Nothing excites me more than to receive a package of samples from a region that I am relatively inexperienced with. Although I have tried a number of products from the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate in Nepal, one of which is offered at The Tea Journeyman Shop, that is the only Nepalese tea estate who’s products I have had the pleasure of reviewing. That fact ends now. The most recent package of samples from the Surajmukhi Tea Company consists of products from five factories in Nepal. Today’s review will focus on the 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea from the Mist Valley Tea Factory.
Mist Valley Tea Factory is located in Jitpur, Ilam District, in eastern Nepal. Jitpur is well known for being misty and foggy, thus it is nicknamed Mist Valley. Although Mist Valley Tea does operate its own garden, also known as Mist Valley, the Mist Valley Tea Factory also uses raw tea leaves from other areas of Ilam, including Sangrumba, Mangalbare, Jitpur, and Siddithumka. The tea estates in this region range in altitude from 1,300 to 1,700 meters (4,265 to 5,580 feet) above sea level, and all are located in the hills. Mist Valley Tea Factory produces only orthodox styles of tea, and is in the process of obtaining organic status. Mist Valley Tea has been growing tea since 1989, and processing raw leaves into consumable tea products since 2004.
The sample packet has been opened, and an incredible aroma has me excited to get this review underway. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves appear similar in some ways to Darjeeling second flush teas, with colors ranging from light brown to copper red to black. There is a generous portion of nicely developed silver tips in the mix. The leaf fragments are larger than those found in most Darjeeling teas, and mostly consist of medium to large fragments, with some appearing to be whole. There are few bare stems in the mix. The pluck appears to mostly be two leaf and bud pluck, but some have a single leaf and bud pluck. The leaves are neatly rolled, and I would not be surprised to learn that this is a hand-rolled tea. The leaves are light in weight, fairly fluffy, and crack easily but do not crumble. The silver tips are covered in downy-like white hairs, and have a smooth texture. The aroma is incredible, with rich scents of dried cherries, clove, natural bee honey, roses, and raw cacao. The appearance and aroma are very impressive, and quite inviting.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.
My suggestion for at home brewing is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 195° to 205°F (90°C to 96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. At least two quality infusions can be expected from the same serving of leaves. Expect the second and any subsequent infusions to be noticeably lighter than the preceding infusion.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a dark honey, golden orange color, clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of roses, clove, and raw cacao. The body is medium-full, with a rounded texture. The taste had notes of roses, clove, raw cacao, and light sweet potato or yam. The aftertaste is sweet and floral, and a rich flowery essence is left on the breath.
The infused leaves vary in color from greenish-brown to copper or reddish-brown. The leaves are mostly large fragments, and there are more whole leaves than originally expected. The largest whole leaf was exactly three inches (76 mm) long and exactly one inch (25 mm) wide. There is a respectable portion of tips in the mix. The pluck is mostly two leaves and a bud, with some having a single leaf and bud. The aroma has scents of dark red cherry, light clove, and roses. The aroma is very sweet and pleasant.
Nepalese teas are gaining much respect in the specialty tea industry, and there is little wonder as to why. This Mist Valley 2nd Flush 2014 Oolong Tea is a perfect testament to the reasons. The fresh, rich aroma and high quality appearance of the dry leaf are remarkable. The aroma and taste of the infusion are similar to higher quality Darjeeling teas, yet it has more of cherry character than a grape character, and the clove scent and taste provided a very nice balance. Even the aroma and the infused leaves are impressive, and in my opinion more interesting to observe than most Darjeeling teas. I am very interested to see how the other 2nd flush varieties of tea from Mist Valley compare to this oolong.
Thank you very much to Ankit Lochan at Surajmukhi Tea for providing this sample. And thank you to the management and all the laborers at Mist Valley Tea for their efforts in producing high quality products. Cheers!