The Nilgiri which was until then a part of the Kingdom of Mysore was ceded to the British East India Company after the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the fourth Anglo Mysore war in 1799. In 1819, John Sullivan, the Commissioner of Coimbatore, led an army contingent up the steep slopes of the “Neilgherries”. It took them six days of climbing very steep slopes and six deaths before they reached the Kotagiri. after Sullivan’s visit, few Europeans believed that such a cold climate within the tropics was possible.
Nilgiri Tea History
Dr. Christie, an Assistant Surgeon from Madras, on special duty in the Nilgiris, He Identified camellia shrubs which closely resembled the tea bush, grew abundantly near Coonoor. He applied for a land grant to plant tea and also ordered for tea seeds from China. But he died before the seeds arrived.
Lord William Bentinck (Governor General of India), set up the Tea Commission and sent them to China to bring back tea seeds and expert tea makers. These seeds from China, when they finally arrived, were planted in an experimental farm in the Ketti valley, which lies between the towns of Ooty and Coonoor. But the experiment was a failure and the farm was closed down in 1836.
The French botanist Georges Guerrard-Samuel Perrottet, in the employ of de Saint-Simon found nine tea plants, He replanted the seedlings and nurtured them and in two years, the plants had grown to almost four feet in height. These plants were healthy with flowers, seeds and young leaves. In 1840, tea, made from the Ketti plants and from plants in Billikal near Kotagiri.
One of the first tea estates built in 1859 was Thiashola which is still in operation today, acquiring organic certification in 2003. After British rule ended in 1947, many tea estates became privately owned. Today there are more than 20,000 small landowners and a few large tea estates in Nilgiri producing tea.
Most of The Nilgiri tea produced is CTC black tea used in blended teas and for tea bag blends. CTC teas are so named for the steps in their production process; cut-tear-curl (or crush tear-curl).
The CTC machine is like a huge sieve, with fresh leaves fed in then extruded out as tiny bright green pellets. They are then carried along on a conveyor belt as air is blown from above by powerful blowers, with oxidation taking place in less than an hour.