Whats brewing

Written by Kiran Yadav | Updated: Sep 30 2007, 07:39am hrs
For Monisha Gupta, a lot did happen over tea. She discovered the world of Oolong, Pekoe, Earl Grey and Nilgiri and figured out her favourites Whole Leaf Green tea and Vata tea. Thirty-something Gupta instantly knew how well the concept could click. Craft House, her boutique at The Metropolitan Hotel in the capital, proved her right. Tea from India, especially Darjeeling, is one of the best in the world. It is the Champagne of Tea. We started only with four flavours. Today, there are over 25 varieties we have to offer, she says. All of them are sourced directly from the gardens, she assures.

Gupta has invested well. She has thoughtfully introduced the concept of encouraging people to taste before they decide to buy. Some exotic varieties of tea were not as common five years back and being sure of her product, she knew people would soon patronise the experimental method. She also personally researched on Ayurveda to suggest teas to suit a persons dosha (energies). Those who dont know theirs can fill in a self-assessment sheet and figure it out right there. The collection of fine Indian teas picked from the gardens of Darjeeling and Assam is a huge draw here especially the Whole Leaf, Darjeeling Muscatel, Ayurveda tea and White tea. And when it suits their taste, people are more than ready to part with Rs 3,200 for just 50 gm!

Clearly, even when it comes to the humble tea, exotica sells. Care for some Pineapple & Rooibos, Vanilla & Coconut, Orange, After Dinner Mint or Rose tea Twinings has put them all out on the shelf for you. Purists may scoff at it, but plain tea and regular flavours are out. Consider Silver Needles. Buds for this tea variety are hand plucked only on a full-moon night, and the tea is hand kneaded. The much sought after tea is a rare find and you can count yourself lucky if you find it on the shelf. Then theres the Gourmet Collection inspired by spices, fruits and flora bits. The trend has completely changed. The popularity of tea proves that people are looking for alternatives to Coke and Pepsi. But they dont like it the traditional way they need that extra punch to be there, professional tea aficionado Dolly Roy gives her final word. Roy also happens to be Indias first woman tea taster and tea auctioneer.

The organic variety dominates the shelf equally. Organic India, one of the dominant brands in the category, is busy innovating its most popular variety of Tulsi (Holy Basil) tea. We occupy nearly 20% of the domestic market and considering the popularity of the product, innovation was imperative, explains Krishan Gupta, CEO, Organic India. We were the first to bring Tulsi to the world tea market. It is extremely popular in Germany, US, UK, France, Korea, Israel and Australia as well, he further adds.

Theres lot more happening elsewhere. Ever heard of tea wine, tea biscuits or tea tablets The scientists at Tocklai Tea Research Centre in Jorhat, Assam, are trying hard to brew it up for you before the International Tea Convention in November.

Or like the Taj Tea Trail by Hindustan Unilever Ltd. The hour-long tea tasting and appreciation workshop conducted by tea experts claims to create a tea connoisseur out of you. At least, at the end of the session they certify you to be one. It guides you through tea tasting, teaches you the art of making the perfect cup and even gives you fascinating tea trivia

At Aqua, The Park, you can dictate the permutations and combinations for your iced tea. So, you get to be the bartender choosing not only the tea but also its strength, says Rifaquat Mirza, EAM Food & Beverage, The Park, adding that though it started off as a summer promotion I am sanguine we are going to continue this throughout the yearperhaps at times making it the hot kind.

Deeksha Saria shares Mirzas optimism. Our Kadak Masala chai continues to be the most popular. And also the Flower tea, says Saria, the proprietor of Infinitea, the Mecca of tea enthusiasts on Bangalores Cunnigham Road. The Flower tea has bunches of tea leaves hand woven together. As the tea brews, the bunches open up as flowers. A delight by all standards! A lot has changed in the last four years since we opened Infinitea. Earlier people used to ask me what makes green tea different from the black one. Today, they know what to expect when they order for the Chinese Green or the Japanese one, she informs.

Wondering which is the healthiest tea of them all White, Green and Black.... in that order, says Dr Kajal Pandya, nutritionist, Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research. However, its more important to know that you must not brew your tea excessively that only leads to the formation of tannins which inhibits absorption of iron in the body, she further adds. Point well taken!