Do you know who made your cuppa?Back to list
Tea for most people is taking a bag, slinging it in a mug, and adding hot water with plenty of milk and sugar to make it more palatable. But for a tea merchant like myself – founder of Lahloo Tea – the tea experience is taking a pinch of carefully crafted tea leaves, adding them to a pot of fresh water, and simply letting them unfurl in order to make a truly delicious brew.
It's a calming ritual I partake in everyday. And what a difference this makes! If I was to tell you that tea bags are made from inferior quality tea leaves (little more than floor sweepings, really) packed into chlorine-bleached bags in massive factories, with the companies that produce them having little to zero connection to the people making the tea, would you be so keen to keep your current tea habits? Maybe it’s time to take a bold step forwards, and ditch your trusty tea bags in favour of discovering your own artisan tea journey.
The tea plant, Camellia Sinensis, is an evergreen plant that flourishes all over the world, but especially so in lush mountainous areas. Some countries – like China, India, Japan – are revered for their tea plants and thus the tea they make, and many brands decide to stick with these well-known places. But I am committed to unearthing the hidden gems.
For me, the tea I source has to have an incredible aroma and flavour, but it also has to be created by true artisans. Working with artisan producers from lesser-known parts of the tea world is what sets Lahloo apart from the industry, and our difference is made evident both in taste and the connection we make with the people who put their hearts and souls into bringing you a truly exceptional cuppa. And the fun part is in introducing you to these people that make it possible for us to enjoy our lovely brew.
Meet Bachun. A gentle, funny and kind man, Bachun makes one of Lahloo’s best selling oolong teas, Himalayan Oolong. It’s a stunning handcrafted oolong – a semi-fermented tea that sits in between a green and black tea – made by Bachun’s boutique tea garden, Jun Chiyabari in Eastern Nepal. A young tea garden, founded in 2001, Jun Chiyabari is already producing a brew that rivals the world’s finest Darjeeling teas. This is just one hidden gem that I have found.
Bachun’s story about his foray into tea is fascinating. He and his brother went to boarding school in nearby Darjeeling, so grew up around wonderful tea gardens. Their senses were fed by tea everyday: smelling the leaves; listening to the songs of the tea workers; gazing out of the window at green tea fields; and always keeping teatime with cookies and tea everyday at 3pm!
Following a school reunion in 2000, their tea memories inspired them to set up their very own Nepalese tea garden. Though they had little tea industry experience, they had a willingness to brave the monsoons, landslides and leeches, and were equipped with a strong business acumen and raw passion. And so they embarked on the renaissance of a remote part of Eastern Nepal to create Jun Chiyabari.
A real labour of love – comprising many sleepless nights, tears and lessons learned – they have gradually replanted almost 75 hectares of unused land around the foothills of the Hile hills with an array of different tea plants sourced from all over the world. I think it’s the tea plants with the perfect climate and soil, as well as the brothers’ care for the local environment, people and infinite drive to make the tastiest tea (Bachun has been known to refuse to sell tea that doesn’t meet his high standards) that make Jun Chiyabari’s tea so special.
So I urge you to take a stand by letting go of those supermarket teabags and support Bachun and my efforts in bringing Nepalese tea to the nations’ cups!
By Kate Gover, founder and owner of Lahloo Tea
Image by Shu Han
If I was to tell you that tea bags are made from inferior quality tea leaves (little more than floor sweepings, really) packed into chlorine-bleached bags in massive factories, with the companies that produce them having little to zero connection to the people making the tea, would you be so keen to keep your current tea habits? Maybe it’s time to take a bold step forwards, and ditch your trusty tea bags in favour of discovering your own artisan tea journey.
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