Did you know that the refreshing cup of your morning chai undergoes many tasting tests before it lands on to your table?
A tea taster's job is to ensure that consumers get the right taste of the brew. How strong should the flavor be? What should be the colour ? How would the tea taste when milk is added? "A tea taster does all this and much more. S/he has to taste about 500 to 600 cups of tea every day. So if you want to take up this career brace yourself for this task," says Keshav Chandel, manager, Leesh River Tea Garden, Sillguri. Tasting tea is a challenging task not because of the number of cups one has to down but more because it is a job that determines what make perfect tea.
So what does a tea taster do besides seeping umpteen cups of chai through the day? "Tea tasters are professionals who are the link between producers and buyers," informs Chandel. Mostly they work at what tea estate managers call "broker firms". They handle everything from valuation of tea to classification of a batch into good/ medium/ fair. They know which quality sells at what price.
Anindya Sanyal, manager tea garden, DDPL Group, Nimtijhora, West Bengal, says, "Each level of valuation has degrees and just by taking a few sips, a tea taster should be able to grade it right." It is their job to regularly sample tea and convey the results to the owners of the estate. The tea is then sent to the brokers who sell it to companies and it is after this that the product reaches the markets.
You will have to undergo a tea tasting course to become a tea taster. "Other than that there are no specific qualifications required," says Chandel. But to be eligible for the course, you need to be a graduate. "However, a Masters in tea estate management is preferred," adds Chandel. Aspirants need to visit tea farms and attend tea tasting workshops. Many tea brokers train tea tasting aspirants across tea producing states and make them job ready.
Qualifications apart, the aspirant should be able to taste 500 to 600 cups of tea every day. They also need to posses good communication skills and marketing and branding skills. "Knowledge of maintaining stock records etc is an advantage," informs Sanyal.
A fresher may earn Rs 20,000 to 25,000 per month. However, as you progress or switch jobs from a tea estate to a corporate tea manufacturer, the remunerations too is bound to change.
India being a home to some of the best tea gardens in the world with over a 1000 companies listed in the tea manufacturing, a career in tea tasting could just prove to be a good option. So every time you relax with a cup of hot chai, remember, someone has tasted over 1000 cups to offer you the right taste of your favourite beverage.
Tea Management courses
(The list is indicative)
Birla Institute of Futuristic Studies, West Bengal
NITM, Darjeeling Tea Research and Management Association, West Bengal
Assam Darjeeling Tea Research Center, Darjeeling
The Tea Tasters Academy, Tamil Nadu
Assam Agricultural University, Assam
Indian Institute of Plantation Management, Bangalore
Excellent sensory skills
Decision making skills to understand and differentiate the contents of tea samples
Exceptionally active tasting buds
Knowledge of cultivation and manufacturing of tea