Ilam Wonder First Flush is a lightly oxidised high grade First Flush tea from Ilam District in eastern Nepal. This tea comes from a small, fully organic plantation. It produces an easy-going but complex liquor that is floral, sweet and fruity. It has a typical First Flush profile, all wrapped up in a very appealing and approachable taste. Unlike graded batches (like SFTGFOP1 etc), this tea was not graded, so it has kept the more original, raw appearance. This batch was made from varied cultivars and was picked 18-19 April 2022.
We source this tea via a small specialist wholesaler partner who specialises in working with smaller estates and farmers in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. The tea comes from a small plantation that is run to organic standards, located in Ilam District in Province No. 1. The plantation is found at an average of 1,500 meters and occupies only 10 hectares, producing SFTGFOP1 teas with minimal lower grade tea output. It is planted with varied Darjeeling cultivars and this batch is a selection of the best pickings from: Phoobsering 312, Bannockburn 777, Goomtee and Tukda 178. As this tea was not graded, this not only retains more of the original nature of the tea but also means that it is very fairly priced considering the quality and the wonderful flavours.
Ilam District itself is the purported location of the beginning of the Nepali tea industry back in around 1860. Due to isolated nature of the country at the time, the tea industry did not develop, unlike Darjeeling just across the border. While eventually the tea industry in Nepal did start evolving, the style of tea made was always more along the lines of Darjeeling teas. At the same time the demand for Darjeeling tea meant that there was a demand for Nepali tea that was very similar in style in nature as it was being sold as Darjeeling instead. While some would name the tea as Darjeeling (origin Nepal) others would simply sell Nepali tea (that was reasonably unknown at the time) as the much more expensive and famous Darjeeling.
More recently, as people are becoming more aware of origin and terroir, Nepali tea is gaining good traction with some estates gaining recognition similar to that of the famous Darjeeling ones. As always, this can only be a good thing as this means better price for the tea makers and better wages and living conditions for those working in the tea industry.
This Ilam Wonder is a First Flush black tea. It is classed as a black tea according to convention, alongside First Flush Darjeeling. In reality it is much more of an oolong tea in style and flavour. It consists of leaves of mixed size that reflects the ungraded nature but at the same time retains the original and raw appearance. It produces a golden green liquor with great clarity and brightness. The highly aromatic liquor has a smooth, light taste with a floral profile. There is a nice mineral aspect reminiscent of Darjeeling teas, some nice lightly roasted notes and honey sweetness present throughout the tasting. There are hardly any tannins, just a lightly drying aftertaste at the very end of the flavour with a somewhat spicy mouthfeel. Overall this is a very smooth, floral and surprisingly sweet tea!
Ilam Wonder First Flush is best brewed at 90°C for around 3 minutes and can be brewed 2+ times. This is definitely one of the teas from the region that we would encourage you to experimenting with gong fu brewing.