Himalayan Shiiba Green 2020 Harvest
OMG- This is an incredible tea!
This green tea is one of the most interesting and unique teas that we have ever been able to offer. We tasted it when it was introduced for the first time, in 2016, and while we were extremely enthusiastic about it at that time, there was very little of it produced that first year. The entire small lot of it was spoken for before we were even asked to be part of that special tasting of it! Our friends at Jun Chiyabari Garden were simply interested in what we thought about the tea at that time, and it wasn’t clear whether or not it would become an available selection in future years.
However, Mary Lou was so enthralled by this specially-delicious tea that she asked to be put on the ‘short list’ going forward, of those who would be offered this manufacture in 2017 and beyond. Assuming that the harvest would be as delicious again, and there would be more quantity available, we expressed interest in having it be one of our featured teas for 2017. Along with the Himalaya White Moon Dance, we really wanted to celebrate the fabulous, organically-grown teas that are being produced at the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden!
Well, at the peak of the early tea season that spring we were offered several different lots of the manufacture of this tea, which had been named Himalaya Shiiba Green and the specific lot that we selected was absolutely stunning!
Just as we had hoped, in spring of 2017 we offered the two stellar Nepal teas that we had become so excited about in the spring of 2016. And they were among the most special teas that Tea Trekker has ever offered – and we have had so many great teas over the years that this is a very big statement. And our tea enthusiast customers have been very excited, appropriately, to be able to drink this, and others of our special Nepal teas.
So, here at Tea Trekker we are quite happy that 2020 has once again blessed this garden with enough of this great tea so that we can offer it again this season; and the quantity of it that is available has increased significantly, because we purchased the entire first lot (the premier pluck) from this spring. This is a tea that keeps quite well, so we expect that it will drink nicely through 2021.
And we are able to offer it this year at a price that is almost the same as it was in 2018 and 2019. (Transit costs due to the Covid pandemic necessitate a very slight increase.)
Though the over-all profile of the 2020 Shiiba Green is quite similar to its standard, it is slightly different this year (as all teas are from one year to the next) and we think that it is as promised to us by the tea masters at Jun Chiyabari: quite possibly the most incredible and flavor-rich pluck of the six years that this special cultivar has been harvested.
This deliciousness is likely due to the more plentiful rain (but no floods) that was received this year (prior to harvest). The fresh leaves on the tea plants plumped up a bit during the late winter, and the flavor matured quickly (which is fascinating since the harvest was a tad early again this year).
This tea has such a history and is so profound in its heritage, and it just sings with flavor.
Let us tell you a little bit about the origins of this special tea.
Himalaya Shiiba is made from tea trees that were originally from Shiiba, a remote village of Miyazaki prefecture, Japan.
During the mid-2000’s, several trips were made to Nepal from Japan by two tea growers. Their goal was to introduce Japanese cultivar bushes to the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden in Nepal in an effort to establish a unique and special green tea. The original stock was sourced from deep in the mountains around Shiiba, where one of these gentlemen lived. Together, these tea enthusiasts named the tea trees Shiiba Yama Cha.
Due to the similarities of the growing regions of Hile, Nepal and Shiiba, Japan – both being remote, mountainous, and with pure air and water to nurture the plants, the transplanted bushes have thrived in the decade since, and are now starting to produce spectacular leaf that the tea artisans at Jun Chiyabari are manufacturing into the original idea for this leaf: a special green tea.
This tea, Tea Trekker’s Himalaya Shiiba, is in the style of a Japanese green tea, but is tempered and modified by the terroir of having been grown in Nepal. It is not manufactured in the Japanese style, so no steaming is used to ‘fix’ the leaf, but nonetheless the leaf retains its deep, deep green color due to the natural coloration of the original tea trees. Being from a Japanese cultivar rather than either china bush or assam bush, the basic core flavor of the leaf is unique. It is interesting to note that sometimes this type of cultivation works and more often it does not, as was proven famously by Robert Fortune in the 1800’s.
Unfortunately, H. Shiiba san, the gentleman who sourced the tea bushes in Shiiba, passed on before the tea trees that he had so lovingly moved to Nepal from his native village in Japan could bear enough leaf to produce any drinking tea. So, as with olive trees, and coffee bushes, and other food botanicals that have been planted by one generation that require many years of growth before any usable production can result, these tea trees are now the responsibility of the current generation to tend and nurture into the fine tea that H. Shiiba san knew they could be. And it is now our duty to respect and enjoy this endeavor by steeping and sharing this delicious tea with others who appreciate unique, premium tea.
And so the cycle continues, as in the following poem, shared with us by Lochan Gyawali, Managing Director of Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden:
the river rapids,
we may be parted
by a rock,
but in the end
we will be one again.
– retired emperor, Sutoku in Ogura Hyakunin Isshu
This leaf is from an early-spring plucking – this year it was just the right time to gather this juicy leaf with an abundance of flavor. Himalaya Shiiba is distinctly reminiscent of a tasty Japanese tea with a rich, buttery-ness in the cup that is underscored with a lean, clean style that gives the finished tea a strong backbone. The result is a delicious cup with flavor to spare. We were able to procure a good quantity of this tea by speaking up for the entire lot, and if you are interested, please order as much as you can, you will love it!
The leaf is medium-sized, well-curled, and has the familiar appearance we have come to expect from expertly-hand-rolled Jun Chiyabaryi tea. Fans of our other Himalaya green teas from this tea garden will recognize the appearance in style. The flavor, however, is totally new and fresh, and will open a new palate of tea taste to your tea-drinking experience. The aroma is true to its Japanese heritage, pure, and straightforward vegetal tea aroma with just a hint of mountain florals. The liquor is not as light as it has been the last several years, so it better telegraphs its marvelous flavor. This leaf will fill your mouth with unabashed flavor.And then there is a full, ever-so-faint astringency that cleans the palate about five minutes after the finish, that serves as the ‘returning flavor‘ that is so highly revered in East Asia. This shows the Japanese origins of the mother plants.
The leaf will re-steep numerous times depending on the length of time of the initial steepings. See the Steeping Instructions accordion for more info…
Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden is a small, premium, single estate located in the Himalayan hills of mid-eastern Nepal. These tea gardens are located at 6,000 to 6,500 feet in the ‘hills’ around Hile, a typical Himalaya hill-town, about 15 km west of Ilam (the major tea-producing region of eastern Nepal) not far from Sikkim and Darjeeling to the east, and Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) to the north.
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