Tea Map – Coonoor

coonoor

 

Coonoor is one of the four main towns/hill stations in the Nilgiri mountain region in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, India.  Coonoor is located at an altitude of 1,800 m above sea level and is an ideal base for a number of trekking expeditions leading into the Nilgiris.
There are several different types of teas produced in this community: greens, blacks, and CTC teas (Cut, Tear, Curl), which are known for their quick, dark brew and are frequently used in chai.

Tea Map – Nilgiri

nilgiri

 

The Nilgiris are a mountain range in Southern India in the the state of Tamil, Nadu and Kerala.  Nilgiri means “blue hills,” referring to a blue flower called Kurunji that blossoms once every 12 years and covers the hillsides.

 

Nilgiri is a prominent tea producing region for India.  While Indian tea was first produced in the Assam region, the Nilgiri area was the second growing region in the country.  In 1827, British government officials began using the Nilgiri town of Ooty as their summer vacation spot during the occupation of India.  It was at this time that they decided to create a tea plantation in the nearby hills of Thaishola.  Oddly enough, it was Chinese prisoners of war, displaced and being held in Southern India after the Opium wars, who are said to have originally planted and manufactured the tea there.

 

The Nilgiri region is extremely lush.  Its high elevation (some of the hills are 6,000 ft), cool climate and consistent mist and rain create an ideal environment for tea growing.  Some of the best Nilgiri teas grow in the winter season.  At this time of year when the temperature drops, the sap becomes concentrated in the leaf, creating a sweet, fruity flavor–the “Nilgiri character.”  We work with a supplier named Indi Khanna, who brings us a lovely winter tea called Neela, which is a black tea with floral and citrus notes.

Tea map – Assam

assam

 

Tea, or Camellia sinensis, is widely known to be native to China.  It is perhaps slightly lesser known that the plant grows natively in the Assam region of Northeast India as well.

 

Robert Bruce, an official of the British Empire, is often credited with the discovery of Assam’s wild growing tea in 1823, and for publicizing the existence of the plant.  Indeed it was the British who occupied India in the 19th century that spearheaded tea-growing ventures in the region, planting gardens of tea and using seeds from the assamica varietal.  However, native populations, and particularly the Singpow tribes in Upper Assam are known to have made use of the tea plants long before British involvement.

 

To this day, Assam remains one of the largest tea growing regions in the world.  The region is subdivided into Upper and Lower Assam, with the Brahmaputra River serving as the dividing line.

 

The region is primarily known for its black tea.  A small percentage is made with hand-made, orthodox methods.  A much larger portion of the tea is made with the Cut, Tear and Curl (CTC) processing method, which produces small round balls of black tea that infuse quickly and are often used in chai blends.

Tea Map – Darjeeling

darjeeling

 

Darjeeling is a renown tea growing region located in Northeastern India in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains.  It is home to around 86 estates, all planted along the region’s steep sloping hills at an elevation of around 6000 ft.

 

Over the years, tea from the region has become extremely sought after and the estates of Darjeeling have been bought up by a few primary families and some corporations.  The popularity of the tea is due in part to its complex, sweet and fruity flavor that resembles that of a white muscat grape.  Darjeeling primarily produces black teas.  These teas have a pleasant brew that is neither too light nor too heavy.  Another positive quality of Darjeeling tea is that most, if not all, is produced using orthodox (handmade) methods.

 

Consumers should be careful to go through trusted vendors when buying Darjeeling so to avoid imitations.  Darjeeling produces about 10 million kilograms of tea per annum, and yet around 30 million kilograms of tea is sold worldwide every year and marketed as Darjeeling.  Much of the counterfeit tea comes from outlying regions such as Nepal or the Kangra region of India.
Some reputable Darjeeling Gardens include Goomtee, Okayti, Ambootia, Gopaldhara, Jungpana, Margaret’s Hope, Castelton, Makaibari, Singell, Samabeong, and Selimbong.

Tea Map – India

 

India-regions

 

India has several prominent tea growing regions, each with their own special quality and character.  In the northeast, we source teas from the regions of Assam and Darjeeling and the hillside communities of Mirik and Kurseong.  In the south, we have relationships with farmers in Nilgiri and Coonoor.

 

India is one of the largest tea producers in the world.  Tens of millions of people make their livelihood from the tea industry and more than 70% of Indian tea never crosses the border and is consumed within the country itself.

 

While tea is a vital part of India’s culture and economy, the country has been manufacturing the product for less than 200 years — relatively recent by comparison to China.  Though native populations likely used tea leaves for centuries, it was the 1830s when India began producing tea commercially.  This history is complex and involves British imperialism and trade.

 

The British East India Company was in the tea-trading business and for many years had a monopoly on all trading with China.  When they lost this monopoly in 1833, they were suddenly motivated to find a new source of tea.  At that time, the British occupied parts of Northern India and over the years had become aware that the climate was suitable — perhaps ideal — for tea production.

 

The British government then took on a huge initiative to plant tea gardens in the Assam region.  Though tea grows natively in Assam, originally the British brought tea seeds (and tea growers) from China.  When seeds from China struggled to grow, they began using seeds from the native plants, which fared better.  The first tea was ready for market by 1838 and was received extremely well by tea drinkers in London.  From there, the industry continued to grow and develop into what it is today.

 

India is most famous for its classic black teas from regions like Assam, the Nilgiris, Darjeeling, Doars and Palampur.  Each region has its own distinct tea plant varietals, a rich history and notable tea growers. India is also famous for its chai, tulsi (holy basil) and fragrant spices.  Recent inspirations have led tea growers to develop new styles of tea processing in addition to black tea.

 

A large portion of Indian tea is produced as the Cut, Tear and Curl (CTC) grade which goes into classic style tea bags, iced teas and chai blends.  A much smaller portion is made using an “orthodox” style of manufacture, wherein at least some of the steps include hand processing.