She is trained in the novel profession of a tea sommelier whose forte lies in creating “unique hand-blended teas”. Meet Snigdha Manchanda who launched Tea Trunk in 2013. They curate “the finest teas directly from farmers and craft them into unique tea blends with all natural ingredients”. She is trained under Japanese Tea Master, Nao Numekawa and has a certificate from the Tea Sommelier Academy in Sri Lanka. An empanelled author and spokesperson for Tea Board of India, Snigdha chatted with us on how it all began for her and what her job entails.
Let’s start from the beginning! When did you fall in love with tea?
I grew up collecting teas. Friends and family would bring back tea for me from their travels. I ended up collecting more than 100 rare, exotic teas from China, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, England, Turkey, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya and so on — neatly stacking them in my father’s vintage trunk. It grew from being a hobby into a passion that led me to enrol in a professional tea school in Sri Lanka in 2010. I can say that it has been a love affair that started in my childhood.
Tea in your life is... complete the sentence.
Tea in my life is a small joy to share with others.
What do you attribute this love for tea to?
I think tea chose me instead of the other way around. I was fascinated by how this one beverage had so many varieties, being grown and harvested in faraway countries in their native farming methods. The more I collected teas from various countries, my curiosity only grew and I wanted to demystify the world of tea for myself and for everyone else who loved tea.
Tea sommelier is a wonderfully novel profession. What is the job description?
Just like a wine sommelier, a tea sommelier is trained in flavour profiling, history, cultivation and identification of different tea types. Our job is to guide how to prepare a cup of tea using the correct brewing method, how to consume it, and what to pair it with. One has to taste more than 100 cups of teas and identify different flavour notes and build their flavour memory. We also are trained in how to blend the tea and with what ingredient, as blending tea is both a science and an art.
I think tea chose me, instead of the other way around. I was fascinated by how this one beverage had so many varieties, being grown and harvested in faraway countries in their native farming methods. The more I collected teas from various countries, my curiosity only grew and I wanted to demystify the world of tea for myself and for everyone else who loved tea
Should we ask how many cups of tea you consume in a day?
You can always find me with a cup of tea, but I typically consume a minimum of four cups of tea in a day. I make sure each cup is a different kind of tea.
What do you do to keep your palate ready for a day of tea tasting?
I prefer to do the tastings in the morning, after a light breakfast of sourdough toast. I avoid wearing any perfumes that can interfere with the aromas of the teas.
Are there no-nos for a tea taster?
There are some restrictions for a tea taster. The most common one is that one should completely avoid smoking as it is known to dull your sense of taste. Personally, I like to eat healthy — so my diet mostly consists of fresh salads, fruits, food made with local, seasonal ingredients that are lightly seasoned and with very little oil.
Is it difficult to pick a favourite?
Yes! It is. Every tea type has something different to offer in terms of flavour, aroma and experience. I drink tea in harmony with the seasons. Hence, my favourite tea is different for each season. My current favourite is Rose Oolong, which is perfect for summer.
Your company Tea Trunk will turn 10 soon. What has that experience been like?
Entrepreneurship is a team sport! This is the most important lesson I have learnt in my journey. I could not have built this brand without the valuable contributions of my team members and our community of tea lovers, which has grown organically over the years.
What is your top tip for those who want to become a tea taster?
My top tip would be — there is no better time to become a tea sommelier than now! Not only is it a unique, rewarding profession, there is a lifelong of learning, meeting new people from across the world, and making your own unique blends. Tea Trunk offers a certificate-based learning course. We host these masterclasses every month. I enjoy teaching about tea and sharing my knowledge.
My morning cup: Apple Spice Black Tea
My evening cup: Lavender White tea
Favourite Tea Trunk blend: Chamomile, for sipping any time of the day
I like my tea with: Great company or a good book!
A tea estate you could spend your life in: Sinna Dorai Bungalow at Kadamane Tea Estate