Tea growing in the Himalaya area has been underway for more than a century. And now the battle is on to see if people can tell the difference in the flavor of the teas grown in one part of that region versus another. I would think they could. After all, the island nation of Taiwan, which has a much smaller land area, boasts many teas from a large number of tea plant cultivars and having their own unique flavor profiles! But only side-by-side tastings will tell the truth here.

Sikkim tea garden (Stock image)

Sikkim tea garden (Stock image)

The Himalayan mountains were formed by the collision of the Indian tectonic plate with the Eurasian plate and now abut or cross six countries: Bhutan, China, Nepal, India and Pakistan. The name “Himalaya” means house or abode of snow. Very fitting since the range has some of the highest peaks in the world, including Mt. Everest, and sports a top hat of snow on most of them through much of the year. Nepal is almost entirely in the Himalayas and is becoming quite a tea-growing area, especially in its easternmost part. As discussed in my previous article, a number of gardens are gaining attention in the tea world. The growing conditions and terrain (steep hillsides and high elevations) are similar to those in the Darjeeling region of West Bengal in northern India. That region is in the foothills of the Himalayas and have had great conditions for tea growing for over 167 years.

The state of Sikkim lies just north of West Bengal and is a new addition to India. Their tea comes from the Temi Tea Garden in Ravangla. It was established by the Sikkim government in 1969 and is laid over a gradually sloping hill that was once a Sherpa village and about 10 acres of tree nurseries, with Scottish missionaries having been in the area in the early 1900s (some of their buildings are still there today). The tea is all top quality and considered to be one of the best in India and the world. Some is marketed under the trade name “Temi Tea.”

Nearby is Dooars, where teas are also grown. It’s to the east of the Darjeeling region and also in the Himalayas. Tea is part of their economic threesome (tea, timber, and tourism). Their tea gardens were originally planted by the British who were ever anxious to keep an ample supply flowing in. Laborers came in from neighboring areas, including Nepal. Demand for teas grown in Dooars is increasing around the world, and they are available as orthodox style and CTC style. They have a character like Assam tea and some of the unique aroma and sweetness of Darjeeling tea.

As far as I can tell, these are it for tea growing, but if I’ve missed any, please let me know. I have certainly tried quite a few Darjeeling teas by now. And recently I received a number of Nepalese teas to try. No Sikkim or Dooars yet. As for tasting a difference, nothing too conclusive, since it would be based on a small sample. You’ll just have to do a bit of a taste test for yourself and see. The European Union is certainly claiming there is no difference and using that claim to justify a move to affect pricing. And so it goes in the world of tea, a beverage said to calm and invigorate all at once. I think those EU folks need to drink more tea and get calm… but wait, they already seem over-invigorated. Well, it’s a battle that only time will settle. Meanwhile, enjoy a nice cuppa whichever suits you!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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