In researching and hunting down wonderful made-in-Nepal items for the magazine, we might occasionally encounter products that are completely new and original, something that we’ve not only never heard of, but possibly never even thought of. However, to be honest with you, that doesn’t happen very often. Most of the time, what we’re encountering is something traditional, maybe even commonplace, but with a creator who has put an innovative, fascinating spin on it—something that takes something we thought we knew and serves it up in a totally new way. It’s always a joy to be taken by surprise in this way.
These were some of my thoughts when I met up with Sushmita Agrawal of Golden Peak Tea. Tea? What’s so new and interesting about tea, you might ask? Well, I might have said the same thing, but when I first heard about her business, I was so curious I tracked her down in person, which was a bit of a challenge, as her business is nearly internet-exclusive. But, more on that later.
About two years ago, Sushmita began to get interested in tea; there was already a connection, as her family is involved in the export tea business, which led her to realize that a majority of Nepal’s best teas were being sold abroad. She had the idea to start a small business of exclusively curated teas and blends, aimed at those locals and expats who are looking for something special and different in their tea-drinking. Since December, she’s been selling her handmade teas, mostly through Facebook. It may seem strange to call a tea “handmade”, but that’s really what it is: Sushmita has traveled to eastern Nepal and visited farms and met workers. When the tea she selects arrives in Kathmandu, she carefully mixes it into her proprietary blends—the reason her teas have become so popular—and hand packages it fresh for each order. There are between 10-15 of these blends, and Sushmita works with more than 100 ingredients, all naturally grown and chemical and preservative free. The packaging is all foil, paper and fabric—plastic free and good for the environment, which is a clear plus, too.
While most of the teas are green or black tea-based, there are several all-herbal blends that have become very popular, such as those aimed at good digestion, restful sleep, etc. When a customer contacts her, they can either buy one of the already available blends, or else explain to Sushmita what they need, and she’ll mix something up especially for them. Even with the established blends, though, each batch is made to order, ensuring maximum freshness.
When I first heard about this business model, I admit to being a bit of a skeptic. I’m old-fashioned and like to walk into a store and look and touch and pick stuff up before committing to a purchase. However, after speaking with Sushmita and learning about the reasoning behind it, I began to come around. Buying directly from Golden Peak Tea online means that customers are getting something that’s freshly made, and hasn’t been sitting in a shop for months under unknown and perhaps less-than-ideal conditions, slowly going stale and thereby losing flavor and effectiveness.
The green tea with lemongrass-ginger blend, both ingredients that are native to Nepal, has been such a hit with customers that there was none left when I visited. I got to taste and see several other blends, though: the Mint Refresh Tea has an aroma that is just out of this world, and Restful Sleep, which includes chamomile and hibiscus, among other things, is a fantastic caffeine-free option.
Sushmita is passionate about Nepal and the future: “Nepal has a lot of potential, both people and resources wise,” she tells me, and the joy she gets from putting this wonderful, high-quality, made-in-Nepal product into the hands of people here is clear. While it may have been easier to use the tea network her family already had, she instead traveled to Ilam to visit small farmers and producers herself, see what they were growing and making, and ensure that she could get the best for her business. It’s small but growing, and is clearly bringing happiness to many people. You can check it out for yourself at https://www.facebook.com/Goldenpeaktea/