Meet one of India’s first tea sommeliers

Saturday, 3 November 2012 - 4:31pm IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA
A pioneer of sorts, Radhika Batra has explored her love for tea to become one of India’s first tea sommeliers. We engage with her in some tea talk.

While it may seem to be an unusual career option, tea was the natural choice for Radhika Batra, when she wanted to start something of her own. “The entrepreneur spark was always there, and so I started dabbling with the idea of doing something with tea,” she says when asked how it all began.

Her love affair with tea however, seems to be innate from childhood. Growing up in a Punjabi household with a strong chai culture, Radhika learnt tea etiquette at an early age. Her mother was very particular about how tea should be served and her father’s merchant navy life brought a strong Chinese influence into the house. It was then that the Chinese tea ceremonies became well-imbibed in her life —  which has allowed her to combine passion with opportunity and create a niche for herself in India.

Tea ceremonies are her forté, through which audiences get to sample four-five variants of tea as well as understand the health benefits of each kind of leaf.

“If I know that black tea should not be processed and that I should be able to brew it once or twice more in my kitchen, next time I go to a gourmet store, I will make the healthy choice,” she explains. Unlike masala chais, leaf teas should be lukewarm and never boiling, with running tap water to get out the real flavours, Radhika explains. “Generally we put everything in together and serve it — destroying the elements of the tea which has amazing essential oils. It’s better to slowly brew the tea so that the flavour slowly catches on,” she adds.

Radhika has spent a lot of time going into remote plantations, researching and learning about tea on the job. “Women have strong senses and so I always encourage women to explore their kitchens, which is a storage of herbs and spices,” she says. “I’ve taken a lemon, stubbed it with cloves and dunked it into a Darjeeling tea to create a new flavour.”

Though her previous tea room closed down due to space constraints, Radhika is looking forward to opening a new and impoved store next year. “It will be a complete tea experience with everything from tea leaves to tisangs (blends), tea books, tea ware and gifting,” she smiles. She also plans to pair tea with food, and have special scones, muffins, biscottis and breads with thyme and rosemary. While she currently delivers tea across India through her website, by early December her teas will be available at gourmet stores across India as well.


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