Ralph Waldo Emerson said: There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea. Tea lovers and connoisseurs will agree with Mr. Emerson. The charm of a cup of tea is often irresistible. From tea ceremonies to freshly brewed Assam tea to the humble ‘karak’, tea holds a special place in just about every culture. Tea appreciation, which can be referred to as an art, has led to the rise of a new breed of experts who strive to elevate the experience of enjoying a good cup of the brew. Tea sommeliers, as they are known, are trained and knowledgeable professionals who help individuals understand the nuances of tea – from choosing the right tea to brewing it for make the perfect cup to food pairings. We were not kidding when we said it’s an art.
Radhika Batra is a sommelier from India who not only is an expert in teas but also has her own line of teas, teaware and tea accompaniments. Her eponymous brand, Radhika’s Fine Teas features a wonderful selection of teas that she sources from across the globe. Moreover, her range comprises only organic, single origin and first flush teas that are grown in gardens that follow biodynamic farming.
The Luxury Bulletin decided to get the tea on the popular drink from the renowned Indian tea sommelier herself.
How did you foray into the world of teas? Has tea been a part of your upbringing?
Tea has been innate as we are a country of chai (tea). However, not just our Indian Assam leaf that makes chai so special but also the continuous exposure to leaves from around the world. My father was in the merchant navy so each sailing by my Captain father to a country, I only saw in maps in Geography, got me closer to experiencing its culture, via tea.
While kids my age played, I enjoyed the evening chats with my parents over a ceremonial leaf be it Chinese or Japanese.
It wasn’t just sipping a kind of tea but also learning how to brew and how to serve. As mom was a perfectionist, while we drank our chais she insisted on its proper method of steeping, covering with a lid before serving, topping it with herbs and spices to up its wellness quotient and more. All this got me intrigued on teas nuances, taste profile and somehow so easy for me to comprehend its anatomy.
I worked in the corporate world for five years, which was immensely enlightening. But I knew I had to start my own venture. When I put in my papers at my last job, I wrote I was going on a sabbatical, I was also a new mom and I wished to be sure of starting a venture only post good research as well as the ability to be able to balance my infant. I knew tea was my calling and a great opportunity awaited but what and how was it going to be wasn’t clear.
How long did it take for you to master your knowledge about teas and get termed as a Tea Sommelier?
Thereon, with my toddler in tow, I began visiting tea plantations in China, Sri Lanka and India. The three leading countries that produce tea for the rest of the world. I wished to perfect my craft right at the source. I didn’t want to go to a tea school and study in a classroom but instead work in the gardens from plucking to processing to tasting. I got lucky as I came across tea manufacturers who were more than happy to share their learnings and impart valuable knowledge that their grandfathers had left behind over years of nurturing tea plantations far and wide.
I spent 3 years doing so and then launched a humble little tea store in Mumbai called Teacup. This was Mumbai’s first organic tea boutique and got quickly known for its unique tastefully done up theme, true to its vision of sipping and buying the best teas in the country.
I was termed as a sommelier by then as I had also been upgrading my skills in Sri Lanka and India by the ex-chairs of the Indian tea boards and certified so. However, I never called myself a sommelier as the mission was to spread the charms of teas but media was very kind and saw my passion and dedication.
My best lesson learnt though is always at the tea garden or with my customers as every feedback leads to a new blend which is worked hard upon over a year of tastings to perfect the recipe.
Please tell us about your journey of the creation of Radhika’s Fine Teas.
It’s been a long journey for me as a sommelier – from since 2006 actually. I started very young and thus my world has always been one of possibilities as I never weighed the risks but carried on accepting whatever came my way as long as I was focused on fulfilling my dream.
We were Mumbai’s first organic tea boutique while people were still talking Chai, we were telling them about the various teas from around the world and that too organic.
I pioneered the Tea Ceremony model in our country which basically was appreciation of the leaf. The tea store had it all from tea leaves to teaware to tea accompaniments to a counter where I conducted tea tastings.
This led to most of Mumbai finding us and coming to our store via word of mouth.
Media too started writing about us as nobody had given tea it’s true footage although coffee shops were mushrooming dime a dozen.
I saw failure on the very first year of starting my tea shop, the landlord forced us to shut shop without any prior notice, a running business had to close, a pretty shop destroyed. I could give up in despair but instead I decided to move on without any regrets and a great lesson learnt.
This spring boarded us to a brand we are today. Thus, an incredible journey indeed.
As soon as the shop shut, I started taking the tea ceremony model to eminent hotels. Taj Mumbai was starting its first organic restaurant and they loved our tea etiquette training for their chefs and sous chefs flown in from Italy. Word got around about my ability to train and teach about the leaf be it brewing or infusion into food recipes.
The food and beverage industry noticed my skills and I started taking my tea ceremonies to more entities. Be it college fests at the famous IITs or the food exhibit at Olive (a renowned restaurant in Mumbai). Finally, in 2013 I was invited to start our signature line up teas by the renowned Godrej Natures Basket and that’s how we became a brand to reckon with all over India and not just Mumbai.
Today we retail in all leading international and Indian e-tailers like Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa etc as well as offline at leading fine dining and gourmet stores. We are known as a complete tea experience company. So, if it’s a wedding we set up a tea bar. If it’s your office we take up a small space and rack up a perfect setting for your staff to enjoy the brews as per the weather and benefit proposition. If it’s a launch we host a high tea complete with food pairings with the help of our food partners. If it’s a meeting, be it corporate or event, we get invited to host our tea appreciation or ceremony as I like to call it.
