nilgiris – largest tea growing region in south india

Today, tea is the second most consumed beverage around the world after water. People start their day with a cup of tea, little realizing that this humble drink boasts a history dating back to over 5,000 years. A single leaf of the plant added to hot water imparts not just a singularly distinctive taste coveted by millions globally, but also provides a booster shot to our energy levels. Today, tea has become ubiquitous, stimulating our mornings, relaxing our evenings and amiably remaining a companion for healthy living.

Black tea is one of the most popular tea varieties. Camellia Sinensis is the tea plant that produces native Indian black tea. Indian teas, especially those grown in Darjeeling, have been favoured by consumers across the world, especially in the CTC category. A lesser known, but by no means unpopular variety, is the Nilgiris tea. Nilgiris tea is also consumed a lot more in western countries with about 40% of its production exported across the globe.

Initially planted by the British back in the early 1900s, tea is the staple cash crop of the Nilgiris. Tea-growing areas range in altitude between 1,800 to 2,500 meters above sea level (amongst the highest elevations across all tea growing regions in India). Warm weather from March to May, exposure to both the Southwest monsoon from the Malabar Coast and the Northeast monsoon from the Bay of Bengal, favourable conditions like sufficient fog & sunlight and of course, the fertile soil of the rain forests combine to make Nilgiris the best place for growing and harvesting good quality tea leaves needed for orthodox whole-leaf teas. It is also the only region which gives tea all through the year with the peak season extending from June till November.

Naturally light and sweet, Nilgiris tea is generally described as deliciously fragrant, exquisitely aromatic, possessing high tones of delicate floral notes and golden yellow liquor. Each of the sub-regions within Nilgiris have unique characteristics due to differences in rainfall, altitude and varieties grown. Add to this the difference in plucking methods and frequency, there is a lot of variety with Nilgiris itself.

Nilgiris constitutes about 12-15% of the Indian tea production. Being amongst the more preferred teas for the export markets (due to its lightness and better flavors), the region contributes about 40% of the total Indian tea exports. It is also unique in its composition of cultivators, with around 60%-65% of the production coming from small-scale farmers – highest across all the regions in the country.

If you are a tea drinker, with a bias towards flavored, aromatic high-quality whole-leaf teas and a traveler willing to explore forested lands blessed with great natural beauty, Nilgiris tea is the drink you need and Nilgiris is the place to be.