Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Nilgiri Black from India's Blue Mountains

Last month, I attended the launch of JING's Coonoor Estate Nilgiri Black tea, hosted by The Cinnamon Club.

I'd never heard of Nilgiri before so was curious to taste and learn more about this lesser-known Indian tea.

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David Hepburn, who introduced me to a range of Jing oolong and puerh teas a few months ago, told us about his April visit to Tamil Nadu in Southern India and the resulting addition to Jing's product range.

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David Hepburn

Jing were looking for a producer creating a high-quality, loose, whole-leaf tea that expresses the best characteristics of Nilgiri tea – a rich fragrance and full body.

Jing Nilgiri 1
image from Jing's presentation

The Coonoor Estate is located in 'The Nilgiris', which literally translates to 'Blue Mountains', named for a local shrub that blossoms once every twelve years, covering the hillsides in purple-blue flowers. The region offers a perfect climate for tea growing, but perhaps its teas have been undervalued – Nilgiri teas have predominantly been used in blends and teabags.

Jing Nilgiri 2
image from Jing's presentation

The Coonoor Estate tea plants grow in a 46-acre organic-certified plantation at an elevation of 6,500 feet. Producer, Indi Khanna, has a wealth of experience and knowledge and manages a highly skilled team working in a state-of-the-art purpose-built factory. We see pictures; it looks amazing!

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The leaves of the resulting tea are exceptionally large and produce a wonderfully fragrant and rich-yet-light black tea with an appealing amber colour.

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David recommends brewing a generous tablespoon or so of the tea for between two and two and a half minutes, though says it can be brewed a little stronger if you prefer.

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The scent has hints of citrus; the taste is toffee rich. It's delicious!

In the last couple of years, I've drunk far less black tea than I used to and far more oolong – I love it's combination of freshness and richness and the merest hint of smokiness.

So it is genuinely quite a revelation to taste a black that so forcibly tempts me back to the world of black teas!
I figured I'd find it decent enough, but I really didn't expect to fall in love with it.

Lucky me, then, that guests are sent off with goodie bags containing the Nilgiri Black as well as a fragrant Earl Grey. I can also pick up more for £7.00 a 50 gram pack.

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One of the tea-based cocktails served during the evening; it was delicious but I can't remember what it was

Whilst the oolongs and puerhs I tried with David a few months ago didn't make a strong impression, this Nilgiri Black is really rather special and one I'm very happy to recommend.

7 comments:

gastrogeek said...

Great write up, I'm so gutted to have missed this! I'd love to buy some - is it available in any shops or is it only online?

foxie said...

Sounds yummy! I'm always looking for new blacks and I've not found anyone who does Blue Mountain since my favourite tea shop in Austin closed down.

Kavey said...

Gastrogeek, I'm not sure, would drop an email to Jing via their website and ask. I'm sure they can let you know!

Foxie, haven't been familiar with blue mountain/ nilgiri before. Would love to know how you find this one...

Michelle Peters - Jones said...

I love Nilgiri tea, as its the tea we had growing up in Mangalore. We had friends with coffee and tea estates, and I have smuggled lots of this wonderful tea into Canada (thanks to some generous friends), as my in-laws and friends love it. Its very underrated, as Assamese tea takes predominance among Indian teas. The other characteristic of Nilgiri tea is a subtle hint of spice, as ocasionally tea is grown along with cinnamon bark and cardamom.

If you get a chance, try some of the South Indian coffee, particularly from Coorg, as well, its amazing.

Kavey said...

Oh, thanks Michelle, I will look out for it!

Greedy Diva said...

I love the Early Grey too.

Kavey said...

@GD Am currently enjoying the Nilgiri!