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Chai ho jai

While enjoying a hot, refreshing cup of tea, can you expertly identify its flavours and fragrances? Well, if the answer is yes and if you are a graduate in home science, agriculture, ­biology, or horticulture, then a career as a tea taster will be ideal for you.

education Updated: Sep 24, 2013 16:30 IST

The lowdown

While enjoying a hot, refreshing cup of tea, can you expertly identify its flavours and fragrances? Well, if the answer is yes and if you are a graduate in home science, agriculture, ­biology, or horticulture, then a career as a tea taster will be ideal for you. India is one of the ­leading producers in the world, along with Sri Lanka and China. A tea taster is a person who not only tastes the tea but also has to identify the ­difference between teas and give expert advice on the various ways in which tea can be brewed in order to achieve a particular taste. One should have adequate knowlege of the cultivation and manufacturing processes in a tea plantation and be aware of all types of teas, leaves, grades and liquors. One good thing about the industry is the high salary you get and fantastic job locations — in Assam or Kerala, with their verdant tea gardens. Tasters also have to do branding and marketing of the product and coordinate with gardeners, importers, ­exporters, researchers, staying updated on the current trends in the domestic and international tea markets.

Clockwork
7am: Breakfast
9am: Check orders on our online tea store, oversee the packing and shipment of orders
11am: Reply to emails and catch up with my team on tasks and updates
1pm to 2pm: Lunch
2pm: Receive tea samples, ­conduct tasting and prepare ­tasting notes
5pm: Look after new business initiatives, researching and ­reading online
6.30pm: Call it a day

The ­payoff
Lots of hotels have tea rooms and they are eager to employ tea ­sommeliers at different levels — creating tea blends, tea pairing menu or tea infused food — options are endless. Working as a tea sommelier with a five-star hotel, can get you a ­starting ­salary of Rs. 50,000 per month which can further increase according to your experience

Skills/TRAITS
* An aspirant requires to have sharp gustation (sense of taste) skills, sharp olfactory (sense of smell) skills
* Thorough understanding of tea and its history, processing methods and preparation
* Decision-making skills
* Attention to minute details
* Physically fit, adaptable and self-reliant
* One should be inclined to keep smoking and drinking in check
* Ability to communicate well
* One must be knowledgeable about the tea market and be alert to changing market forces
* Be a lover of Mother Nature

Getting there
There are no formal degree ­courses available in tea tasting yet. There are a few certificate courses available in tea tasting that help students learn gain ­scientific knowledge and learn about the ­different techniques of tea tasting. The basic eligibility ­criteria for the course is ­graduation. However, if a student is sure about a career as a tea taster, then having an ­­educational background in food sciences, ­horticulture, ­agricultural science or even ­botany can aid in his/ her ­knowledge. If you wish to pursue a career as a tea ­sommelier, it is better to study in a tea producing country be it India, Sri Lanka or Taiwan. Working in a tea estate
is ­important since you get ­hands-on experience

Institutes and URLs
* Tea Sommelier Academy, Colombo;
www.freshtea-lab.com/teasommeliera.htm
* Specialty Tea Institute, USA;
www.teausa.com/14613/specialty-tea-institute
* Lipton Institute of Tea;
www.lipton.com.au/about/about_lipton/lipton_institute_of_tea
* Indian Institute of Plantation Management, Bangalore;
www.iipmb.edu.in/images/application/PCP-TTMBrochureMay2013.pdf

Pros and cons
* Tea tasting is an upcoming trend in the hospitality sector
* Great salaries
* People are still getting used to the idea of a tea sommelier. Hence, jobs are few, but ­openings are increasing
* You get an opportunity to explore different cultures of the world through tea

To become a master of the drink, all you need to do is practice. Everything else will follow ----- Snigdha Manchanda, a tea taster based in Mumbai