In India, there are three tea growing regions; Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri. Nilgiri is known to be the third cousin in terms of popularity, coming after Assam and Darjeeling. The Nilgiri district is situated in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Nilgiris also called "Blue mountains", are a part of the Western Ghats. The saxe blue kurinji (Strobilanthes) flowers bloom here every 12 years hence, the name "Blue Mountains".
These Blue Mountains rise from approx 1,000 feet at the lower elevations to over 8,000 feet at the highest peaks. With this range of elevations, plentiful rainfall, abundant forests, misty valleys, ample amount of sunlight and a huge number of rivers and streams, the Nilgiri tea growing region is as perfect as you can get for tea to grow green and bountiful. Some of the highest grown teas in the world, up to 8000 ft elevation, are found here.
Other tea-growing districts in South India include Munnar, and Central Travancore, located in Kerala.
Tea in Nilgiri
Tea was first introduced to Nilgiri in 1835 and has been commercially grown there since1850's. Hence, many of the established tea estates still have an old British colonial look and feel to them. After India's independence, the Nilgiris became a mass producer of CTC (cut-tear-curl). These days close to 95 percent of the world's tea are CTC tea, which is a key ingredient in tea bags or tea blends. However, Nilgiris do offer grades of Orthodox teas. They produce expensive hand-sorted, full-leaf versions of the tea like the Orange Pekoe (O.P.) and pekoe cut black tea. The orange pekoe is a basic, medium-grade black tea consisting of many whole tea leaves of a specific size, whereas pekoe is a finer grade with young tea leaves and buds. Nilgiris grow exceptional varieties of green, white and oolong tea.
Tea export from India includes these exceptional varieties and grades of Nilgiri teas. Data from various research reports suggest that at least 70% of South Indian tea is exported, and the Nilgiris constitutes more than half of all South Indian production. According to top tea suppliers in the world and Indian tea suppliers, Nilgiri tea is one of the hidden gems of the Indian tea.
Nilgiri Tea Characteristics
The ideal balance of color, strength, and astringency makes Nilgiri tea every 'tea blender's dream'. They are known to be intensely and exquisitely aromatic, medium-bodied with a smooth and mellow taste with delicate flavors, creamy mouthfeel and have a golden yellow liquor. Due to the cold climate in the Nilgiris, teas grow more gradually, which enhances the tea's aromatic flavors which bring out their fruity, floral and spicy notes.
So, in case you have never tried this secret treasure from India, its time you experience it now. Nilgiri teas are one of the most pleasurable teas in the world.