This is the story of
Jun Chiybari Tea Garden.

This is the story of Jun Chiybari Tea Garden.

It is the story of trying to be different from others in this region.

– Lochan Gyawali

Kathmandu, Nepal

12 March 2017

   Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden is a family run tea garden in Nepal. When we established the company in 2000 we did not know anything about tea even though my brother Bachan and I had spent our childhood in Darjeeling in a boarding school. He was in the boarding school in Darjeeling for 12 years and I was there for 8 years.

 

Our school in Darjeeling was surrounded by gardens like Tukvar, Singtom and Phoobshering. During holidays we would go down to the river and camp in the tea garden for 3-4 days whilst tea was being plucked. From our classrooms we had a grand vista of green tea trees that extended from the school playground all the way down to the Teesta valley. Often the tea pluckers would sing melancholic Nepali love songs while plucking tea and sometimes we could hear this while sitting in our classrooms. So in many way our childhood was surrounded by tea but we did not know it!

 

In 2000 we decided to get into tea business and that year we visited several places in the hills of east Nepal to study where to find a good home for our tea project. One of the factors was climate change and global warming. Global warming was a big factor in us choosing to go a bit higher up than normal. The tea garden was established in Dhankuta district of east Nepal near the small town of Hile, North 27° 01′ East 087° 19′.

We chose the name Jun Chiyabari – means Moonlit tea garden. “Jun” means moon in Nepal. One of the reasons we chose this name was to honour our father whose name is Chandra which also means moon. We also wanted a name that was easy for our customers in the west as well as the east like Japan and China; and of course in Nepal too. So “Jun” is moon; “Chiya” means tea and “bari” means garden in Nepali.

 

Later on we came to realize that Jun character 純 in Japanese and Chinese means pure. That character 純 fittingly embodies our philosophy of the purity of the Himalaya in our teas. In the beginning we only knew of Darjeeling as we had studied there and many of our school friends or their parents or relatives were in the tea gardens either as owners or managers. However within a year we realised that we should not be like other tea gardens in Nepal or Darjeeling. We wanted to be different and we should be different. So we tried to do things differently even though we had already made mistakes in the beginning itself.

 

So what did we do to be different? Initially we had a plan to buy a lot of land and to have a large tea garden like in the tradition of British India both in Darjeeling and Ilam, Nepal. We realised that this would be wrong. So we stopped buying land. We had seen that in Japan and Taiwan the tea gardens were small and were run by farmers or cooperatives. This really opened our eyes but we could not copy Japan and Taiwan either. So we decided to do a hybrid of the two – have our own small garden but also work with the tea farmers. Our garden is only about 30% of the garden size that we had wanted in the beginning.

 

When we first started manufacturing in 2003 it was with Taiwanese machines and not with Indo-British machines just to be different from Darjeeling. It was a conscious decision to move away from the existing paradigm and it was an immediate hit with the tea buyers! Indian machines were introduced much later.

We also stopped using Darjeeling nomenclature. At first we stopped calling our tea SFTGBOP. Since then we have slowly stopped using the terms “First Flush”, “Second Flush”  and describing our teas as “orthodox”. We are not part of that tea history. Since we use a fair bit of Taiwanese techniques and every tea is also processed in Taiwanese machines so we are not sure we can use the word orthodox in the way that orthodox manufacturing implies. We produce high mountain teas and not orthodox tea to emphasis this difference. All our tea comes from small plots between 1650 and 2100 meters above sea level which are within a 10 km radius of our factory.

 

Jun Chiyabari tried to be different in another way too. We stopped using tea chests very early on. We were the first tea garden in the region to use vacuum sealed bags using Japanese machines from 富士インパルス and Japanese foil bags from 吉村 . This made us different and at the same time it improved our quality.

 

We were also inspired by the concept of Pre-Qingming tea (清明节 ) of China and Kaiseki food 懐石 of Japan where  seasonality is very important. Tea is a classic seasonal produce of the land and being inspired by Japanese and Chinese cultures we started using a more nuanced seasonality terms that best differentiates our tea instead of “First Flush” or “Second flush” etc. Many of our customers love this new way and have encouraged us forward.

