We work directly with the principals at Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden for the teas that we offer from their gardens. During the heart of spring this year, we were offered the opportunity to sample this lot of 2021 MoonDance tea. It impressed us with its richly buttery and slightly bright flavor and fresh, clear aroma. There was only one lot, so we placed our order very quickly, to be sure that our order would be registered quickly enough to procure it. With the pandemic having shut down most transport, we had no idea how or when it would be possible to ship this to us, but just trusted that it would work out! And it did…the garden managed to place several lots of our tea on one of the last planes that was leaving Nepal before things really tightened up in mid-May.
This is the same logistic as has been happening the last few years with these small batch teas. The huge difference in 2020 and now going on into 2021, is that due to the pandemic (and the shutdown in Nepal and South Asia in specific) it has been very difficult to move any tea out of its manufacturing facility until much later in the year than normal (or than we intend when we ordered!). However, no harm done, as this is (and so many Nepal teas are) the type of tea that just gets better with a bit of ‘resting’ under its belt, so the problem most years is to keep from drinking it right away!! So if it is being ‘forced’ to sit and mellow into an even greater tea while still in Nepal, then that is a blessing that now we are all able to appreciate.
Those of you who were fortunate enough to enjoy our MoonDance tea from 2019 (that ran out in Nov of 2020) will notice a significant visual similarity between that year’s tea and this year’s tea, both of which are different than the 2018, which was much smaller and more open. Our 2018 & 2019 lots were uniform in coloration – a beautiful green/gray/stone color with the leaf curled readily during the very slight rolling that this tea needs; however the size and curl of the leaf in the two years was quite different. This is due to the difference in residual moisture in the leaf. The leaf this year is ‘juicier’, will ‘fix’ its shape more readily, and hold its curl better. The overall flavor is quite similar, although we think the concentration of flavor is higher this year and the tea is even more full-bodied, with a lush richness.
This phenomenon represents an enthusiastic trend for some tea gardens, which is to focus on high-end, exclusive micro batches of tea. The quality of leaf in early spring is very high and just right to turn young, juicy leaf with an abundance of flavor and vigorous aroma into delicious tea that deserves to be maintained as a separate ‘lot’ and sold as such. Production of teas such as this occurs during the short time between bud break and when the main harvest begins. So the window of time for these early spring teas is very short and the quantities made are very small. Of course not every tea garden has the ability to sort, isolate and market these small batches. But, when they can, it is imperative that we support that effort; because it is one of the best ways to taste truly exceptional tea.
Is this tea expensive? Yes. Is it worth the price? Yes. However, the price has dropped by almost a third from the 2017 price, so that is great for those of us who like to drink this delicious tea. In fact, we like it so much that we purchased the entire batch! Because this leaf can be re-steeped 2-4 times, it is actually less expensive to drink than many other teas that have a lower retail price per pound (but cannot ultimately yield as much drinkable liquid tea).
This tea has it all – a skillful pluck, careful manufacture and an impressive and very long-lasting taste and aroma in the cup.
The color of this tea is buff/stone/green and on first glance, one might assume that this is an early spring green tea. But this batch of fresh leaf was processed in the tea factory into a white tea. For those unfamiliar with white tea, the processing begins with a withering step, either indoors or outdoors, that introduces a small amount of oxidation to the leaf. The oxidation tempers the astringency of the fresh leaf and, in this case, gives the tea a smooth, floral style with a slight taste of a mild black tea. In fact, depending on the criteria that one chooses to use, this tea could arguably ‘technically’ be classified as a black tea, as well as a white tea, because it truly does fall right on the dividing line between the two categories.
Our Nepal Himalaya White Moon Dance has very high fragrance of melons, tropical fruits and assorted florals. In the cup the tea is buttery with a very rich mouth feel. The tea has a core flavor from the oxidation which adds definition and structure – i.e. long-lasting flavor and aroma throughout multiple steepings. We often find that high fragrance teas do not correlate to abundant flavor in the cup, but that is not the case with this tea. The high fragrance is just an introduction to the bountiful flavor that follows in the cup.
You will find that this tea has a flexible steeping time – and will yield more re-steepings than most white tea. Himalaya White Moon Dance will re-steep numerous times (short steeps) or you can leave the leaf in the water for a long time (we recommend slightly cooler water for this method) and enjoy an incredibly rich, deeply-flavored tea (perfect for iced tea). It is a very user-friendly tea that will delight the eye, the nose, and the palate.
Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden is a small & exclusive single estate tea garden 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.
As the garden’s tea director says: “Hand-rolling is a laborious and time consuming task that requires patience, tender touch and a passion for creation from the person rolling the leaves to ensure that everything is perfect. This is why only women are selected for this delicate task”. Tea Trekker’s MoonDance tea is barely rolled – the tea maker refers to the level as ‘Ghost Rolling’, but it does its job in dispersing the oxidation evenly on the juicy leaf.
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