Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: The Tao of Tea
The Nilgiris or Blue Mountains are a range of mountains in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Tea culture is eminent in these serene mountains. Tea is grown at elevations of 1000 to 2500 metres. The landscape is quite unlike the rest of India, marked by rolling hills covered with dense vegetation and tea gardens. Many portions of the hills are preserved as natural reserve forests.
Nilgiri Blue is a high elevation tea (Grown at 6500 feet) in Coonoor, South India. High elevation tea plants grow slower and generally provide lighter, more refined flavors.
The tea garden is recognized as one of India’s premier organic tea estates. Established in 1922, it remains firmly committed to sustainable cultivation methods and conservation of the local ecosystems.
Learn more about this tea here.
It’s been a while since I tried a Nilgiri tea, so I’m hoping this will be a pleasant re-acquaintance. The dry leaf is light and feathery in appearance, and is the reddish brown colour of polished mahogany. The leaves are fairly small – around 0.5cm or smaller for the most part. I used 1 tsp of leaf for my cup, and gave it 3 minutes in boiling water. The resulting liquor is a medium red-brown, the scent sweet and a touch woody. I made no additions for my first cup.
Initially, all I could taste was a fairly generic sweet “black” tea. It reminded me of nothing in particular, except perhaps big-brand bagged tea of the kind that’s sold in supermarkets and cafes. It’s sweet, but in a way that’s woodsy rather than malty, and it seems thin tasting and lacking in depth. With successive sips, I can taste a hint of flavours characteristic of Darjeeling – a mild metallic tang, a very light floral. They’re by no means strong or particularly prominent, though. For the most part, this tea is smooth throughout, although it is a little drying in the aftertaste. Not to the extent that I’d call it astringent, because it lacks bite, but heading in that direction.
I wanted more from this one, and I have to confess I’m a little disappointed with how it turned out. I would have liked to have seen stronger flavours, more body; something to provide a little more definition. As it stands, this comes across as a pretty ordinary, standard black tea. It’s easy to drink and pleasant enough, but it’s not got a great deal of character. There’s nothing here that you couldn’t find elsewhere, and for that reason it wouldn’t find a long term place in my cupboard.
I still have a deep rooted (and probably life-long) preference for black tea. My all-time favourite is Assam, but Ceylon and Darjeeling also occupy a place in my heart. Flavoured black tea can be a beautiful thing, and I like a good chai latte in the winter.
I also drink a lot of rooibos/honeybush tea, particularly on an evening. Sometimes they're the best dessert replacements, too. White teas are a staple in summer -- their lightness and delicate nature is something I can always appreciate on a hot day.
I'm still warming up to green teas and oolongs. I don't think they'll ever be my favourites, with a few rare exceptions, but I don't hate them anymore. My experience of these teas is still very much a work-in-progress. I'm also beginning to explore pu'erh, both ripened and raw. That's my latest challenge!
I'm still searching for the perfect fruit tea. One without hibiscus. That actually tastes of fruit.