalese facility to process their teas with Japanese machinery, technology, and expertise. Their size allows them to take great care in ensuring that their high standards of quality and cleanliness are maintained. The tea plants at Aarubotay Gardens are a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and Clonal varieties that are grown in rows and pruned so they produce desirable shoots regularly. The garden supports the region by directly employing over 30 families from the area and encouraging the use of local products.
Simpson & Vail is proud to offer five new teas from Aarubotay Gardens: the Organic White, the Organic Oolong, the Organic Emerald Green (1st Flush), the Organic Clonal Delight (1st Flush), and the Organic Golden Tips.
As the leaves open between May and June, the delicate buds are picked and withered for longer than usual. Withering reduces the moisture content of the leaves and is done to develop the aroma and flavor compounds in the tea. As a white tea, the leaves are not fermented which allows them to retain almost three times as much antioxidants as black tea. These inch-long, pale white, downy-tipped, gray-green leaves brew to a pure white liquor and produce a sweet, delicate apricot cup.
The picked tea leaves are withered and then rolled, a process where the leaves are twisted so the natural juices can escape and start the next step: fermentation. The fermentation oxidizes the tea leaves, which gives them their darker color. Oolongs, like this one, are semi-fermented. These dark brown, twisted, tippy leaves brew into a pale amber cup with mild, well-balanced flavors and delicate peach/apricot undertones.
After these delicate buds are picked during the First Flush (mid March to April), they are handled with care so they don’t bruise and can release their natural juices. They are then steamed to prevent the enzymes from fermenting the tea. This “fixing” process allows the dried buds to retain their green color. These elongated, tippy, olive-green leaves brew to a frost-white cup with an exquisite vegetal aroma and a smooth, sweet taste.
This black tea is also harvested during the First Flush and its leaves are withered, rolled, and oxidized (or fermented) before they’re dried. This tea is slightly tippy with medium, twisted brown/black leaves that brew into a greenish/brown leaf with a slightly vegetal aroma and a light amber colored cup. The tea’s taste is reminiscent of a 1st flush Darjeeling. We find the brewed cup has good body and a slightly sweet taste.
The tea leaves for this black tea are processed in a way that is similar to the Clonal Delight. They spend less time oxidizing which allows the leaves to maintain more color than your typical black tea and they brew to a lighter cup. These uniquely styled copper/brown, tippy, twisted leaves brew into long, slender brown leaves, with a sweet camellia smell. The amber cup is smooth tasting with a delicate floral after-taste. The beautiful and tasty tea could soon become one of your favorite afternoon teas.
Giving Back to Help Nepal
Simpson & Vail will donate five percent of every sale of these five new Nepal teas to the efforts of Dr. Pranay Rai, the Training & Assessment Advisor with the British Council in Nepal (and a relative of the Aarubotay family), who has been working with volunteers to rebuild after the tragic earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25th 2015. The earthquake, the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since 1934, has claimed the lives of more than 9,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands by flattening entire villages. Because of Nepal’s terrain, the earthquake and its aftershocks triggered many avalanches and landslides that added to the damage and cost. Tremors from the quake were felt in Karnataka, India which lays 1,400 miles to the southwest of the earthquake’s epicenter near Kathmandu. A second major earthquake occurred on May 15th. This 7.3 event happened along the same fault as the April quake, but further east.
Dr. Rai’s volunteers have been working, mostly on Saturdays, to help five families at a time. This “five families at a time” model allows the volunteers to focus on the various needs of these families and make sure that they are solidly on their feet before moving on to new families. They work on improving the lives of those families in three main areas. A set of dinner plates, a pressure cooker, and other kitchen supplies are donated to improve their lives at home. For the fields, a hoe and a sickle are donated so they have the tools necessary to grow for themselves. And a goat or a cow is donated along with hens and ducks to provide food as well as a source of sustainable income. Other needs are also provided for, but they are dependent on what the family requires and provided on a case by case basis. This effort is small and personal and allows the volunteers to build a relationship with the people of the community.