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The Darjeeling tea estate of Jungpana has a unique history for its name. According to Norbu Tea Company, there are two possible origin stories. One Norbu Greg heard from the locals states that the name is an alteration of the Farsi word “Jahanpanah”, which means “Shelter of the World” – in reference to how the estate resembles a palace on a hill. The other posits that the name was a blending of “Jung” (the name of a Gurkha guide who got mauled to death) and “Pani” – the Nepali word for “water”.
I like to think it’s a combination of the two – the name given to a brave Gurkha who fended off rabid tea-thieving werewolves atop a hill. That’s how I’d want to go. Where was I going with this?
Oh yes, Jungpana.
Until last June, I’d never even heard of the estate. And in less than seven months’ time, it has become one of my favorites. My first exposure to it occurred at World Tea Expo. Yes, yes, I know I keep talking about that damn event. How was I to know it would influence umpteen origin stories months later?! Stop complaining or I’ll…uh…Gurkha you. In the face. With water.
Anyway…my first exposure was at a tasting event on my second day of the Expo. Perennial Nice Guy – Rajiv Lochan of Lochan Tea – was in attendance, and he brought with him a first flush Darjeeling for the tasting. It was an OP from the Jungpana estate. I don’t recall any other details about it other than the fact that it made mine and Robert “The Devotea” Godden’s eyes glaze over in delight.
I wish I had more information beyond the crinkled, felt-writ foil bag still in my possession.
I have barely two servings left of the stuff, and – for the longest time – I thought those vestiges would be the last of that estate I’d experience all year. Boy, how wrong I was!
Among many other samples, I received – not one but two! – teas from said estate, courtesy of Norbu Tea Company. One was a second flush OP dubbed “Muscatel” (fitting), and the other was a uniquely pan-fired green simply called “Yellow”. Just what I needed, more yellow-named teas to confuse my palate.
Well, I’m glad they did.
The Jungpana Muscatel’s infusion yielded a pleasantly…well…muscatel and floral cup with a citrus feel on the back. Never thought I’d say it, but this is a Darjeeling second flush that begs to have a pre-wash to allow the leaves to open up. Thirty seconds, tops. For some reason, more exhilarating flavor notes emerged from that. Not sure how to properly convey it.
The Jungpana Yellow on the other hand…holy Gurkha guide water!
The liquor brewed bright green with a fruity aroma. What fruit, eh, I dunno – something mildly citrusy. On taste, I can’t describe how pleasant this was. The forefront was tropical, the middle possessed the wine-like characteristics of a Long Jing, and spice appeared on the trail-off. No grass, no spinach, none of those negative green tea traits. It was green tea perfection.
No wonder this sucker won an award.
(No, seriously, it won an award.)
After that dual tasting, I looked at the bags and said, “Okay, Jungpana, I get it. You’re awesome. You’ve made your point.”
Oh, but it wasn’t done with me, yet.
Last Sunday, I ventured out to Stash Tea’s new store and tea bar in North Portland with my brother and his wife.
We planned a trip, since none of us had been yet. It was a lot like their Tigard retail space, but with a slight Teavana-ish lean (minus the upselling). That and the employees were nice – like, really nice. Genuinely friendly tea people from a large chain, what a concept!
I also appreciated the layout of the store. Once someone entered, the bar was on the right, loose-leaf single origin teas were on the left, and the bagged teas were toward the back. As they should be.
Unfortunately, they only had a limited selection of canisters one could choose from for sampling at the bar. Most of the bar-ready teas on display were of the flavored variety. Not that I was surprised. It was Stash, after all. They catered to the general tea drinker, and that was decidedly not me.
Then I saw it. At the front of the black tea line – even ahead of the Earl Greys – was a giant tin with a label that made my jaw drop and my lips moisten: “Darjeeling Jungpana”.
I ordered a 12oz. glass of it immediately. So exclusive was this tea, that it wasn’t even available on their website. (Trust me, I looked.) It was…oh my omnomgharblemummerssss….
It wasn’t quite as perfect as the Jungpana Yellow…but still way up there.
As my brother and his wife looked around, I chose a spot by the window – gingerly sipping and watching traffic go by. Both of them joined soon after – my brother had ordered a Chai Latte, his bride cupped some Mangosteen Green. My younger sibling let me sip his masala chai, and I let him try mine.
“Whoo!” he exclaimed. “That’s primo!”
“I know!” I replied.
He feigned a pout. “I like that almost better than mine.”
And we wasted the late-afternoon, cupping away like gentleman hunters waiting for their Gurkha guide.
Shelter of the World, indeed.