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.