Success Stories:
Her Story Her Way

Snigdha is a trained Tea Taster who specialises in creating unique hand-blended teas. She was trained by the well-known Tea Master, Nao Kumekawa, from Japan. She received her certificate as a Tea Sommelier in 2011 from the Tea Sommelier Academy in Sri Lanka. On her tea trails, she has tasted and profiled more than 5000 varieties of teas. In July 2013, she launched her own line of signature tea blends, unheard of in Indian markets. Snigdha is closely associated with a number of tea estates in Darjeeling and Assam. She works with them in a capacity to craft tea varieties that have never been explored in India before, for example Oolong Tea. Tea Trunk sources teas from selected tea estates across India only. All blends are 100% natural. No artificial flavors or colors are used. These luxury teas are available at high-end boutique stores, restaurants, spas and five stars across India. Through the online store, the teas are enjoyed in over 15 countries. Snigdha is an empanelled author and spokesperson for Tea Board of India. She represents Indian Tea industry in International publications and at Tea conferences around the world. She popularized Tea Appreciation and Tea Tasting events in India, and pioneered the much admired Chai Walk in Mumbai. Over the last three years, she has conducted Tea Workshops and Tasting events for clients like the American Consulate (Mumbai), IIFL, CII, FICCI Flo among others. She was awarded the INK Fellowship in 2013. In May 2015, Snigdha was a speaker at World Tea Expo at Long Beach, California, USA. She was profiled alongside eminent tea personalities of the world on World Tea News, the definitive platform for tea trade across the globe. She plans to launch a Tea School to revolutionize academic opportunities to study tea. Snigdha’s vision is to set up a global learning hub for Tea, in India. She believes, India without a Tea school is like France without a Wine school.  

What inspired you to start Tea Trunk?
Tea has been a ritual for over a decade even before I formally studied Tea, it was a very big part of my life. My father was posted in Assam and in the early 90’s brought me a pack of green tea that opened up my world. I had teas from Kenya, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Korea – and while I had a great collection, I barely knew anything about it. In the morning, mom always had two kettles boiling on the stove. Tea boiled in one, while the other had anything from ajwain (carom seeds) to leftover mint leaves from the previous night or lemongrass boiling inside. Me and my sister would dutifully sip on the resultant herb-infused concoction throughout the day, after their morning cup of tea. This is my earliest associations with my favorite beverage. We grew up drinking these herbal infusions. I also recall times when my mother returned home from Assam with teas and fresh memories of visits to tea estates.  

Little bit about Tea Trunk and what led you to initiate Chai Walk?
Exploring the city’s Tea Culture by foot. Whether you are a tea enthusiast, city lover or just someone who enjoys a cup of tea and conversations, this walk is sure to engage you and deliver an enjoyable evening around town. Every day in Mumbai, fortunes are made and dreams are realized. Hard work requires burning the midnight oil, of course, fueled by endless cups of steaming chai! Whether you are in the business district of South Mumbai or in the homeland of Bollywood in suburbs, everyone knows “Chotu”, the local chaiwalla. Take a journey to know their stories. Explore the chai culture that defines the pace of the city. Making of Chai Walk: Tea Trunk has specially curated this walking tour of iconic tea places around South Mumbai, with key inputs from prominent historians on the city’s history and architecture.  

When did Tea Trunk start?
October 2011  

Share few important goals of your venture?
I have an agenda, my teas will be only from India and the trick is to teach people how to drink tea without adding milk and sugar.  

Who are Tea Sommeliers? Who can 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 flavor profiles of tea and that helps him match them with different foods to recommend tea and food pairings. Tea Sommelier can be someone consumed by the love of tea, interested in knowing the origin, culture, presentation and more about tea, who matches teas to an occasion, a meal, a menu or an ambiance would be apt to be a Tea Sommelier!  

What was your training as a Tea Sommelier like?
At the academy, life began at five in the morning, plucking tea, processing, tasting, brewing and hand blending. We had to taste 100 types of teas each day from a table lined with teacups. We would then spit it out into this colonial-looking brass spittoon. The task was to taste each tea and write out a flavor profile. We would start out in the morning and had to reach the final cup before the end of the day.  

What are the job opportunities like for a Tea Sommelier?
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 or 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.  

How do you see the profession of a tea sommelier in coming years in India?
In a country that is still trying to grapple with the idea of a wine sommelier, it isn't unusual to be asked what exactly it is that I do. When I tell people how to drink tea, most give her the questioning look that suggests 'Why do we need to be told how to have tea?' But Thanks to the Brits, who decided to stay on in India for more than three centuries, tea is pretty much the beverage India wakes up to each day. How, then, do you tell a culture that has been having chai for at least half-a-dozen generations how to appreciate it? Honestly, I am preparing myself for the long haul. It is going to be a long winding journey before we can appreciate tea as a form of art and acknowledge the role of a tea sommelier as a catalyst to make that happen.  

When did you start your tea appreciation workshop? Do you find it tough to convince people to attend your workshop?
I started my workshops in October 2011. Yes, certainly people are not aware of what they can learn at such a workshop. Educating them is our priority. It is going to be a long winding journey before people here can start appreciating tea as a form of art and acknowledge the role of a tea sommelier as a catalyst to make that happen.