Tea in its modern avatar has gone beyond orthodox accompaniments and stodgy old methods
In a café in Hyderabad, if you hear someone saying, ‘chai latte’, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are ordering chai. It’s a sign that they are enviably on trend.
Tepidophobia is real. The beverage has come a long way since the time it was accidentally discovered by a Chinese traveller. From hand-twisted to rolled bags, tea has travelled from hot pots to chilled goblets. It has also been paired with a host of other ingredients, apart from milk and sugar. In the process, it has found great company in the form of fine spirits. The evolution is so vast that some teas have replaced sugar with chilli.
And, if your idea of a cup of hot tea is a brewed one with (or without) adrak, plain or masala, then you are still grossly, gastronomically middle-class.
It is no longer cool to reach out for a tea bag with corners. The real connoisseur of tea knows that tea bags are made of cloth with a silken touch, in the form of a pyramid.
Gourmet brands like Tea Trunk now curate the finest teas of India and craft them into unique blends with all natural ingredients. “Our teas are whole leaf, flavourful and healthy. They come with no artificial colours, no additives and no tea dust,” says Snigdha Manchanda, Tea Sommelier, Tea Trunk.
Tea Trunk’s story is as interesting as the variety they have on offer.
“At one point, I owned over 100 rare and exotic teas from China, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, England, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Kenya and so on. I owned this tea treasure but I knew little about these teas. So in 2011, my passion for tea took me to a professional tea school in Sri Lanka, where I studied under the guidance of Japanese tea master, Nao Kumekawa,” says Snigdha Manchanda. She adds, “During my study, I visited numerous tea gardens, tasted 100 cups of tea a day, and profiled over 2,000 varieties of tea. I left Tea School inspired and brimming with stories about tea, and decided to make it my mission to demystify tea-speak. The more stories I told, the more I heard. I smiled extra bright when chai-lovers walked over to say that they never had tea this way. And I wanted more and more people to discover and enjoy good-quality tea. Thus was born Tea Trunk,” adds Manchanda.
Modern tea trends include detox, organic, orthodox teas, blends, flavoured teas, fitness teas, boba tea, tea smoothies and tea latte, says international tea brewer Melissa Salazar.
Discussing the popularity of the beverage in the US she says, “Tea has evolved tremendously in the US, going from tea bags of fannings and dust, to now loose-leaf teas and blends. It has become more known as a health drink and fitness drink, than the usual morning take on caffeine. With all the new detox and fitness, teas, as well as blended and flavoured teas, have become an essential everyday drink throughout the day for Americans.”
Tea trends also predicted the inclusion of nuts and flowers on the flavour wheel — pine, cascara, chicory, butterfly pea, cacao, chilli, marigold and more.
“The tasting session mostly begins as an experiment with those adventurous with the palate. Once it catches on, there is no turning back to the routine cup at any of these chai bars,” adds Singdha.
Tea drinking is all about leisure and style, so the way it is served also plays an important role. Sand timers specify the time of brew, while a wick at the bottom of the pot keeps the concoction hot.
That’s not all. Internationally, cold brewing, influenced heavily by the coffee world, is being experimented with, yielding interesting results.
This is where Dweller Teas’ Hei-mang Red Tea shows its magic. This infusion is made from a flower in Manipur. It has a mild tanginess to it, that makes it ideal for a cold brew.
“What we create in Dweller Teas is an ode to all that grows in the Northeast. We strive for a meaningful sip by simply revisiting local strengths along with flavours, and bringing some delight into all our lives. Our collection of tea includes the best blend from organic tea growers. Apart from tea leaves, we also love packing the freshness and flavour which the state has to offer naturally,” says Eli Yambem, founder of Dweller teas.