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A Trunk of Good Cheer

By Christabelle Coutinho

At a high tea event hosted by Grand Hyatt in Bambolim, the slender sommelier in a light summer gown throws a couple of benders to the guests – Is tea a drink native to India; where do different tea varieties come from; what is ctc and first-flush? A couple of hesitant replies and murmurs surface, confirming what Snigdha already knows— that as a tea-drinking nation we know precious little about our favourite brew.

Snigdha’s fascination with tea started over a decade ago when she began collecting teas from across the world and storing it in her father’s vintage trunk. To get to the bottom of her cup of joy, Snigdha enrolled at a professional tea school in Sri Lanka in 2011 where she tasted 100 cups of tea a day and profiled more than 2000 varieties. She also learned the essentials of processing camellia sinensis (tea plant) before earning the title of Tea Sommelier for herself. “Would you believe”, she says incredulously, “India is the largest producer of tea in the world but we don’t have a single school dedicated to tea.”

Ever since, the tea sommelier has been engaged in hand crafting her unique blends of tea and retailing them under the brand – Tea Trunk. There are nine varieties currently, all of which can be purchased exclusively online at www.teatrunk.com . Snigdha informs us that her teas are sourced from tea estates across Darjeeling, Nilgiris and Assam and as whole leaf teas, can be brewed 2-3 times over. She also adds that her teas have only 100 per cent natural ingredients and no artificial flavours or tea dust.

The tea which comes in attractive tins is packed in pyramid-shaped silken tea bags for perfect infusion. The bags carry instructions for brewing and pairing: seep for 3to 5 minutes in hot water and no milk or sugar to be added. Tea Trunk’s range extends from the royal, calming Saffron Kahwa Green Tea to that kick-in-the-back-of-your-throat Chilli Tea. The teas are rich in anti-oxidants and every cup you drink add to your good health, affirms Snigdha. Tea, she relates, was originally discovered as a medicine in China and Buddhist monks relied on green tea as a healthy way to keep themselves awake and energized through the day.

As a sommelier, Snigdha is especially concerned with pairing her tea blends with the right kind of food: food that compliments the beverage and resists overpowering it. The Saffron Kahwa Green Tea –a vintage green tea infused with real saffron strands, almonds, cardamom and rose petals quickly emerges as my favourite. “It’s a tea for royalty”, coos Snigdha and recommends a pistachio macaroon to go along with it. A cucumber sandwich, she nudges, goes well with the Chilli Chai.

We’ve always heard of wine pairings, but tea? It’s a new idea and one that makes perfect sense given the fact that both wine and tea share a lot in common apart from elevating the senses. At the Grand Hyatt in Bambolim, Chef Nicole Ila and her team have worked with Snigdha to create an interesting array of food that complements Tea Trunk’s teas for this event. But the Grand Hyatt also hosts a high tea every evening between 3 to 7 p.m. at the Confeitaria and Bay View Lounge where guests can linger over tea and conversation in between gorging on a choice of three platters: traditional English Tea, Indian Tea or Cupcake Tea. Here’s a tip: the high tea is not only attractively priced but you can also take two or three of your buddies along to help you finish the loaded platter. Cheers to that and to some heartwarming evenings ahead.

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