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Nilgiris: The Blue Mountain teas

The Nilgiris district lies in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The Nilgiris or blue mountain is part of the Western Ghats. It got its name because of the saxe-blue kurinji (Strobilanthes) flowers that bloom here every 12 years. The Nilgiris region is also famous for its tea.

The Nilgiris tea is only third to the Assam and Darjeeling tea, however, the high quality and flavours of the tea from the Nilgiris tea estates are slowly increasing its popularity among tea drinkers. The North Americans have developed a fondness for the Nilgiris black tea due to its perfect balance of colour, strength, and astringency.



How tea came to the Nilgiris


Tea came to Nilgiris through the British East India Company, after the 4th Anglo Indian war in 1799. However, it was only in 1819 that John Sullivan put out a petition to the government in Madras asking for a sanatorium to be created there.  In the year 1833, Dr. Christie, an Assistant Surgeon from Madras visited these hills and asked for tea seeds to be planted there. After many trials, experimentations and innovations, the teas produced in the Nilgiris hills were sent to London’s Mincing Lane to be auctioned.



Tea from the Nilgiris


The Nilgiri climate is similar to the Darjeeling climate. The Nilgiris produce hand-sorted, whole-leaf grades like the orange pekoe (OP) and pekoe cut black tea. The orange pekoe is a medium-grade black tea that contains many whole tea leaves of a specific size while the pekoe is a finer grade tea with young tea leaves and buds. You'll also find lower grade teas like the broken orange pekoe and CTC in the Nilgiri region.

The pride of the Nigiris is its winter frost teas. These teas are of good quality and have great flavour. The Nilgiri green teas along with its white and oolong tea are also on the list of teas worth exploring.