The Leafies 2022 Special Awards: Lifetime Achievement – Indi Khanna


As many of our followers will have seen, back in October the UK Tea Academy, in partnership with Fortnum & Mason, celebrated the first ever International Tea Academy Awards, also known as The Leafies. In addition to 12 GOLD and 28 HIGHLY COMMENDED award winning teas, we also recognised a small selection of farms, producers and individuals who have worked hard to change the tea world for the better.

The recipient of The Leafies very special Lifetime Achievement award, was dedicated to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of tea knowledge, understanding and appreciation. He is the much celebrated tea veteran Indi Khanna.

Indi’s journey in tea started over 48 years ago as Junior Tea Planter at a company called Malayalam Plantations in South India. Since then he’s lived in Dubai, Assam, Sri Lanka, and travelled to some of the most remote corners of the world to learn more about the art of tea production. It was his move in 2005 to the Nilgiri Hills, however, and his ambitious project to revive the quality of the area’s tea production, that secured his status as a pioneer and innovator.

The Nilgiri Hills, situated in the Western Ghats in South India and renowned for their natural beauty and rare species of flora and fauna, were once considered the “Darjeeling” of South India. The terroir has unique and valuable qualities, but during the 80s and 90s the standard of tea dropped. In response, Indi gathered some of the tea industry’s brightest minds and set up his Tea Studio, an architecturally stunning micro-factory built 1850m above sea level in Coonoor.

After a few years Indi passed the management of the Tea Studio over to his daughter Muskan, who now heads up an all-female team that oversee the production of its enchanting teas. To Indi’s knowledge, Muskan’s all-female operation is the only one of its kind in the country and is still highly unusual in the Indian tea industry. Whilst a vast amount of tea is being produced across the Nilgiri region, Indi firmly believes the studio has helped raise the standard of its tea, attracting overseas buyers and earning Muskan a highly esteemed reputation as a tea maker. The Studio also employs locals paying two and a half times what other factories offer, demonstrating its commitment to the community and fair pay.

Indi himself continues to travel the globe educating and sharing his unrivalled expertise with other tea growers and producers. For him, it’s all an opportunity to learn, share and meet other like-minded individuals, while continuing to understand, improve and respond to developments in tea. On finding out he had won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the first ever Leafies, Indi shared his amazement when UKTA Director of Studies Jane Pettigrew asked how he felt? “In one word, Jane. Gobsmacked.”

Congratulations Indi Khanna, recipient of The Leafies 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award. Read more about the Tea Studio here.