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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.