Our work is inspired by a vision of a sustainable future for Himalayan farmers and their families. Our mission is to work with Indian and Nepali communities to raise the quality of their tea, so they can earn more and raise the quality of their lives. Every purchase you make with Young Mountain Tea moves us closer to that goal.
Our partnerships with tea famers run deepest in Kumaon, where tea farmers today are earning 4x the industry average. 90% of these farmers are women, many experiencing financial independence through tea for the first time their lives. With these earnings, they are investing in their children's education; new tools for farming; and food so they no longer live in subsistence conditions.
And that’s just the beginning. We're working with a Kumaon village of tea farmers to launch a farmer-owned tea processing facility, and organizing trainings and workshops so they are empowered to be leaders of a new wave of Indian tea that transforms a global industry. Over time, this new model of tea will transform the way Himalayan tea is grown and how it can lead to better teas and lives for everyone involved.
Beyond Kumaon, we work with more than 850 farmers across 5 regions in India and Nepal. It is an honor to bring these teas to you, and in the process to unlock tea's spirit of positive change for all who enjoy the magic of the leaf.
Raise your cup.
It all began in 2013, when our founder, Raj, was working in the remote, picturesque Himalayan region of Kumaon. Traveling by buses crammed with people and goats, he passed through empty village after empty village, each surrounded by fallow farmland and washed out roads. He learned that the deserted towns were effects of urban migration, a problem shared by villages across the Himalayas. The region’s youth were fleeing to the cities in search of career opportunities, and the once-rich farmland was slowly becoming unstable, triggering landslides during the monsoons.
The remaining villagers were skilled growers, living vibrant lives through subsistence farming. Local farmers were interested in reviving abandoned tea gardens, while the American specialty tea market was simultaneously taking off. With the potential for high-end Indian tea largely untapped, there seemed to be a widening hole in the market that could be filled by smaller growers. And that’s when the idea that would later become Young Mountain Tea was sparked.
History of Indian Tea
Tea has a long, fascinating history. China was the world’s first producer of tea, and much of the equipment used to craft tea worldwide was adapted from ancient Chinese methods. But how did tea plants get to India and Nepal, where we source our loose-leaf?
In the mid-1800s, the British stole Camellia sinensis saplings from China and brought them to India, planting the saplings first in the northern Indian town of Saharanpur, near Kumaon (where much of our single-origin tea flourishes). The Indian tea industry’s colonial roots are complex and dark, but the result was a complete reinvention of how tea is made. India went from having no commercial tea production to becoming the world’s largest producer of tea in just four decades, outpacing China’s impressive export history. The new Indian model dramatically reshaped the global tea trade, impacting all aspects of the drink—from production in the mountains, to shipping internationally, to marketing to the highest ends of society. Today, India’s influence on tea continues, even as the industry evolves.
Our Tea Origins
You may notice that many of our tea names reflect the regions from which they hail—Darjeeling, Kumaon, and Nilgiri to name a few. Just like wine, all tea comes from the same plant, so regional differences in soils impact flavor. Want to know where your favorite cup is grown? See our map below. Or, to really understand a tea’s origins, travel to the source. Check out our guided trips.
Why Whole-Leaf, Loose-Leaf is Better
The starting point for all tea is always the same—the fresh growth of the tea plant. The best teas are hand-plucked by experts who use a discerning eye to take only the bud and first two leaves from select tea bushes at specifics stage of growth. In larger estates that produce volumes of low-grade teas, the plants are harvested by machines. These machines grab anything and everything, including the mature, flavorless leaves further down the plant and its woody stems. These plant parts contribute lots of bulk but little flavor.
Post-harvest, whole-leaf teas on the other hand, are handled with incredible care to prevent any unintentional damage to the precious leaves. Whole-leaf teas of the highest quality are never broken into pieces. This is particularly true for the fragile bud at the end of a plucked tea leaf, which is the smallest part, yet packed with the most flavor. If the bud gets damaged during processing, a tea will lose much of the wonderful complexities that make it unique. By contrast, tea leaves used for tea bags are ripped into pieces, and the fragile buds are often blown away in the exhaust of the crushing machines long before they get to your cup.
All is revealed when a tea is steeped. Whole-leaf teas are defined by large, undamaged leaves that slowly release their complex flavors over multiple infusions. The whole leaves create stable, layered teas with a big, juicy mouthfeel and lingering finish. The complete bud sets remains intact, and even the tiny bud is visible. However, when drinking broken tea (particularly the dregs stuffed into bagged teas), all those small bits and pieces immediately release all their flavors as soon as hot water hits, preventing the development of the nuanced flavors that make specialty, whole-leaf tea truly special.