Misty tea plantations are a mixed blessing. They not only make for a good sight, but also for some great green teas. But, the incessant mist since the beginning of this year in the Nilgiris has triggered concerns over production shortfall among the growers in the region. However, it has come as a boon for those engaged in manufacturing speciality teas as mist-kissed tea bushes are producing high-quality leaves.

Conducive weather “This weather has been excellent. The speciality green tea grades now manufactured have come out with exemplary flavour because of the mist impact. Consequently, we have received orders from Japan, Europe, the US and many parts of India for Avataa Twirl, Virgin, White and Long Ding multiple-brewing tea as also Oolong tea manufactured from select bushes in Billimalai Estate, some 10 kilometres from Coonoor. Oolong Lemon tea is connoisseurs’ delight,” Avataa Beverages Production Executive ENR Vejaya Shekara told BusinessLine

“What worries us is the low quantity because of high chillness. We have suffered a 20 per cent loss in volume this winter compared to regular seasons. Our production has fallen to 800 kg per week from the normal 1,000 kg. If the bushes get one good shower, that would warm up the leaves and open them up for better blossom increasing production without sacrificing the winter quality,” he said.

Because of their exemplary quality, some such teas had fetched over ₹10,000/kg in speciality tea auctions in the past.

Premium prices “As of now, there has been no change in price because speciality tea auction has not yet been announced. We are offering our winter speciality teas for the same price as in normal season – Avataa Twirl Green Tea ₹3,250 a kg, Virgin Green ₹3,500, White Tea ₹3,750, Long Ding Green Tea ₹3,500 and Oolong Tulsi and Cinnamon Tea ₹2,500,” Vejaya Shekara added.

These are multiple-brewing green teas and their production during peak winter months from December 2015 to February 2016 elevates them to premium shelves in the global tea market.

“We had not been able to conduct Nilgiri Winter Speciality Tea Auctions last two years as we did not get the usual fiscal support from Tea Board. The Board officials have promised to extend support this year. We are waiting for official confirmation on this”, Mohamed Iqbal, Chairman, Nilgiris Planters’ Association, said.

Export orders “Connoisseurs have been placing advance orders for our winter speciality teas. We have such orders from Germany, Japan, the US and UAE. Although production has come down by 20 per cent because of harsh winter compared to this time last year, we have been able to cater to our order book,” said D Hegde, Director, The United Nilgiri Tea Estates Co Ltd. “But, speciality teas are a miniscule in the country’s production and exports. Of the 15 lakh kg we manufacture annually, just 1,000 kg falls into speciality tea category. This is the case with almost all manufacturers of such teas. However, 90 per cent of our teas are exported,” he noted.

“The cost of production of speciality teas is almost three times the cost of producing regular teas, mostly because of the extremely low volume. What encourages the manufacturers is the high price they get for such connoisseurs’ teas. Of late, more tea companies are showing interest to manufacture such green teas”, Hegde detailed.

Official data on production and exports of speciality teas are not available but the data for total green tea, including Nilgiri winter speciality tea, is possible to be extracted.

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