Monday, 9 December 2013

Char from The Nilgiris

Welcome to readers from Mexico

Welcome to readers from Brunei - helo and sama

The Nilgiris

Fortune Cookie


If a man is impulsive, back away slowly.

Map of the Indian Tea Regions

The Nilgiri region is partly in Kerala and partly Tamil Nadu. That is, in the south of India. It is the most beautiful part of India in my view though of course there's a discussion to be had there.

Palms at Samudra beach, Kerala

I stayed here for four months. The rest of India just isn't quite the same. It's easy to see why the Indians call Kerala "Gods Country".

The badge of Nilgiri tea products

If you like travel see Singing Bird's sister site GuerillaZ below.

Nilgiri tea can be a thing of some considerable distinction. The pot of tea served up at the Old Courtyard Hotel in Fort Kochi is an example of that distinction. This was a smooth cup of tea taken English style with milk and sugar. It was a loose tea called "Korahkundah" shipped from the mainland.

Korakundah Loose Tea

Elephants Break into a Nilgiri tea plantation

Elephants are not popular with many people. They are considered more dangerous than tigers. When they trumpet everyone runs for cover. There's nothing like that experience. Several tons of angry elephant is something special to behold. The power resonating from the beast is palpable.


The first Nilgiri tea I tried, back in 2009, came from a tea factory that shall remain nameless. I steeped it but metaphorically these elephants had trampled it into the red Keralan dust. That tea remains, to this day, the least palatable I have ever tasted. An unfortunate experience. I have never discovered quite how they could have made it taste like that. I have wondered if it was tea at all. Even the cheapest tea bags are better. In the past Nilgiri tea has suffered from a poor reputation associated with it's erstwhile reliance on sales to the former USSR. Soviet buyers had little regard for quality. It was a freakish experience. That was in 2009.

Drinking tea to the sound of classical Indian music in the Old Courtyard Hotel.

It sounds something like this:

The tea is driven down the mountains of the western Ghats where Nilgiri tea is grown and out to the port of Ernakulam-Kochi or shipped up the coast to Mumbai and then Delhi.

This tea was entirely different. Often consumed with milk or lemon this black tea was of another calibre.

My mother sheltering in The Old Courtyard Hotel, Fort Cochin

While in Fort Cochin, a ridiculously pretty island off the coast, the hotelier at The Old Courtyard served up the Korakundah tea. To buy our own we had to get a ferry and a bus to reach the tea shop in the Jewish quarter on the mainland. If you've been to Ernakulam you know how desperately hot an experience that is. Sunblind streets mixed with heavy traffic and wild rickshaw drivers. An hour and ten minute journey to the shop (2 miles). The tea was excellent. Smooth. Bracing. Enough to make birdsong sound sweeter.

In November 2006 a Nilgiri tea achieved "Top Honours" and fetched a world record price of $600 per kg. This was at the first ever tea auction held in Las Vegas. A machine-sorted, lower-cost variety of high quality tea is a semi-full leaf variety known as Broken Orange Pekoe.

Cheerio for now

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