Giving the English Tea Store's Nonsuch Estate Nilgiri a try. (photo by William I. Lengeman, III - all rights reserved)

Giving the English Tea Store’s Nonsuch Estate Nilgiri a try. (photo by William I. Lengeman, III – all rights reserved)

I have mixed feelings about India’s teas. If I had to pick a variety of tea that’s disappointed me the most over the years, I’d go with Darjeeling. I’ve only been drinking tea for about eight years now and in the early days I found myself quite impressed with the unique flavor profile of this distinctive variety of black tea that’s grown in northern India. Lately though, I can barely bring myself to prepare the samples of Darjeeling that come my way. I even went so far as to document my falling out with Darjeeling tea last year.

On the other hand I’m a huge fan of the tea that’s produced in the Assam region of India, one of the world’s greatest single tea-growing regions and my absolute favorite. At my own site over the course of the years I’ve even devoted two separate months to exploring all things Assam.

Then there’s Nilgiri. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s probably not surprising. With all due respect to the good tea growers of India’s third region, it’s safe to say they’re overshadowed by the premium teas of Darjeeling and the sheer quantity of tea turned out in Assam.

My own experience with Nilgiri tea has been somewhat limited and, while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I disliked any of them, my recollection is that I found them to be kind of so-so. Like the teas grown in those other parts of India, nearly everything that comes out of Nilgiri is a black tea. Which is fine by me, as a dedicated cheerleader for all manner of this type of tea.

The curious thing about this Nilgiri variety from the Nonsuch Estate is that it could (and did) pass for a Darjeeling tea. I’d somehow formed the mistaken impression that it actually was a Darjeeling and my first version of this review treated it as such. The first time I sampled it I liked it well enough and I was actually willing to re-revise my opinion of what I thought was Darjeeling tea, but I wasn’t exactly blown away.

The second time I tried it I found that I liked it quite a bit more than the last time. Like so many actual Darjeeling teas, it has a light (for a black tea) flavor profile but with a very smooth texture and mouthfeel and none of the bitterness, thin flavor, or astringency that I still tend to associate with that type of tea.

So you can call it Darjeeling if you’d like or you can refer to it by its correct name but I’d give it a thumbs up either way.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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