Specialty Teas from the Nilgiri Region Set Record

COONOOR, Tamil Nadu, India

A specialty tea auction last week brought the highest Coonoor Auction prices ever recorded for winter harvest green, white and black tea grown in the Nilgiri Mountains of Southern India.

UPASI Silver Tips brought INRs 9,010 kg ($178) from the Golden Tips Tea Co. of Kolkata. A black from Havukal Estate brought INRs 7,500 ($148) while bidders for Korakundah Estate’s White Tea offered INRs 7,310 ($144) per kilo.

Avataa Virgin Green Tea from Bluegate Beverages brought the highest price among greens on offer at INRs 6,011 ($119).

A total of 1,474 kilos were sold at an average price of $32 per kilo. More than a third (38%) of the teas sold for $40 or more per kilo.

Suresh Jacob, chairman of the Nilgiri Planters' Association, which represents the region’s larger growers, says the successful auction opens a new chapter for the NPA and India Tea Board sanctioned electronic auction system.

The winter teas have special characteristics, says Jacob. Nilgiri winter-harvest teas display unusually intense aroma and flavor due to the elevation, humidity and moderate temperature at this time of year, he said. The region’s great variety of tea plants contribute to the complexity. “The tea leaves are then manufactured with utmost care and attention to ensure that the natural aroma and flavor are not lost during processing,” said Jacob.

Auctions of these teas were not conducted regularly due to certain limitations in the old auction system, Jacob explains.

Small lots were last auctioned in Coonoor in March 2005 and the following March in Las Vegas at the World Tea Expo. In each case bidding was limited to the small number of buyers in attendance.

“Now it is possible for buyers from any part of the country to take part in the auction. This auction therefore generated a lot of interest,” said Jacob. Specialty buyers from all over the country took part in the e-auction. “This has helped price discovery for these teas and was the reason for the high prices not realized in the past,” he said.

“These teas will certainly find their way to U.S and Europe, but we are not sure as of now which specific regions it will be sold,” he said. “We propose to conduct the specialty auctions regularly every year for our winter teas in India and also propose to conduct auctions in U.S and Europe every two years in the regions where there is good demand for specialty teas, he explained.

Source: Nilgiri Planters' Association

Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.