 

  •      Early spring – basically about the first 2-3 rounds of plucking when the character is really different. This is exclusively in the month of March. This starts around 春分   using the old Japanese 24 sekki system 二十四節気
  •      Spring – after 2-3 rounds of plucking the character changes hence spring. In the Indo British system both these would be lumped into first flush. Spring harvest starts from April.
  •      Early summer – is from about mid May till about early July depending on the rain.
  •      Summer – From Mid July till about September. Using Japanese term this period starts between 小暑 and 大暑 goes on till a few days after 秋分 when the rains stop.
  •      Autumn – Teas from after the rains but before the onset of really cold weather.
  •      Winter – winter tea can only be produced when the cold really sets in and the leaf changes its character totally. It is from very late November or early December till the last plucking.

 

The tea garden was planted out in small plots with small patches of good cultivars which basically means Darjeeling cultivars like P312, B157, AV2. So each tea is a mix of various cultivars. When we started we had no idea about tea hence this mistake of having lots of Darjeeling cultivars. Fortunately some of the plots that we bought already had tea trees from the old Imperial tea from Ilam.

We are now slowly correcting the mistake of the past with the seeds and cuttings of old Imperial bushes as well as cultivars and varietals from Taiwan, China and Japan.

 

Again to be different we did everything organic from the beginning. Since the first planting in 2001 including the tea nursery we have been organic. That was one of the guiding philosophies of the garden and it  probably cost us 4-5 years in terms of tea growth. The actual organic certification by IMO Switzerland was in August 2012.

 

Maybe it will take 10-20 years to rectify our initial mistakes and to put everything in place that will really make Jun Chiyabari a truly different. We are confident that at the end we will have a tea garden that we first dreamt of and we will also be able leave a fine legacy for our country and future generations.

Tea in data

The world seems to have more coffee lovers than the people who love tea. Actually, there are more tea drinkers than coffee. In fact, tea is the second most popular drink after water.

Q: Who is the largest per capita tea drinking nation?

A: The most tea loving nations are below.
*Annual per capita tea consumption in 2014

1 Turkey           7.54 kg
2 Morocco          4.34 kg
3 Ireland            3.22 kg
4 Mauritania         3.22 kg
5 United Kingdom      2.74 kg
6 Seychelles          2.08 kg
7 United Arab Emirates      1.89 kg
8 Kuwait          1.61 kg
9 Qatar            1.60 kg
10 Kazakhstan         1.54 kg

Q: Who is the largest producer of tea in the world?

A: Top 10 tea producers in the world (2014)

1 China            2,095,570 kg
2 India             1,207,310 kg
3 Kenya              445,105 kg
4 Sri Lanka            338,032 kg
5 Viet Nam            228,360 kg
6 Turkey              226,800 kg
7 Indonesia            154,400 kg
8 Iran (Islamic Republic of)       119,388 kg
9 Myanmar               98,600 kg
10 Argentina            85,401 kg

Q: Does tea contain antioxidants?
A: Tea, like fruit and vegetables is a natural source of polyphenols and flavonoids which have antioxidant activity.

Q: Do green and black teas come from different plants?
A: No, they both come from the same plant known by its botanical name Camellia sinensis.

Q: How many varieties of tea are there?
A: It is about 1,500 varieties of Camellia sinensis.

Doke and my memories in a tea garden

Doke and my memories in a tea garden

by Ms. Neha Lochan
Lochan tea limited

Tea is a commodity that is widely consumed in India and we argue that no great idea was ever arrived at without a few sips of this brew. Guests are always offered the customary cup of chaiand although its preparation varies by region, it is now deeply embedded in our tradition. Fulfilling this fondness for tea are the many tea estates and one such example is Doke. Nestled in the lap of nature, Doke is a family run tea estate in the Eastern Indian state of Bihar. Although established not too long ago, it is steadily becoming a force to reckon with.

Cultivation and the production of tea is our fundamental calling. It is interesting work and we always strive to deliver our best. Much as we love what we do, we must admit that there are occasions when monotony does set in. However, taking away the drab are instances that are all too unfamiliar with any other field of work.

Elephants are native to this part of India and it is not uncommon to find a large herd make their way through the estate roads by night. Imagine a situation when a leisurely walk is interrupted by a pachyderm brigade and the nearest refuge is still a distance away. Although they make for a majestic sight from a safe distance, meeting them up close is not pleasant in the least. One memory is that of a young calf that was unable to step across a drain and instead fell into it. We watched as the mother tried to rescue her calf but unfortunately was unable to do so. Eventuallyforest officials were called and they were able to drive away a part of the herd while assisting the calf. On most occasions, when the elephants are too close to the dwellings of the resident workers, they resort to lighting fire crackers and beating drums.

