Nilgiri Platinum Needle
Nilgiri Platinum Needle | Indian Specialty White Tea
Taste: Ripe raisins, smooth vanilla, and sweet corn
Origin: Nilgiri mountains of Southern India
Tea Maker: Tea Studio
Steep 1 1 Tbsp /2.5 g | 8 oz | 170° F | 3.5 min
Steep 2 8 oz | 175° F | 4.5 min
Certifications: None (organically grown, verified through testing)
Packaging: Resealable stand-up pouches with oxygen and moisture barrier, made with at least 20% recycled material including recycled milk jugs and water bottles.
Nilgiri Platinum Needle is a micro-lot white tea that weaves fruit and floral notes into a creamy body. Small-scale farmers must wait for precise ambient conditions to make this tea, as cool, dappled shade is essential to developing the nuanced layers of vanilla and raisins that make this tea so sought after.
Tasting Notes: Needle teas made from just the tea buds are among the most prized in the world, offering a panorama of flavors that range from luscious sweet cream to bright floral rose and orchids. This particular one has a well-rounded body of sweet corn and heavy mouthfeel that sits deep on the tongue. These intricate flavors only come out when the tea is steeped gently, using a low temperature to ensure the fragile bud isn’t cooked. Lovers of Silver Needles, Jasmine Green Tea, and White Peony loose leaf tea will likely enjoy this one.
Production: With any tea, the health of the tea bush dictates the quality of the final cup. With white teas, which experience virtually no processing, the vitality of the plant is paramount. Watching the weather carefully, the tea makers in the high-elevation Nilgiris mountains must wait for sunny, cool days to attempt this tea. After a painstaking pluck of only the buds, the harvest is carefully transferred from the garden in bamboo trays where the tea makers begin their watch. Every few hours, these trays are moved between sun and shade to promote gradual water evaporation without burning the delicate buds. This tea epitomizes the tight relationship between tea plant and tea maker, and how minimal intervention can unlock the tea plant’s full potential..
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.