Grower: Neelamalai Organics
Teamaker: Murali Subramanian
Location: Nilgiris Mountains - Tamil Nadu, India
Elevation: 2,000m (6,800ft)
Cultivation: All-natural (Organic with no certification)
Signature Teas: Neelamalai Black
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Neelamalai Organics is located in the Nilgiri Mountains, part of the Nilgiris District which is South India's most famous tea-producing area. The mountains themselves are part of a larger range called the Western Ghats, which is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The high elevation, abundant monsoon rains, and rich volcanic soils are ideal for growing tea. Nilgiri tea is known for being smooth, mild, and aromatic.
Much of the tea in the Nilgiris District is produced in larger scales than at Neelamalai, similar to other regions in India. However, small growers are beginning to take tea-making into their own hands to produce their own quality tea leaves, and to become more independent from the tea factories.
Neelamalai Organics is a small, family-run farm. The farm was founded 6 years ago, with the goal of sustainable agriculture.
The farm uses Indian agricultural techniques to keep things natural, particularly the Ayurvedic plant medicine, Panchagavya. The mixture is made from products from local cows and garden soil, to create a natural fertilizer for the tea plants. Panchagavya also wards off pests and disease, and is said to impart a more fruity aroma to the tea due to the richness of the soil.
The tea gardens are shaded by over 600 cypress trees, providing gentle cover from the sun. The fields at Neelamalai Organics are particularly abundant with these shade trees, as the family decided not to completely deforest the land. Instead, the trees are pruned, and the twigs are used as a renewable source of firewood for the tea drying process.
At the farm, each batch of tea is harvested by hand, immediately withered, and then processed in small batches to ensure freshness and quality. They are experimenting with various forms of processing to make green teas, oolong teas, and black teas. Unlike many farms, the estate has a permanent team, allowing for daily maintenance and the continuous improvement of teamaking skills.
Teamaker Murali Subramanian is based in Nilgiris and leads the farm and its workers, while his brother Ramakrishnan "Ramki" is based in the United States and makes yearly trips to help with the farm. Murali is assisted by Gautham, who helps supervise the farm full-time and lives with his wife and daughter on the farm.
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