What-Cha’s India Nilgiri Green Smile Hari Muskan

Origin: Coonoor Tea Estate, Nikgiri, India         
Harvest: First Flush, Late February 2015
Cultivar: CR6017
Elevation: 1950m

Alistair of What-Cha has been gently trying to convert me to Indian greens for quite some while and while I have not hated the teas he has given me I never was that impressed with what I had. I preferred his Nepali teas over his Darjeelings and Assams, although there have been a few whites and oolongs that I enjoyed. I have something of a sordid history with Indian greens; I’ve had more bad experiences with them than anything else. There are quite a few reasons why I avoid Indian greens, but the two major ones are price and taste. I am not a fan of Darjeelings or first flush teas, in fact I prefer second flush teas for their muscatel tastes, but I do not care for how dark many second (and even later flush) Indian greens are. I feel Darjeeling’s in particular are overpriced for the quality. Regardless Alistair convinced me to try his new Nilgiri teas. I must admit I only had a few Nilgiri teas before; I was convinced they were one of the more inferior Indian teas. While I was not exactly looking forward to these teas I did plan to purchase them almost immediately after they were listed on What-cha.

They are pretty inexpensive so I was not expecting a lot from them, even though the images of the dry leaves on What-Cha are beautiful, I suspected the leaves were much smaller than they appeared and I was wrong. Before I go on What-Cha describes this tea as:

Indi Khanna, responsible for the tea's production, has followed the Chinese convention of naming tea in relation to what they look like. This particular tea has been given the name 'Hari Muskan' which roughly translates as Green Smile.
Sourced direct from Coonoor Tea Estate who produce five unique high quality teas from a specially cultivated area of their estate.

Dry Leaves: The leaves are very long and thin. Already I am impressed, I am used to seeing fragmented Indian greens, but these look handmade, I doubt they are considering the price. The leaves have a slight sweet grassy aroma. For the most part the leaves are tightly twisted into twig like shapes, but some are curled.

First Steeping
Temperature: 175oF
Brewing Time: One Minute
Aroma: Fruity
Flavor: Grassy, Grapefruit and Walnut
Tasting Notes: There is some astringency to this tea, not a lot, but enough to be noticed. Anyways I was surprised with this tea, it feels more like a Chinese green than an Indian green. I cannot help, but be reminded of What-Cha’s Neapli teas, while those felt like a Chinese-Japanese hybrid, these feel more like a Chinese tea than anything else, although it has some raw quality that reminds me of Indian teas.

Besides that it is much thinner than a typical Indian green, but I hesitate to describe this as thin. This is a very clean tea with very sharp tastes. The grapefruit in particular had a nice bite, but I would not describe it as unpleasant. The walnut notes were the hardest for me, while this is not a nutty tea there are some nutmeat notes in it.

Second Steeping
Temperature: 180oF
Brewing Time: One Minute and Fifteen Seconds
Aroma: Citrus and Apricot
Flavor: Wet Grass, Grapefruit and Walnut
Tasting Notes: The grassy notes are becoming a little murky, I struggled to describe it. The wet grassy notes reminded me a little of that flavor you get in Japanese greens like Gyokuro or Kabusencha, but not as green. Regardless the aroma has changed from being simply that ambiguous fruity scent to citrus and apricots.

So far this is a very strange tea; while I am enjoying it I have not had many Indian greens that make me want to try more. Although there are quite a few nice flavors in it, it lacks nuance that is easy to find in Chinese greens.

Third Steeping
Temperature: 185oF
Brewing Time: One Minute and Thirty Seconds
Aroma: Citrus and Apricot
Flavor: Sweet Grass, Grapefruit and Walnut
Tasting Notes:  It’s still improving, but from here on out the flavors and aromas do not develop any further. This is a very straight forward tea that does not change much from the beginning. And there is nothing wrong with that, perhaps I am just spoiled with teas that change as time goes on whereas this tea wears it’s scents and flavors on its sleeve.

Nevertheless this is quite a nice tea, not nice enough to rethink my prejudice against Indian greens, but nice enough to have piqued my curiosity to be open to try more. At the time of writing this What-Cha is selling 50g of this tea for $6.75 and that seems the perfect price for this. Because the flavors do not change over time and the modest price this is definitely a daily drinker. I suppose my criticism of this tea boils down to that it feels lie it is trying to be a Chinese green more so than an Indian green and that where it fails while this is a very good Indian tea it has a lot of competition amongst Chinese greens. Although I must admit I do not think I have ever encountered an equal Chinese green in this price range. Definitely worth trying out and I am looking forward to trying more tea from the Coonoor Tea estate if they continue to be different from the majority of Indian greens. In What-Cha’s description it is mentioned that this tea is named in the Chinese convention after what the tea looks like, I cannot help, but think that this is a Chinese inspired tea because it does not appear to be processes in the same way as many Indian greens.


Just a guy who likes tea.