Tea Review: The Many Harvests of India – Ketlee Tasting

You can taste a broad spectrum of flavors when talking about Indian teas. Recently, we poured a collection of teas from India for the community here in Chicago. The purpose – share how unique and special the region is in tea cultivation and production methods. Ketlee is one of my go-to sources; I knew they would have the selection to encourage exploration! While I’ll share short reviews of a few specific teas, I’ll also shed light on some of the favorites from the Chicago CommuniTea night the public enjoyed.


Founded in 2015 from an illuminating trip to Sikkim, the small business not only sources from Darjeeling and Assam but also Manipur and Arunachal, and is the first company in India to cultivate Sheng Pu’er-style tea! Last year I reviewed four of their beautiful teas in my reflection, Himalayan Treasures: Four Teas From Ketlee, and this year I’ve got new ones to taste! Let’s look at three specific teas from their portfolio.

Arunachal Handmade Black Tea

Season: Autumn 2021
Cultivar: Assamica
Origin: Arunachal Pradesh, India
Picking/Processing: Bud + up to 2 leaves
Elevation: ~1500 m


My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 6g for 150 mL
Starting Temp – 90°C
Infusion time(s) – 15 sec. +10

Eyes Dry: Small bud and leaves, hairy and colorful
Nose Dry: Hazelnut Quadratini wafers
Nose Wet: Green apple, wet rock, rhubarb
Eyes Liquor: Deep forest-honey amber
Mouth Texture: Medium-bodied, wholesome, and slightly drying
Mouth Taste: Floral, banana, chocolate, vanilla, chrysanthemum
Nose Cup: Baked fruits and sugars
Mouth Finish: Thick and sweet
Eyes Wet: Faded green, purple, and silver array of colors
Body Sensation: Satisfying and content

A beautiful and varied experience from infusion to infusion. The low oxidation of this tea moves the experience from notes of, yes…hazelnut Quadratini wafers, (haha WILD) to florals and fruit sweetness with ease. There are moments it reminds me of a Dongfang Meiren but it’s entirely its own tea! Enjoy it hot and as a cold-brewed tea to really bring out the refreshing mineral and fruit notes!

2022 Nilgiri Needle Green Tea

Season: October 2021
Cultivar: GW-1
Origin: Nilgiris, India
Picking/Processing: Bud + 1 leaf
Elevation: 1890 m


My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 4g for 150 mL
Starting Temp – 85°C
Infusion time(s) – 10 sec. +5

Eyes Dry: Folded dusty green leaves, slender
Nose Dry: Pear, cucumber,
Nose Wet: Warm grass, asparagus,
Eyes Liquor: Pale gold
Mouth Texture: Smooth, light
Mouth Taste: Cucumber, sweetgrass
Nose Cup: Faint, vegetal
Mouth Finish: Soft
Eyes Wet: Broken edges, soft green
Body Sensation: Refreshing, subtle

This tea, albeit fresh and clean on the palate, is on the subtle side. I’ve found that it doesn’t provide a structured mouthfeel and can quickly fade in that respect. Typically, there’s a presence with teas from Nilgiri that can strongly be felt – and it’s counter to that expectation. I recommend trying it with hotter water as I increased mine three infusions deep to 90-95ºC as well as grandpa-style. Just toss your leaves in a glass and sip over the course of the day!

2022 Nilgiri Handmade Black Tea

Season: Winter
Cultivar: Assamica
Origin: Nilgiris, India
Picking/Processing: Bud + up to 2 leaves
Elevation: ~1500 m


My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 4g for 150 mL
Starting Temp – 90°C
Infusion time(s) – 15 sec. +10

Eyes Dry: Thin, charcoal black and silver buds
Nose Dry: Tomato, strawberry, floral
Nose Wet: Lychee, sweet corn
Eyes Liquor: Yellow-green brilliance
Mouth Texture: Medium-bodied, cooling, thirst-quenching
Mouth Taste: Floral, strawberry water, mint, guava
Nose Cup: Rose, mint
Mouth Finish: Round, creamy finish that lingers, cooling throat
Eyes Wet: green with copper edges
Body Sensation: Uplifting and refreshing

This winter Nilgiri tea is a must-have in my opinion. It’s got that signature mint/floral combo but it takes a back seat as fruit profiles take over. It has a strong presence that persists through numerous infusions and is versatile – whether you enjoy it using a gaiwan, mug, teapot, or as a component in a fun beverage.

I brought the aforementioned teas in addition to fan favorites to Chicago Community such as the 2022 Nilgiri Platinum Needles – a resilient silver needle tea that brewed forever, and the 2022 Darjeeling First Flush from Namring Tea Estate, which wowed everyone with intense candied fruit. It was a joyful evening that opened perspectives on the range of experiences found within the landscape of India. I can easily write more on the plethora of teas I ordered but I wanted to get through some of these highlights!

Have you taken a dive into tea from India? If you’d like to try any of the teas I shared here feel free to visit the specific links or the Ketlee website and let me know what you think!

Steep well!

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