Increasing popularity of Nepal teas

Located in South Asia, and bordered by China and India, Nepal is home to some of the largest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest which is the highest point anywhere on Earth. Nepal is comprised of 75 districts, and traditionally the tea gardens were mostly found in the eastern part of the country (dubbed the “Tea Zone), which borders the Darjeeling region of West Bengal, India, and enjoys the same soil and climatic conditions as Darjeeling. The five districts that make up the “Tea Zone” are Jhapa, Ilam, Panchthar, Tehrathum and Dhankuta. With increasing interest in the teas of Nepal, tea farming has expanded now to districts west of the Tea Zone in areas including Nuwakot, Dolakha, Lalitpur, Sindhupalchok, and Kaski.

Nepal has a close proximity to Darjeeling and, with their mountainous Himalayan elevations, they yield teas with characteristics similar to their neighbor’s. In recent years more attention has been given to this tea growing region and the increasing local and international interest has highlighted the need to help support the farmers. The National Tea and Coffee Development Board of Nepal recently proposed a policy to help farmers move from conventional farming to organic practices, which they consider will be the biggest growth potential in the international market. Their policy would compensate the farmers during the transition and generate higher revenues for both the farmers and for Nepal’s economy. There is also an increasing interest in orthodox teas among the locals, which is creating new opportunities for tea entrepreneurs.

We’re thrilled here at Simpson & Vail to be offering more teas from gardens in Nepal.  Our offerings include:

  1. Ilam is located in the Mechi Zone in the easternmost part of Nepal. It borders the Darjeeling region of West Bengal, India, and enjoys the same soil and climatic conditions as Darjeeling. It is well known for its lush, beautiful tea gardens and for the exquisite leaves that are grown there. The Ilam Tea Estate was started in 1864 with tea seeds that were brought from China. The teas grown here are recognized around the world for their excellent quality.
  2. The Mist Valley Tea gardens are located in Jitpur in the Ilam district. Jitpur is a small hilly village with pristine landscapes of sloped tea gardens, thick natural forests, and a unique culture that is still relatively untouched by the modern world. Until quite recently, Jitpur was primarily a farming community however today tea is now grown in addition to rice and vegetables.
  3. Approximately 12 miles from the Ilam bazaar lies the Sakhira Garden. Named for its location (SAKhejung HIll Range) this garden was founded in 2000 by a group of small farmers. The production facilities reside at 4000 ft above sea level and the plantations that provide tea to the factory are at 6000 ft. Since their inception, the farmers have had one goal in mind – to produce the best quality black orthodox tea. Their vision for the future, though, is to also produce green teas and specialty teas, while being recognized as the best growers in the world.
  4. Located 6000 feet above sea level, in the misty hills of Pashupatinagar, Ilam, is the family owned Organic (EU) and ISO certified Aarubotay “Plum Tree” Garden. This garden is the first one in Nepal to use the technology, machinery and expertise available from Japan. The Aarubotay tea bushes are a combination of Japanese, Chinese and clonal varieties that produce the best of Nepalese teas.  We are fortunate ot be able to offer a 2nd Flush Black Tea, a First Flush Green tea and an Oolong tea from this garden.


Nepal teas pair quite well with soft cheeses, curries, fresh fruit, fish, mushrooms, custards, chocolate and desserts with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Shiitake Mushroom & Kale
with Nepal Green Tea Tofu

Serves 2

1 14-oz pkg extra-firm tofu
2 tsp Nepal green sencha (1st Flush), crushed (I used a mortar and pestle)
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
3 cups chopped kale

1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 scallion, chopped
1 cup sliced Shiitake mushrooms

Place the tofu in a colander with a plate on top of it and a heavy can on the plate to press out as much water as possible.

In a microwave safe bowl, mix the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, toasted oil and grapeseed oil with the crushed green tea.  Microwave for 30 seconds.

Pat dry the tofu and cut into 16 sections.  Lightly spray a casserole dish with cooking oil. Place the tofu in the dish in one layer and cover with the green tea sauce.  Bake in a 400 oven for 10 minutes.  Flip the tofu over and bake for another 15 minutes.  Turn the broiler on High and broil on both sides until golden brown.

While the tofu is cooking mix the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, oil and scallions in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil in a frying pan over  medium heat.  Add the chopped kale and cook, stirring, for approximately 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Turn the heat to low. Add the garlic, ginger, scallion sauce to the pan and add the shiitake mushrooms.  Cook for approximately 1 1/2 -2 minutes.  Add the kale back and heat for another minute.

Serve the mushrooms/kale mixture over rice and add the baked tofu.

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