Of the many descriptive phrases and terms used to name tea products, the phrase “hand rolled” in a product name always gets me excited. As I peruse the package of Nepal tea samples from Surajmukhi Tea, I see one product with this special phrase in the title. Today’s review will focus on the Khima FTGFOP1 (CH) Hand Rolled 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea.
Much of the tea growing in Nepal occurs in the eastern part of the country, such as Kanchanjangha, Mist Valley, and Pathivara estates. Similarly, this tea is grown and manufactured on the eastern Nepal slopes opposite of the Thurbo Tea Estate in the Darjeeling region of India. The tea bushes grown here are Chinese clonals. This appears to be a very difficult to find tea. In fact, I cannot find a single retailer in North America who offers teas from this factory (at least under the name Khima). That fact always makes me curious. Either this is a hidden gem of a tea, or there is a quality related reason as to why I cannot find it in North America.
With that being said, let’s get started. The sample packet has been opened, and I am immediately leaning toward the hidden gem of a tea theory. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves range in color from bright green to reddish-brown to black. There is a respectable amount of silver tips. The pluck is one leaf and bud. The leaves are large fragments and whole leaves. The leaves are hand rolled, and have a very high quality appearance. The aroma is simply incredible, with strong scents of dried cherries and grapes, sweet cocoa, and honey. Impressed is a gross understatement of my opinion about the aroma of these leaves.
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 preparation 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°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. Two quality infusions can be expected from the same serving of leaves. Add one minute to the steep time of the second infusion, and expect it to have an overall lighter character than the first infusion.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. This liquor is much lighter in color than most other second flush teas from Nepal and Darjeeling that I have had. The color is more similar to a first flush product. The aroma has strong scents of valley flowers, honey, cherries and grapes, and light hay. The body is medium, with a gentle, smooth texture. The taste has notes of valley flowers, light sweet cocoa, light cherry and grape, and light honey. There is a mild astringency. The aftertaste has hints of honey and flowers, and lingers on the breath for a respectable time.
The infused leaves range in color from fresh forest green to greenish-brown. The leaves are mostly large fragments, with a respectable amount of whole leaves and tips. The pluck is one leaf and bud. There are very few bare stems in the mix. The leaves are long and narrow, consistent with the Chinese Clonal bush. The leaves have a smooth, thin texture. The aroma is again incredibly sweet and attractive, with scents of black licorice, cherries, light sweet cocoa, and light flowers.
Overall, the Khima FTGFOP1 (CH) 2nd Flush 2014 Nepal Tea was truly a pleasure to experience. This tea had much in common with Darjeeling first flush teas in the dominantly floral aroma and taste, the light color of the infusion, and the medium body. One thing I really enjoy about the Nepal teas is that I find more of a cherry hint in the aroma and taste, while Darjeeling teas have the renowned grape taste. The difference is very subtle, but it is certainly there. Although I did get some grape hints as well as the cherry hints in this particular product. The aroma of the dry leaves and infused leaves has left a very positive mark on my memory, since both aromas were remarkably sweet and attractive. The appearance is high quality, and the hand-plucked, hand rolled processing is easy to distinguish. This is another amazing product from Nepal, and the teas from this country never cease to impress me.
Thanks again to the management team at Surajmukhi Tea for providing this phenomenal tea sample! Cheers!