The elevation of the Nilgiris results in a much cooler and wetter climate than the surrounding plains, so the area is popular as a comfortable retreat and is good for tea cultivation. Its economy is based on commodity crops of tea, coffee, and spices such as pepper, cardamom, cloves, Garcinia gummi-gutta, Ginger, Nutmeg, Turmeric, Vanilla, Cinnamon and many more followed in importance by potato, cabbage, carrot, and fruits. The area also produces Eucalyptus oil, lemon grass oil and temperate-zone vegetables.
Nilgiri tea is generally described as being a dark, intensely aromatic, fragrant and flavoured tea grown in hilly slopes of Ooty, Coonoor and Kotagiri.Small growers sell their tea as green leaf to Tea factories, After processing (which converts the green leaf into 'made tea'), most is sold through regularly scheduled auctions in Coonoor, Coimbatore and Kochi. More than 50% of Nilgiri tea is exported, and usually finds its way into blends used for tea bags.
With a subtropical climate, similar to that found in Darjeeling, the Nilgiris produces hand-sorted, whole-leaf grades like the orange pekoe (OP) and pekoe cut black tea.
The orange pekoe is the most expensive hand-sorted, full-leaf versions of tea. whereas pekoe is a finer grade with young tea leaves and buds. Lower tea grades like broken orange pekoe and CTC are also produced here.The Nilgiris also produces exceptional varieties of green, white and oolong tea.
In 1835 tea seeds were sown for the first time, on an experimental basis at Ketti, a tea plantation farm in the Nilgiris. By the year 1859, the first commercial tea plantation estates were set up at Dunsandle and Thiashola. At a higher elevation is located the Korakundah tea plantation estate which was established in the year 1930.
What to expect from the Nilgiri tea?
Tea here is grown in elevations ranging from 1,000 meters to 2,500 meters above sea level. The region enjoys close to 60 inches to 90 inches of rainfall every year. These teas are intensely aromatic and flavourful with lingering notes of dusk flowers and tropical fruit. One of the specialties from here is the winter frost teas, packed with flavour because of the frosty nights.
Tea is the second most consumed drink in the world, second only to water.
Black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and white tea all come from the same plant.
The different tea types are only created due to different processing methods. For example, black tea is highly processed whereas white tea is only minimally processed. Taste and appearance differ greatly depending on each processing method. The less processed the tea leaf, the greater antioxidants. This means that green tea has more antioxidants than black tea, and white tea (the least processed of the teas) has the most antioxidants of all.
Black tea production involves withering, rolling, fermenting and then firing the leaves which helps to preserve the tea for long periods of time. This process was originally used to prevent tea from rotting in containers when sent from China to the rest of the world. Britain, America and much of the rest of the world are accustomed to black tea for this reason, while the Chinese still prefer the less processed green tea.