April 09, 2018

Jun Chiyabari Himalayan Teas - 2017 Himalayan Orange Autumn Flush

If you think that tea coming out of Nepal is only CTC-processsed, think again. "Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas," Nepal is producing quality orthodox, loose leaf teas. I have been fortunate to drink two teas from the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden sourced by Kora Tea and Crafts. Today's post is a review of the 2017 Himalayan Orange Autumn Flush.


Fellow tea blogger, Tristan Jordan of Tea With Tristan, generously arranged for me to sample the 2017 Autumn Himalayan Orange and the 2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba both grown on the Jun Chiyabari garden in Nepal and sourced by Kora Tea and Crafts. The stories of Jun Chiyabari and Kora Tea and Crafts are impressive so it's worth briefly sharing them here. Jun Chiyabari was incorporated in 2000 after the reminiscing by two brothers, Lochan and Bachan Gyawali, about their school days in Darjeeling. The brothers purchased 75 hectares in Hile, and the garden officially opened in 2001. The company's first tea was processed by hand using a modified pizza oven which was designed by Lochan and Bachan! The company currently uses Taiwanese tea manufacturing machines. Kora Tea and Crafts was launched in Nepal in 2017. The owner, Aaron Basskin, is pursuing his Master's Degree in Translation and Textual Interpretation of Buddhist Texts. His tea pursuits are funding (and perhaps fueling) his studies. The fit between Buddhist philosophy and tea seems a good one.


2017 HIMALAYAN ORANGE AUTUMN FLUSH

The dry leaves of the Himalayan Orange were small, black or brown in color, with silver buds. The infused leaves were coppery and smelled like green stems and brown sugar.

I steeped this tea in three different vessels:

  • Professional cup: 2.5 grams / 4 ounces / 200F / 3 minutes
  • Large ceramic teapot as recommended by Jun Chiyabari: 3 grams / 200 ml / 175F+ / 2 minutes, 1m, 2 m 
  • Small kyusu: 4 grams / 70 ml / 200F / 30s, 40s; (dropped temp. to 190F) 60s, 1minute 20s, 1m 40s (190F), 2m, 3m, 5m


Professional Cup

Steeped in a professional cup for three minutes, the liquor was dark amber. It also had dark flavors, of wood, dry cocoa, and dark fruit. There was a slight, pleasant bitterness. It was medium-bodied with a lingering, warming spice note, and a drying effect. The second infusion of four minutes yielded a dark chocolate profile underlain by wood smoke on the tongue. The tea did not linger in my cheeks.

Ceramic Teapot

Imagine being surrounded by ripe tropical fruit. That was the taste and scent of the liquor from the first steep. Curiously, the tea was pale and light bodied. I increased the water temperature for the second infusion as recommended. The result was a much darker liquor with a more noticeable body. The tea was still incredibly fruity -- lychee, maybe guava. It also had toasty and sweet wood notes. As the liquor cooled there was pleasant bitterness that clung to my upper palate. The third infusion dropped in body. There was background fruit and sweetness, but the liquor was now dry not lush. It tasted like I was drinking peach-infused rocks.

As the leaves steeped, the air above the teapot was scented with notes reminiscent of Oriental Beauty. The liquor was golden amber.

Kyusu

I own a 70ml kyusu - I adore this small pot. It is pretty to look at with a creamy and crackled finish. Also, its size is perfect for small amounts of tea. Sometimes I find that using large amounts of tea in an appropriately sized larger teapot doesn't showcase the flavors of a tea.

Preparing this tea, especially the first infusion, was like stepping into a greenhouse of flowers (versus wandering through a meadow). I could not identify the specific flowers but it was a pleasant experience. The amber liquor and its steam were floral and fruity. The tea tasted tart on the tongue. It was medium-bodied with the texture of fine fruit-skin hairs. As the liquor cooled, the tea acquired creamy mouthfeel. The second infusion was drily sweet and thick. The liquor almost laid on the tongue. Although the infusions were very good, they were at a slightly uncomfortable drinking temperature. For the remaining seven steeps, I used a lower temperature of 190F.

"Loving this tea," is what I noted after the first sip of the third infusion. Dry, tart fruit paired with lush tropical fruit, especially when I aerated the tea in my mouth, were the forward flavors. On the nose as well as on the mid-tongue and palate were floral and brown sugar notes. There were chocolate and spice notes in the same places. The liquor was chewy and astringent.

The fourth and fifth infusions were spicy. The fourth was dry, astringent, and medium bodied. It was hairy and slightly chewy. I detected dried prunes, cherries, and charred vegetable skin. The fifth infusion tasted of char, wood, and bitter walnut skin. Cocoa and wood were the dominant flavors in the last three infusions. The final steep for me was the seventh but the leaves smelled like they could have yielded another cup or two.


My Favorite Preparation

From the quantity of words I have written for each preparation you might guess that steeping the Himalayan Orange in a kyusu was my favorite way to drink this tea. Each method produced good cups of tea but the particular combination of weight, volume, and steep time extracted the maximum aroma and flavor this tea had to offer.

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