I look out the window and enjoy the cold weather in Udhagamandalam. Inside, Nirmal Raj of Buddies Cafe – Tea Board Tea Room focuses on brewing the perfect cup of tea.
Its newly opened cafe, conveniently located near the picturesque Botanical Gardens, is the city’s premier teahouse. It is also the country’s first coffeehouse supported by Tea Board India, a government agency that promotes tea growing, processing, trading and exporting. A tray, with three classic kettles, arrives. Nirmal puts tea leaves in strainers nestled in the jars and sets an hourglass timer. Exactly five minutes later, I revel in the soothing flavors and relaxing scent of peach tea. “The traditional hourglass gives the exact brewing time for any type of brew or tea. It’s five minutes for herbal and fruit infusions and three minutes for black tea, ”says Nirmal as he fills the glass with another hot, pink-hued infusion called Old Memories. It is tangy and sweet, with flavors of cassis, raspberry, cherry, kiwi, blue berry and hibiscus.
For a cup of tea
- Located in the RCTC building, Garden Road, the tea room is open from 10:30 am to 9:00 pm daily.
- Book in advance for a tea tasting session where you can sample personalized varieties and learn about the history of tea (2,500 for a session for four).
- Call: 8220804250
- Visit @buddiescafe on Instagram
The boutique tea room presents teas from the Nilgiris, explains M Balaji, executive director of Tea Board India. He adds: “There are many small producers who make specialty teas that reach customers as far away as Belgium, Russia and Germany. We identified Nirmal and provided space under the Tea Board banner to help these small tea growers. We plan to establish six specialty tea shops across Ooty over the next two to three months. ”
Nirmal works with around 10 small tea producers in the Nilgiris, sourcing white, green, yellow, black and oolong tea from them. The white tea served at Buddies is made from tea plants grown at unpolluted altitudes. Its aim is to popularize the consumption of tea as an experience, not only among tourists but also among locals. “Virgin green tea is a whole leaf green tea that we source from a farmer who allows biodynamic cultivation without the use of pesticides. Baimudan white tea comes from a farmer in Kotagiri, who switched to organic farming.
Other varieties are Nilgiris Long Ging (where the leaves are punched in a single row) from a farmer in Coonoor, and Nilgiris Dew Drops, whose leaves are rolled up like dewdrops. There is also a yellow tea, the leaves of which are steamed and fermented.
While I enjoy Peace of Mind, a refreshing, rose-tinted drink made from a blend of blueberries, mint, lime, vanilla and black tea, Nirmal explains that the cafe offers more than 150 varieties of tea, with prices starting from 450 and going up to 21,000 (for one kg) for varieties like tea infused with champagne. In addition to trying the local estates, customers can order beers from all over India and the world. “Our Northeastern Blooming Teas – hand-tied jasmine blossoms with white tea and guava flavored teas are selling fast,” says Nirmal.
The menu also lists South African bush teas (Rooibos teas), Japanese matcha, Australian berries and Egyptian herbal infusions, as well as Assam’s moonlight and Darjeeling’s Darjeeling Earl Gray. bergamot citrus extract. “Among artisanal teas, orange pu-ruh is unique because the leaves grow on a tree. The leaves are cooked and then rolled by hand to retain the flavors. Laspang tea from China has a unique smoky flavor, ”explains Nirmal.
I try the aromatic and instantly refreshing Egyptian peppermint, followed by Queen tea, a sweet and savory artisan black tea made with six “secret” ingredients and a pinch of salt. There is something oddly familiar about the drink. Maybe pepper? or citrus infusion?
Buddies Cafe was originally established at Hopes College Coimbatore in 2012 and later in Peelamedu and Coimbatore Airport. Nirmal returned to Udhagamandalam when the pandemic remained. He then launched the tearoom in February of last year.
This initiative is the result of 10 years of hard work, ups and downs in his entrepreneurial journey, and constant research into tea, experimenting with flavors and blends. But it all started with his father, Daniel Dhanaseelan, who worked as a manager and taster in the Nilgiri government tea plantations in the 1980s. “We were literally surrounded by tea,” Nirmal explains, adding with a smile: “ I took a nap on burlap bags filled with leaves. At night our house was filled with aromas from the manufacturing units.