Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brew from the Blue Mountains

I visited Tamil Nadu and Kerala on work as a younger person, but not with the time and leisure to explore the tea of the region.  When I did pick up store bought tea that claimed to come from the south of India, it was almost always a disappointment on all counts other than cuppage.  So it was with some pleasure (and lot of goading by a friend) that I discovered pure leaf teas from the blue mountain thanks to a friend who was more excited about it than I was.

Of greater interest to me till this point was the amazing natural beauty of this region and the richness of its indigenous cultures.  Most of the tea growers and pickers are from the indigenous Badaga people (though there is ample evidence that they actually were migrants from neighboring Karnataka), with their white mundu and dhoti.  The word Nilgiri (Blue Mountain) also turned up in the context of Nilgiri Oil, a brand name that has now acquired a broader genericity, given to Eucalyptus oil from this region.  This naming also embodies the destruction of the Nilgiri Biosphere since neither tea nor eucalyptus (nor wattle for that matter, which is also majorly cultivated in the region) are native to this region.  As a result, much of the natural fauna and flora have slowly been edged toward endangerment, much like the grassland fauna of Andhra Pradesh.  The Asian elephant, the gaur or Indian bison, and many other birds, as well as plants of this biosphere are today listed as near extinction.  You can google the Nilgiri Biosphere to know more about this.