Nilgiri Black TeaAssam and Darjeeling are the big names in Indian tea; the one for quantity and the other for quality. They aren’t the only places that make tea there, though. The Nilgiri area has a healthy tea industry, and it’s clawing its way up in the world.

Nilgiri is a range of mountains way down in the southern end of India, at about the same latitude as Sri Lanka, which produces Ceylon tea. It mostly produces CTC tea (cut tear curl, that really finely chopped stuff that looks a little like coffee grounds) for blend, and when I drink a cup of pure high grade Nilgiri tea it reminds me of English Breakfast even more strongly than Assams and Keemuns do. You may not know the name Nilgiri, but the flavor will probably be familiar.

Their production system is kind of different. Only a third of Nilgiri tea is produced by huge plantations; most of it is grown on small farms, which then sell their freshly harvested leaves to processors. The processors have no problem putting out a consistent product, though, which in itself has been a bit of a problem for them. The thing is, when the USSR was buying massive amounts of tea in the 70s and 80s, they dominated the Nilgiri industry. Unfortunately, what the Soviets wanted to buy was leaf that looked pretty when the purchaser looked at it, which only has so much to do with the quality of the tea that results. After a few decades of making tea that the Soviets would buy, Nilgiri wasn’t putting out particularly good tea, and when the USSR collapsed, Nilgiri was left hanging.Decaf Organic Nilgiri Green Tea

They’ve retooled and rebuilt (we have the technology! </notentirelyrelevantreference>) by this point, so the Nilgiri tea industry is slowly getting healthier, and they’re producing some worthwhile teas. We have two, one basic black which is in the picture at the top of the article, and one really quite nifty decaffeinated organic green, fig. 2. The word that springs to mind is unexpected, and when we got it there was a lot of handing around a cup of it and saying “what? Decaf Nilgiri green?” It’s quite tasty, so if you’re looking for something that’s decaf and different, you should definitely try out the green, just like, if you’re looking for something quality and familiar, with a nice caffeine kick, you should try the black.

Elizabeth, Teahouse Kuan Yin Staff