Tea Review: Top of the World Tea Reserve – Nepal Tea Collective

When you think of high-elevation tea, what comes to mind? You may recall how the slow growth and hot/cold temperatures significantly impact the development of sugars in the leaf or the elasticity in its texture. Hailing from Bhakanje, Solukhumbu, the home of Mount Everest, Nepal Tea Collective has sourced a series of black teas. They contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in tasting them to review and share my thoughts.

What’s included in the Top of the World Teas:
10 grams: Bhakanje Spring Black #1 (non-resealable pouch)
20 grams: Bhakanje Spring Black #2 (resealable pouch)
20 grams: Bhakanje Spring Black #3 (resealable pouch)
50 grams: Bhakanje Monsoon Black #4 (resealable pouch)
A note containing details of each tea; including elevation, farmer, and descriptions.

As you can see above, many of the teas featured are spring-picked, except the last tea in the collection, Monsoon Black. For information regarding the tea flushes in Nepal, I recommend referencing my infographic, Nepali Tea Picking Seasons. Let’s dive into tasting these teas, complete with my experience and thoughts on this set as a whole.


Bhakanje Spring Black #1

DETAILS
Season: Spring, 2022
Origin: The garden of An Dawa Sherpa, Bhakanje, Solukhumbu
Elevation: 1800 m

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf/Water Ratio – 2.5 g for 50 mL
Starting Temp – 92°C
Infusion time(s) – 20 sec. + 10

Eyes Dry: Dark brown and plum leave rolled into strips
Nose Dry: Floral, cooling, herbaceuous
Nose Wet: Jasmine, rosewood, pepper
Eyes Liquor: Amber core with purplish ring
Mouth Texture: Slight forward grip, melding into sweet and savory along the sides and center of the tongue
Mouth Taste: Orange zest, jasmine, alpine woods, tomato
Nose Cup: Stewed tomato
Mouth Finish: Clean with lingering notes of sweet tomato savoriness and vegetation
Eyes Wet: Slender buds and unfurled leaves, reddish espresso hue consistent in color
Body Sensation: Refreshing and cooling


Bhakanje Spring Black #2

DETAILS
Season: Spring, 2022
Origin: The garden of Danu Sherpa, Bhakanje, Solukhumbu
Elevation: 2200 m

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf/Water Ratio – 2.5 g for 50 mL
Starting Temp – 92°C
Infusion time(s) – 20 sec. + 10

Eyes Dry: Long, textured leaves of charcoal grey and glimpses of brown
Nose Dry: Rhubarb, candied melon
Nose Wet: Compote, fennel
Eyes Liquor: Ruby and brown sugar core
Mouth Texture: Slightly dry
Mouth Taste: Fennel spice, white peppercorn
Nose Cup: Creamy squash
Mouth Finish: Mineral structure with medium decay
Eyes Wet: Reddish brown display of leaves ranging from small bits to longer leaf and bud sets
Body Sensation: Warming, energizing


Bhakanje Spring Black #3

DETAILS
Season: Spring, 2022
Origin: The garden of Pasang Sherpa, Bhakanje, Solukhumbu
Elevation: 2100 m

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf/Water Ratio – 2.5 g for 50 mL
Starting Temp – 92°C
Infusion time(s) – 20 sec. + 10

Eyes Dry: Opened and curled leaf sets, colors range between charcoal grey, plum, copper, and silver
Nose Dry: Gummy, floral, fresh green herbs
Nose Wet: Mint, floral, herbaceous
Eyes Liquor: Caramel brown
Mouth Texture: Crisp and clean
Mouth Taste: Unsalted cashews, spiced biscuits
Nose Cup: Toast
Mouth Finish: subtle creaminess, fading
Eyes Wet: Light red and unfurling leaves
Body Sensation: Feelings of focus and calm, warmth in the chest


Bhakanje Monsoon Black #4

DETAILS
Season: Monsoon, 2022
Origin: The garden of An Dawa Sherpa, Bhakanje, Solukhumbu
Elevation: 1800 m

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf/Water Ratio – 2.5 g for 50 mL
Starting Temp – 92°C
Infusion time(s) – 20 sec. + 10

Eyes Dry: Curled, reddish-brown leaves and caramel buds
Nose Dry: Cherry, espresso, leather, eucalyptus
Nose Wet: Eucalyptus
Eyes Liquor: Molasses brown
Mouth Texture: Viscous,
Mouth Taste: Limestone, spices, bread
Nose Cup: Tomato and sugars
Mouth Finish: Sweet and cool finish
Eyes Wet: Large leaves consistent in chocolate brown color
Body Sensation: Warmth in throat and chest, opening


CONCLUSION

Each tea thoughtfully expresses the terroir from the high altitude of Bhakanje, Solukhumbu, providing lasting infusions and a nice shift of flavors and aromas. There is an iconic flavor of Nelapi tea, which these teas boldly display with pride. While there are distinctions between each of the four teas, I would like to see greater variation in the overall experience the set provides – maybe another tea type produced from the gardens other than black tea. As an example, I thoroughly enjoyed tasting the differences between #1 and #4, as they both were produced from the same garden yet during different seasons. It is this interplay that helps tea drinkers understand the context and nuance of crafting tea. I also notice there are no brewing instructions provided in the set or on the product page online. This may be a challenge for those unfamiliar with these types of teas, especially if you’re trying to savor the 10 grams of Bhakanje Spring Black #1.

The robust qualities in the Top of the World Tea Reserve are well-suited for the holiday season, especially if you’re looking for a masterclass in high-elevation Nepali teas and desire robust flavor to stave off the cold. I’m excited to see more offerings in the future from these gardens and producers!

If you’d like to try this set from Nepal Tea Collective, use code: STEAPDNEPAL for 20% off your order in the month of December. I’d love to hear what you taste and how these black teas make you feel!

Steep well,
– Marco

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