My journey in the tea industry started back in 1999 at the Williamson Magors Tea Company in India where I began learning about planting and manufacturing of certain tea types.
After two years spent building my knowledge, I relocated to Kolkata to join the second largest tea brokers in India, Carritt Moran & Company Ltd. Here I balanced selling teas in auctions and privately along with fine-tuning my tasting palate.
In 2006, this took me to the Harris Tea Company where I honed my skills for tasting and buying. My speciality was buying and blending black and green tea speciality products, which meant that I got to explore the majority of the tea growing regions of the world whilst tasting sensuous blends.
Following a brief period at Godrey Phillips Ltd in India in 2010, I moved up in the world and joined Typhoo; here I thoroughly enjoy my role as a tea buyer and blender. I also assist within the technical department and supply chain.
The job is creative, diverse and demanding – and that’s what I love about it!
To taste is to understand the philosophy of the tea and how it should be served. For example, black tea must be piping hot when tasted; the tea must not be diluted with milk as this takes possession of the tea’s properties and flavours.
Green and fruity teas must be tasted once the temperature has cooled down; this allows us to evaluate the fresh, floral flavours.
You would presume that my day is fairly straightforward, but it’s far from that!
Every morning I review the factory and ensure that all is running smoothly before heading over to the blending team where I analyse the quality of the tea in the warehouse. And then the tasting begins… As a tea taster it is possible for me to examine anything from 200 to 1,000 teas!
In the afternoon I get to explore my creative side by developing exciting new recipes.
No two days are the same in the factory. Each day brings something new and allows me to keep building on my knowledge.
Most people are not aware that teas have seasonalities, and an unknown part of my job is ensuring that each blend is consistent despite the change of seasons.
The most interesting component of my job is creating new blends and recipes. Judging what the consumers will love and want is sometimes not easy!
The job isn’t just about tasting thousands of teas per week. I get to explore some of the greatest tea gardens in the world. The two most memorable experiences for me were visiting Papua New Guinea and Taiwan to discover speciality teas.
Papua New Guinea is a beautiful island that is still mostly undiscovered. I was lucky enough to hike to high altitudes and learn about the teas that grew within the clouds.
Another fascinating moment was when I travelled to Taiwan. Here I discovered the alluring aromas of Oolong tea. This tea is grown at 3,000ft above sea level and hand crafted on a cane. I fell so in love with this experience that simply taking a sip of Oolong takes me back to Taiwan.
There are over 2,500 tea gardens worldwide so consistency is key! In order to understand this you have to know the seasonality, origins and manufacture of tea, not to forget commercial and supply chain. A good tea taster can grade, locate and identify by simply taking a small sip.
Try different origins and leaf types; the range is vast, from brisk wake-me-up teas to soothing calm-me-down teas, so play the field!