Deepak’s family and me, before departure
After 19 hours, I got out of my bus from Kathmandu to Phikkal and called my host, asking him to pick me up from this local village. He arrived soon and took me by foot away from the noises of cars, into the quiet rural places of the region of Ilam. Thirty minutes later, I arrived at a little house that made a similar impression of being from a fairy tail. Let me tell you about an experience of the amazing kind and the process of making tea.
- Working as: Tea farmer
- Place, Phikkal, Ilam, Nepal
- Time I’ve spent there: 28.09.16 – 10.09.16
Deepak Kulung, 39
Married Father of one child, working for over 15 years at his tea farm. He is hosting volunteers by WorkAway for 4 years already. 40 years ago, the family started to lay hands on tea productions and later had been passed into the hands of Deepak and his brother. Together with his grandparents, they are a family of five and taking care of up to over ten volunteers at a time.
Tea originates from this very region of Asia. It is a short and spectacular process from the tea leaf to the finished ingredient.
The plucking of tea leafes
Tea bushes make a very unique impression. Not spectacular by itself, but rather when seeing a whole field of it. The leaves have to be picked from the top of the little bushes and are collected in a basket. They have to be carrying a bright green, a soft texture, and must be tiny sized in order to be useful. There are different quality rates about tea leafes. A tiny leaf of about 3 cm is already considered as too big and can be recognized on its too hard texture and dark green color.
Depending on the process of drying, the leafes create their own characters that are widely known today as: Black tea, green tea or the rarer one, white tea.
Black tea: Place the leafes onto a surface, where you can roll a large handful of leafes continuously with both hands, until they start to lose their juice and begin to form into a ball. After approximately 5-10 minutes, place the rolled tea aside and continue with a new portion, until all work is done.
Green tea: The leafes need to be steamed first and then be taken out to be rolled.
Golden tea: Only the tiniest needles of leafes can be used for this tea. No steaming needed, but a 24 hour drying in the sun.
After rolling the leafes into a mass of wet greenery, I gets spreaded on the mat to dry or in case of limited sun, the stove outside the house will get used. 3 hours later, the leafes will be dried and crispy and the tea is ready to be served.
Many references had been written about this tea farm in the east of Nepal, so I expected some other volunteers to meet as well, but the number showing up was still surprising. More than ten other volunteers were gathering during my stay and making it a very lively place and since other activities were not really available, it was good to have them here. We played cards and chess and even celebrated a volunteers birthday with a 5Liter bottle of local rice wine, and generally spoke a lot with each other, but everyone kept going to bed in the first week, before 9pm which was dissapointing, so I just remained in the tea hut for a bit longer, learning Korean. I did not do 5/5 per week WorkAway, but rather did some days of tea picking, rolling or carrying other goods from the village located 40min away from the WorkAway place. The Wifi was also only available in the village of Phikkal, so it was an excercise and reward to get to it, but it filled my hours in the quiet days so I have no complaints about it. I think an availability of internet, would have introverted the people more and so I was kind of glad not to have it here.
I enjoyed the animal life in this place with the little goats and the annoying cat. The Kulungs were really funny people and joking with no end. On the last evening of my stay, The volunteers and the family got together for a Momo-party and now I know how it works! And if you add riped bananas to it or chocolate then.. it’s dangerous. Brits, Americans, French, everything was there and I made new friends and reasons to go to new places and that’s why I fell in love with WorkAway.
The Kulung Dip
A recipe that was created by the Kulung family and I had the honor to receive it. It is a simple and variative recipe and can be cooked worldwide. For the recipe click here!
There was one sunset, that completely astonished many of the volunteers, as we were gathering on a nice spot and watching a life time memory. The Air was carrying rain forest flavour and the nature looked somewhat between European and Asian forest. Their house is so cute and the garden as well. We’ve spent many hours, sitting on the terasse and talking with each other.
My final impression
Coming into the rural lifestyle of Nepal’s countryside, took me a while to adapt to the situation, but as time went by and human nature started to process, I adapted to the situation pretty quickly and soon enjoyed the silent tea hills of Ilam. The experience cannot be measured in any currency, and so I am thankful to have had this opportunity, to explore the east of Nepal and its tea hills by WorkAway.
Thank you, Kulung
If you are having an interest in the Workaway Host, you can visit his Workaway profile by clicking here.