Nepali Tea - Tea from Nepal

Nepal is a country with a unique geographical location and tremendous diversity of natural and geological conditions, perhaps, found nowhere else on Earth. It has mountains and a huge range of elevation, combined with sun, rain, wind, and snow. No country in the world has such a variety of climatic conditions in just one small place, ranging from the tropical south to the arctic glaciers of the Great Himalayas. The wondrous Himalayas are considered as one of the world’s most pristine place.

The highlands of Nepal undoubtedly possess a big treasure – one of the greatest teas in the whole world with the exquisite character, refined aroma and a very special taste.

Nepali Tea grows in the mountainous regions of Nepal ranging from 1,000 to 2,800 meters, on the slopes of the Great Himalayas. This area is considered as one of the most environmentally pure locations in the world, with lots of medicinal herbs growing around. Tea plants prefer a warm and humid climate. 70% of the Nepali land belongs to the mountains and hills with a warm climate. This makes Nepal a perfect location for growing tea, probably the best tea you could dream of.

The history of Nepali tea

Historians believe that the first tea plants in Nepal originate from the seeds donated by the Chinese Emperor to Jung Bahadur Rana, the Prime Minister and the ruler of Nepal in 1863. The establishment of Ilam Tea Estate in the Hills of Ilam District in 1863 marked the beginning of the tea-growing history of Nepal.

Colonel Gajraj Singh Thapa is one of the most important figures in the history of Nepali tea because he was the first person who planted the tea plants in Ilam district of Nepal.

However, due to political turmoil and poor economic development, Nepal’s nascent industry failed to succeed compared with the neighboring Darjeeling. Nepal’s tea industry was at first very interrelated with the Indian tea industry. In the beginning, Nepali tea leaves were even sold to some factories in Darjeeling to satisfy their growing needs.

After a period of political turmoil and crisis, the government finally opened up opportunities for private investments in the 1950s. First Tea Plantation in a private tea sector in Terai was established in 1959 and was registered with the name of Bhudhakaran Tea Estate.

Finally, in 1978, the first tea factory was set up in Ilam for the processing of tea leaves, and a few years later another factory was opened in Soktim (Soktim Tea Estate) in Jhapa district.

To further impact the development of the tea industry, in 1982, the Government of Nepal under the reign of Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, the King of Nepal, has officially declared five districts – Jhapa, Ilam, Panchthar, Dhankuta and Terhathum as the tea zones of Nepal.

Nowadays tea production turned into an independent commercial sector of the economy of Nepal. Tea plantations are owned by small and medium-sized farms. Nepal’s reputation, popularity, and value are growing on the international tea market, and demand for Nepali tea is increasing every year.


The unique character of Nepali tea

Tea from Nepal is known as the finest and environmentally friendly tea. Nepali farmers do not use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides, thereby harvesting 100% natural and organic product.

Nepali Tea is a unique tea drinking experience, as it can bring you a wonderful cup full of the real vibes of the Himalayas. Nepali tea is an amazing and distinguished tea.  

Each variety of Nepali tea has its own unique character, different from teas from China or India.

What a diversity of tastes to try!


Nepali Tea Segments

Nepal has three tea segments:

  • Orthodox Tea
  • CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl)
  • Specialty Tea

Orthodox tea refers to the process where tea is hand-rolled or machine-rolled.

Specialty tea segment combines a wide range of teas including White Tea, Oolong Tea, Green Tea, Black Tea and also some Tea Cakes.

Orthodox tea and CTC tea belong to the majority of teas produced in Nepal, and Specialty Tea is processed in lesser quantities or as per their demand.

Orthodox teas are usually grown in the mountainous regions of eastern Nepal at an altitude ranging from 1000-2800 meters above sea level, across six districts. Ilam is one of the districts, producing the largest quantities, followed by Dhankuta, Panchthar, Terathum, Sindhupalchok, and Kaski. The CTC tea is mainly grown in the fertile plains of the Jhapa district, at a lower altitude and with a warmer climate.


Nepali Tea Seasons

Orthodox teas in Nepal are usually produced in flushes or tea growing seasons (particular time periods) and are characterized by 4 major flushes:

First Flush or Spring Flush

  • The First flush is usually harvested between the end of February to mid-April.
  • The young leaves yield yellowish liquor with delicate taste and floral aroma.
  • The First flush teas are usually considered to be more expensive compared with the other flushes as they are produced in limited quantities and encompass maximum strength in addition to more minerals, due to almost 4 month rest period for the tea bushes, preceding the flush.

Second Flush or Summer Flush

  • The Second flush harvest comes in May and June.
  • The tea leaves of this flush gain more strength, having a bright and shiny colour with wonderful flavour. They yield amber liquor with fruity taste and muscat notes.

Monsoon Flush or Rain Flush

  • Monsoon flush also known as “Rain teas” usually starts with the Monsoon season in Nepal during the last week of July and continues until the end of September.
  • Teas produced during this period yield a darker infusion with delicate mellow flavour.

Autumn Flush

  • The Autumn flush starts in October and lasts until the end of November. This is the last harvest of the season.
  • The Autumn flush features an extraordinary combination of musky flavors and rich aroma in an amber liquor with strong coppery tones.


Just like the Orthodox tea, Nepal’s CTC Tea is also categorized by four flushes: the First, the Second, Monsoon and Autumn Flushes and, like their counterparts, exhibit similar difference throughout the year.

It’s worth mentioning that the named periods in this region do not have fixed time frames as they are completely dependent on weather conditions. Excessive rainfall can reduce the time period for the next harvest, and the other way round.


Nepali Tea Tastes

The advantage of different harvest seasons is that the same tea plants can produce different tastes, depending on the time of the year when the leaves were collected. Such teas can satisfy the taste buds of tea lovers from different countries.

Each category of tea, Orthodox or Specialty tea has its finest teas. However, in general, First Flush is the most prized on the German market. Second flush and Autumn flush have pronounced floral and muscat flavors in the segment of Orthodox teas. As for Specialty teas, there is no seasonal differentiation here. For example, the “Golden Honey” or “Himalayan Gold Tea” is very popular among Chinese buyers. Therefore, if you are looking for elite varieties of tea, you should do several tea tastings of different seasonal samples in order to identify teas that you like, because, what is good for some markets may not be good enough for you, and vice versa.


Nepali Tea Grades

There is a number of different grades used to define various teas:

D – Dust

PD – Pekoe Dust

PF – Pekoe Fannings

OP - Orange Pekoe

BP - Broken Pekoe

OF - Orange Fannings

GOF - Golden Orange Fannings

BOP - Broken Orange Pekoe

BOPS - Broken Orange Pekoe Small

FOP - Flowery Orange Pekoe

FBOP - Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe

GFOP - Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

FBOPF - Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings

TGBOP - Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe

TGFOP - Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe

FTGFOP1 - Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, Grade 1

SFTGFOP1 - Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, Grade 1


The last two grades of tea are some of the finest Nepali tea to be found in the world! Obviously the higher up the tea ladder you go, the better tea quality you will get.


Here we would like to give a few clarifications:

F - Fannings: are used mainly for tea bags. (This F is used at the end of the grade such as OF - Orange Fannings)

B - Broken: the tea leaves are larger than what is in fannings.

OP - Orange Pekoe: the name given to an Orange Pekoe tea leaf means a certain leaf size and colour, not the flavour of the tea.

T - Tippy: it means that the tea contains tips from the tea plant (these are the youngest of the leaves).

G and F - Golden or Flowery: the tea contains buds or very young tips, and has a golden colour to them, hence the names Golden and Flowery. (The F is used at the beginning such as GFOP - Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)


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