It must be mentioned that no eventualities have been noted to date and over the years we seem to have co-existed quite peacefully.

By Mr. Rajiv Lochan
Lochan tea limited

Doke Tea is a noble find out of a noble cause which took almost twenty years to happen.
Bihar provincial government wanted to stop human migration from its parched far northeastern corner called “Purbanchal” to another well irrigated far northwestern corner of India called “Punjab”.

And a young tea plantation model was adopted from its neighbour Bengal by declaring this area as “non-traditional tea growing area” by Tea Board and small tea growers were established since 1998.

Some studies led to hand made organic teas from one of these small growers and thus Doke Tea was born which won a gold medal in 2016 O-cha Festival in Shizuoka for its Silver needle.
A good price brings in prosperity and this Japanese recognition led these small growers to get out of their slavery model of human migration to healthy small tea growers.

Bihar is known as the land of Buddha who is said to have torn out his eyebrows to avoid sleep, casting them on the banks of the Doke River where they sprang forth as tea bushes.

Black tea and the future

Etsuro MASUI
In March 1984, I returned to a remote part of Japan by the name of Kawane, Shizuoka where I was born and raised after being in the Republic of Senegal, an embarkation port where black ivory used to be piled up for sailing to an uncharted land. Finally I achieved my childhood dream of making a life in a developing country. In 1984, I got tea nursery trees with lusty and strong leaves which seem to suit cultivation without pesticide. They were planted on the coldest and the shortest-length dayin my tea garden where Yabukita, the most popular cultivation in Japan, doesn’t grow.

At the time, Japan was in the midst of an economic boom and the tea industry was as well. Teas sold like hot cakes, even things that were just a piece of junk. Farmers had to meet growing demand, producing as much as possible, as soon as possible, resulting in tea that contained plenty of fertilizer and pesticide. It’s still a mystery to me as to why I was eager to produce black tea, but I started and tried various measures in the summer. Nobody around me had any idea about black tea, and asked JA for a tea processing manual. As a result, I’ve put together a brief explanation on an A4 sheet of paper.

This was the beginning of Masui’s black tea, anyway. Luckily, one of my customers who prefer both black and green tea purchased the black tea continually from that time. I any standard to aim for and the quality was not ideal. After a process of trial and error over the course of five years, a formula was developed for producing. It so happened at that time the tea nurseries I planted just after coming back from Africa were mature enough to be plucked and I tried to use them. This black tea astonished me the most! This moment was the birth of a basic item!

However, sencha (steamed green tea) was in vogue at the time, and black tea had still not grabbed people’s attention. People used to laugh at me behind my back, even my mother whom loves tea plucking lamented that I was spoiling fine tea leaves! After all my preparatory training, green tea’s price slump started around 1988. New coverage started to report that some began to produce black tea in Japan, but nothing happened to me and I was still a strange tea farmer.

In 1996, my daughter was born and my wife named her Mirai which means the future. I named the nameless black tea, which was produced from 1984, after my daughter Mirai. I also placed my faith in Mirai second flush that I would soon show those who once laughed at me that it was indeed a wonderful tea. With hope, I went along with multiple tea cultivation and processing methods in order to amuse myself.
After a short time, I found popularity of Darjeeling first flush, and produced black tea like Darjeeling tea named Mirai first. The aroma of withering leaves captured an opportunity to make another tea namely ‘Withering Sencha Mirai’. This broke a taboo in the tea industry against making steamed green tea with withering leaves and I believe this is a point of origin on making tea.
Recently more and more tea farmers produce black tea as if it were air. Some of younger generations started to produce black tea with new ways, which makes me happy since I spent many years without being known to anyone. The time has come to cultivate black tea while encouraging each other to grow as cultivators.
In the past few years, black tea and Sencha produced in Japan has become diverse. I feel like Mirai black tea connects the future (Mirai ) which I’ve placed my hope in.

Etsuro MASUI

• 1956 Born in Kanane, Shizuoka; Masui the 5th
• 1977 Dispatched to the US as a farm trainee
• 1981 Dispatched of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers to the Republic of Senegal.
• 1984 Started to produce green, black, semi-fermented tea by Masui Farming methods.

Translated by Miwa Yamauchi, Melissa Sternenberg