Nilgiri Black Orchid
Nilgiri Black Orchid | Premium Indian Black Tea
Taste: Dried plums, crisp Asian pear, and sweet red beans
Origin: Nilgiri mountains of Southern India
Tea Maker: Tea Studio
Steep 1 1 Tbsp /2.5 g | 8 oz | 210° F | 3 min
Steep 2 8 oz | 210° F | 4 min
Certifications: None (organically grown, verified through testing)
Nilgiri Black Orchid is a fragrant black with notes of dried plum and crisp Asian pear. The all-woman team of tea makers at Tea Studio created this tea in response to a challenge from one of the attendees of our Guided Tea Trips.
Tasting Notes: This well-shaped tea begins with a heavy aroma of dried plums. The tea jumps on the tongue with notes of bright, tart Asian pear balanced against comforting, sweet red beans. It is a whole-leaf black tea, a rarity for the Nilgris, and the result is a tea with more weight and heft than is common for the region. Lovers of Taiwan’s black teas from Sun Moon Lake will also likely enjoy this tea.
Production: On our annual India Tea Tour in 2019, we visited Tea Studio for the day. That morning, while sitting in the building’s gorgeous tasting room surrounded by windows surrounded by a lush tea garden, we tried all their teas. One of them, Indi’s Gold, reminded one of the trip’s attendees named Jeannie of a Taiwanese black tea from Sun Moon Lake. She mentioned this to Muskan, the tea factory manager, and Muskan’s father Indi. Muskan and Indi took this as a challenge and created this tea in response. It goes through the standard processing steps of an all black--withering, rolling, oxidizing, and drying--but with several adaptations along the way in which the tea makers use Chinese techniques to shape, heat, and polish the tea. This synthesis of styles is at the heart of what Tea Studio does best.
Region: The Nilgiri region contains India’s southernmost mountains. While the district is only slightly larger than Darjeeling, it produces nearly four times as much tea. The prolific growth can be attributed to the lush tropical climate that allows for year-round growth. Unlike other regions, most of the land is owned by small growers who sell their green leaf to “bought leaf” factories. Nigiri teas are generally known to be less bitter and difficult to oversteep. They also don’t get cloudy as they steep, which makes them popular for high-end iced tea.
Tea Makers: Tea Studio is a state-of-the-art processing facility in the Nilgiris, run by Muskan Khanna and jointly owned by several international partners. Muskan’s father, Indi, has been experimenting with just about every aspect of tea since Muskan was a child--from growing the leaf, to sourcing the equipment, to exporting tea by the container. Indi is a fearless self-made tea man, and Muskan inherited her father’s love for tea. Her creativity and passion is evident in the teas her team makes--they all incorporate traditional Chinese methods and machines. Under Muskan’s leadership, Tea Studio is currently run and operated exclusively by a team of women–rare for the tea industry in any part of the world, let alone India. Tea Studio is also an educational space designed to host groups and teach professionals how to make fine whole-leaf teas. Read more about Muskan’s Journey.
Impact: In a trade dominated by men, Muskan and the all-woman team at Tea Studio show change is possible. They are exercising a level of creativity unheard of in India tea, rethinking every aspect of tea’s production, from the field to the factory. And with women leading the way, social norms are being transformed in Nilgiri villages, as locals see women creating teas that are getting attention from buyers from across the globe. Through Tea Studio’s educational offerings, they are creating opportunities for more small growers to gain the skills needed to make high-quality teas, raising up their entire community.
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