Where do you source your teas from?
We source our teas directly from the Organic Gardens of Darjeeling and Assam. Two gardens are dedicated to our brand Sivitar from Darjeeling and Jamguri from Assam.
This is an exclusive privilege that the brand enjoys due to our credibility over the years. Which means our customers get to sip divine brews that are 100% Certified. These gardens follow the biodynamic method of farming and thus there isn’t any Dust, Preservative or Colour in our teas.
The leaves are Single Origin and First Flush. Single Origin means the teas arrive from the above gardens dedicated to us and not from varied distributors and simply packed in attractive boxes where quality is compromised. First flush means the very first harvest that is the most premium in quality and taste and the most sort after around the world.
We also work with artisans and gardens of China, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Greece. Here I source small batch teas that are rare and would excite the Indian audience. So, herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, Sage come from Pylos in Greece and I blend it with our Assam tea to curate a digestive post meal range. Similarly, from Sri Lanka the ex-tea board chair is on our panel of tea tasters to source pure Ceylon teas for us.
What is the USP of Radhika’s Fine Teas?
Radhikas Fine Teas is a brand that envisions each cup of tea to be brimming with health benefits.
Run by a tea sommelier herself, the premise of the brand is that each leaf has to have a purpose. A purpose to heal and curate happy brews. Sustainable and biodynamic aren’t just claims but the true anatomy of our brand values. And we have wholeheartedly and consciously stuck to being 100% Certified Organic from the leaf to the ingredient going into a blend. This sets us apart from the very crowded market of teas Brands come and go while we stay true to our USP of organic and well-being.
Are there different teas for different times of the day?
Yes, indeed our menu runs on teas for each part of the day. The idea is to make you aware how a leaf works.
To name a few types:
Wake Up Teas: The teas in this series rejuvenate and invigorate you to a lovely day ahead. Darjeeling Black Leaf, Assam Masala Chai, Darjeeling Ginger Tea, Turmeric Liquorice Tulsi Assam Chai, Longjing Green Tea.
Mid-morning Boost Teas: The teas here help get rid of fatigue during the middle of the day. Darjeeling Oolong, Assam Vanilla, Butterfly Blue Pea Ice Tisane, Silver Needle White Tea.
Luncheon Teas: The teas in this part of the day aid digestion post meals especially. Darjeeling Green Rose, Darjeeling Bergamot / Earl Grey, Hibiscus Ice Tisane, Lanka Apple cinnamon.
Evening Meal Teas: The teas here pair well with evening snacks especially for high tea service. Darjeeling Kashmiri Kahwa, Darjeeling Mukhwas Tea, Lanka Berry Tea.
Quiet Moment Teas: The teas in this series Calm and Relax mind, body & soul post a hectic day. Darjeeling White Leaf, Chamomile Tisane, Chrysanthemum Tisane.
What is the one common mistake people do when making tea?
Generally, people make two mistakes one is, while choosing their tea, they generally seek what is trending and not what suits their palate and body. So, for e.g. if Matcha is trending they tend to buy the same rather than trying their personal response to the tea.
Second is, over brewing a leaf tea such that it turns out bitter and then they tend to discard the tea, due to this taste, out of their lives too.
How does one brew the perfect cup of tea?
HOW TO BREW A PERFECT CHAI (ASSAM)
|Boil a cup of water and simmer.|
|Add 2 teaspoons of tea leaves and bring to a boil.|
|Add 6 tablespoons of milk and boil again on low heat.|
|Remove from flame and let it steep, cover with a lid for the flavours to assimilate. Strain and serve.|
|Organic tea can be rebrewed|
HOW TO BREW ANY LOOSE LEAF / DARJEELING / GREEN / OOLONG WHITE.
|Bring a cup of water to boil. Double incase of kettle.|
|Add 2 teaspoons of tea leaves in a cup. Double incase of kettle.|
|Pour boiled water over the leaves and let it steep for 3-4 minutes.|
|Strain & Sip. Organic bliss.|
|Organic tea can be rebrewed|
Are there some tips that you could share with our readers about teas?
The first test is to whiff the leaf or blend. It’s all about the senses, if it’s your tea you will immediately pick it up with your sense of smell. Post which you brew it and sip it. If all the senses agree then that’s the best test, that it is your tea!!
You can choose various teas to match your moods:
- If you wish a sense of calm and relaxation then your go to tea is White leaf.
- If you wish to feel energised then it’s Oolong tea.
- If your metabolism needs to be revved up then it’s Green tea.
- If you wish to stimulate the mind then it’s black tea and thus chai is very popular.
- If you wish decaff then it’s tisanes like rose, chamomile, hibiscus, etc.
The need of the hour is to build on immunity as well as a mindful cuppa that calms and heals. So, your mood thus can be upped further by looking after healing your body by sipping teas that have herbs and spices like Tulsi, Mint, Cinnamon, Cloves & Cardamom.
How can people in Oman get hold of Radhika’s Fine Teas? Do you have an online boutique that people in the region can order from?
www.radhikasfineteas.com is our site and we deliver all over the world. We shall be soon coming to Oman via the online e-comm and supermarket.
To get in touch with the team at Radhika’s Teas, email: email@example.com or call +91.9892141253.