Indi Khanna of Tea’n’Teas in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India reports that this year’s peak season winter teas from the Nilgiris have an almost honey undertone never experienced before. “How or why that has crept into our present offering is a total mystery which I know we’ll never be able to unravel and, more than likely, we’ll never be able to replicate,” Khanna said.
“It has all to do with the winds and the weather patterns – never the same in two seasons!” The ‘frost’ teas are produced during the coldest season in January and February each year when many of the bushes are ‘burned’ by frost and lose their crop of new leaf shoots. Some growers lose 20% of their crop and the recovery period for the bushes is between two and three months. The bushes that are not devastated by the chill temperatures are stressed by weather, accumulate metabolites such as pyruvate, acetaldehyde, and ethanol in their leaves and this gives the teas a sweet aroma and taste, sometimes similar to barley sugar. This year’s honey notes are very unusual.