On the Indo-Nepal border that neighbors Darjeeling, Mr. Madan Tamang grows Camellia sinensis and rhododendrons. The tea estate, aptly named after his ancestral village of Meghma where it is in, produces one of the most natural and unique oolong teas in the world.
The words â€œremoteâ€, â€œno roadâ€, and â€œpurestâ€ have been used to describe Mr. Tamangâ€™s estate and production methods. That is understandable, considering that the tea processing facility is located at 7,000 feet above sea level. This is a place where electricity has not dared reach and where “charcoal” has to be handmade to fuel the roasting of the tea.
On many occasions, I have enjoyed Mr. Tamangâ€™s oolong. And every time it never fails to enchant me with its exquisite bouquet and taste.
Tasting Note: 2006 Meghma Tea Estate, Autumn Harvest Oolong, Eastern Nepal
Dry leaves: bouquet of nuts, honey, very ripe mango and yellow tropical fruits acidity. When thrown into a warmed-up gaiwan, the leaves exude deeper and sweeter aforementioned aromas. Lovely!
Brewing parameter (gongfu): 205 â€“ 208 F (96 â€“ 98 C) spring water, dry leaves filling 1/3 of the gaiwan, flash rinse, then 5s, 5s, 10s, 15s, 30s, 1m.
The liquorâ€™s medium amber color and its crystal clear clarity remind me, somehow, of eau de vie that has slumbered for multiple decades in oak barrels. Nutty with honey-like taste and a touch of acidity that brings the tea alive. The texture is smooth and a bit oily. Medium bodied. Finishes with an earthy, dark mushroom taste that lingers. After swallowing, the teaâ€™s astringency is felt and it produces a mouth-drying effect. I feel thirsty again quite instantly.
This tea is rather easily spent, managing to produce 4 delicious infusions before turning watery. A lovely and complex tea overall, while it lasts. 4 stars (very good, out of 5).
Mr. Tamang has got a fan in me. His latest 2007 spring oolong will soon be available for sale in the US, and I look forward to tasting the fresh crop.
One of T Chingâ€™s inestimable contributors, Mr. Rajiv Lochan, discussed briefly about Mr. Tamangâ€™s biodynamic farming approach.
Nikhil Roychowdhury of The Simple Leaf Tea conducted a one-on-one interview with the man himself. Find out who Madan Tamang is and what he stands for.
(Photo of Madan Tamang, above and on the main page, provided by The Simple Leaf Tea)