• The Cupping Room - May 2015

Nilgiri…The Other Place for Indian Tea

Meost of us who enjoy a soothing cup of Black Tea, and that have moved into the realm of steeping loose tea leaves are likely to recognize the classic name of Darjeeling. This famous tea growing region has developed a global reputation for the black teas produced there from plants originally smuggled from China during the Opium Wars that were planted in the Himalayan foothills. Darjeeling lovers delight in the golden tones evident in the cup and the hint of a muscatel note (of the Muscat grape variety) that has landed Darjeeling the distinction of being The Champagne of Black Teas.

Some, too, might recognize another most famous tea of India which was discovered growing naturally in the furthest northeastern region of India, know as Assam in 1823 by Robert Bruce. Even if you did not pickup on the name of this bold and malty Assam tea that produces rich red-brown tones in the cup, you likely have experienced it often either in loose-leaf breakfast blends you’ve enjoyed, or even in tea bags that you have joyfully steeped, never knowing what the producer had packed in that tiny bag with a string for your tea drinking pleasure.

A Long Way From Darjeeling & Assam…

In the Western Ghats, a mountainous rainforest region some 3000+ kilometers south west of the well-known and world famous tea growing regions of Darjeeling & Assam you will find not only incredible tea to delight you, but there you will find a most remarkable place. For the Teas of the Nilgiris are grown in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves, located in the Tamil Nadu District of South India.

In this region, conservation is a way of life and is embraced to its fullest in the production of tea. The uniqueness of this piece of heaven on earth forms all the ingredients needed to reach excellence in tea by allowing Mother Nature to work her magic transforming the pure healthy elements of this local terroir into luscious plump and vibrant leaves ideal for processing with state-of-the-art equipment and hand technique into remarkable tea.

Not only is the uniqueness of this pristine place a core ingredient to the ultimate success of the finished teas, but special too, is the application of hand processing to create teas of both distinction in the cup and beauty in the leaf.

The Value of Artisan Tea…

The most wide-spread technique for processing tealeaves in India incorporates equipment especially designed to efficiently process the leaves while intending to remove labor from the process and the cost. Having equipment process the leaves allows processors to handle large volumes of leaves in short periods of time and to produce reliable consistent results.

The very hand technique that large commodity tea producers have desired to eliminate is the same technique that contributes to the quality of Artisan Teas and actually is what makes them the amazing teas they are. The result of skilled hand technique plays a role in preserving the size, shape and beauty of the leaf by attempting to avoid leaf breakage during the processing. Beyond the beauty of the whole leaf however, it is the nuance that is added during the hand process.

In the Nilgiri Hills of South India, Artisan technique is applied to the high quality local leaf material, by adopting and modeling after Chinese hand technique to produce high quality healthy teas uniquely different from any others in the world.

Nilgiri Goodness from Green to Black…

The insightful tea producers of Nilgiri are not only incorporating forward thinking in terms of preserving their ecosystem, focusing on organic teas, and maintaining the uniqueness of Artisan Teas through hand technique, they have also chosen to offer a range of teas. From unoxidized greens to partially oxidized oolongs and fully oxidized black teas, there are superb teas from this wonderful place for every tea drinker.

I find these teas deliver the characteristics I am looking for in a quality cup of tea…aroma, flavor, mouthfeel and sensation. Try them for a most enjoyable variation to your healthy tea experience. Add Nilgiri to your Tea Garden Journey.

Philip Parda
Tea Purveyor, Savvy Tea Gourmet, Madison, CT

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