Are you consumed by the love of tea? Are you interested in knowing the origin, culture, presentation and more about tea? Do you see yourself matching teas to an occasion, a meal, a menu or an ambiance? Then you are apt to be a Tea Sommelier!
A Tea Sommelier is a trained and knowledgeable expert on tea tasting. He or she will have a thorough understanding of tea and its history, processing methods and preparation. His trained palette is sensitive to the numerous flavour profiles of tea and that helps him match them with different foods to recommend tea and food pairings.
A certified Tea Sommelier, Snigdha Manchanda Binjola takes people on a journey backwards from their tea cup to the tea leaf. She specialises in creating signature hand-blended teas and runs Tea Trunk, which offers a range of tea consulting services and hosts tea appreciation workshops for individuals and corporate.
“Tea has been a ritual for over a decade even before I formally studied Tea and was a very big part of my life. I collected teas in my trunk since my teenage days and currently my tea treasure includes over 100 exotic and rare teas and blends from around the word,” says Snigdha.
If you wish to pursue a career as a Tea Sommelier it is better to study in a tea producing country be it India, Sri Lanka or Taiwan. Studying in a tea estate is important since you get hands on experience.
“While I was studying in Tea Sommelier Academy in Sri Lanka our day would begin at a really long table that had 100 cups of tea. The task was to taste each tea and write out a flavour profile. We would start out in the morning and had to reach the final cup before the end of the day. On one occasion, I was stuck on the 66th tea and my teacher refused to let me move on! He insisted I get it right before I go ahead. It took me an hour to crack it. At the end of the day, my teacher gave me a piece of advice I never forgotten – “Don’t let your brain tell your tongue. Let your tongue tell your brain.” This has become a guiding principle for everything I do with tea. It is a reminder that tea is an experience and you have to allow yourself to receive that experience,” she avers.
Working on your palette is a deep meditative process and requires you to gather all your senses and energy. “When I taste teas, it’s almost a spiritual experience for me. It requires me to slow down and focus all energies to the few second when the tea is rolling on my palate. It’s a process to isolate the flavour notes ranging from the front of the palate to the back, culminating in the finish,” she explains.
Lot of hotels have tea rooms and they are eager to employ tea sommeliers in different capacity. Either in creating tea blends or creating tea pairing menu, creating tea infused food. The options are endless. If you work as a tea sommelier with a 5 star hotel you can expect starting salary anywhere from Rs 50,000 and upwards.
If there’s one tea you could recommend to everyone, what would it be and why? “Your choice of tea reflects your individuality. No two people are alike. Hence, there is no one tea which is good for all. I can share my personal favorites and encourage people to try them out and experience which teas they like – I would recommend that everyone should sample some Oolong tea. The complex flavor profile of an Oolong tea is a mix between black and green tea. It’s often referred to as “Beauty Tea” for its many benefits on skin and detoxification,” she avers.
Hand blending tea and creating custom tea blends is her forte. “Once for a friend who’s a devout coffee drinker, I crafted a “Coffee Lovers Tea Blend” and I have found increasing number of people being interested in it. It is a blend of low grown Ceylon Teas, malty Assam tea with pure Vanilla in it. The rich full bodied Assam tea and slight nuttiness of Ceylon Tea appeals to a coffee drinker’s palate. Other tea blends coffee lovers can explore are English Breakfast and Earl Grey,” she asserts.
She will soon launch an online store curating tea accessories for the budding tea enthusiast.
– Babita Balan