Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cabinet Aged Nilgiri

By the virtue of being a tea hoarder, my tea cabinets hold various unintended experiments in aging.  I was eyeing my recent load of India teas wondering about the deadline for optimum consumption. The Charles A. Bruce 1838 FAQ mentions 3-4 years for hongcha which is too brief a span for someone like me. Then I remembered I had a teaspoon of 12+ year old Nilgiri orange pekoe stored in a plastic baggy that a Russian colleague and tea-lover shared with me sometime between 2002-2004.

India teas are not meant to be aged but this does not mean one cannot drink such an aged tea- at worst it will be stale and flat. The first sniffs of the tea leaves in a warmed pot before brewing were faint dark sweet notes of dried plums.  The taste was surprisingly pleasant and the leaves  gave forth 3 good rounds.  The brew you can see is browned from the decade of oxidation- fresh Nilgiri tends to have more reddish coppery hues.  Because I have no taste memory of the original fresh brews,  I can't claim an improvement or a decline.  I have to take it for what it is here and now.

This aged sample is good but not so amazing that I want to order kilos for aging.  Of course this is but one data point.  When searching the web for more, I see MarshalN (that guy is everywhere) also had an inadvertent aged darjeeling experiment of 5 years where he enjoyed more positive effects. But perhaps 5 years is a more optimum ceiling for aging such teas.    I'm not explicitly going out of my way to age these India black teas, but I will happily drink aged black teas and hongchas I've forgotten about.

Nilgiri tea is produced South India at higher elevations than Darjeeling- the most interesting Nilgiri are the winter plucked "frost teas" that have a peppery tone.  I am happy there remains tea genres I have not yet tried and I want to save the experience.  The younger me would have ordered them long ago but now I can value the preciousness of being able to experience new things. 


  1. I love tea. You have a great blog, thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Dear Linda,

    Thanks for stopping by. I wish I had more to share but I am slowly winding down.