The Art of Tea, with Tea Sommelier Snigdha Manchanda

snigdha-geetaSnigdha Manchanda is a tea sommelier who blends,curates and creates her signature blends under the label Tea Trunk. I met her at a luxury event a few weeks ago and sipped some of her brews  which were delicious and unusual. She shares her tea secrets and tips here-  Loved the tip of serving Darjeeling with a sharp Cheddar (which I promptly tried for myself and recommend !)  


GR : What is the difference between a tea sommelier and a tea blender / tea taster?

SM : While a Tea Blender / Tea Taster has expertise in producing and blending tea, a Tea Sommelier has knowledge about both, the production and service aspects of tea in the hospitality industry. A Tea Sommelier is a trained to have a thorough understanding of tea and its history, processing methods and preparation. The trained palate is sensitive to the numerous flavor profiles of tea and that helps match them with different foods to recommend tea and food pairings. A  sommelier approaches tea methodically and imaginatively, and embraces the nuances of tea both as a science and an art.

When it comes to wines one thinks of words like terroir, bouquet and food pairing – Does any of this apply to the world of tea?

Tea and wine share similar traits, as far as their association with certain vocabulary and imagery is concerned. As it goes with Wine, some tea and food combinations create a burst of flavors. Here are some of the recommendations for pairing of teas with different food items:

Masala Chai – no matter what the avatar of chai, it’s inseparable from samosas, pakoras or hot fries. For a lighter fare, serve it with khari and nan khatais. For a twist, serve masala chai with a dark chocolate macaroon. Assam tea which is the base ingredient for chai is popularly paired with dark chocolate desserts.

Darjeeling Tea – this tea is celebrated the world over as the “Champagne of teas”; Very few know that Darjeeling Tea makes an excellent match with Cheddar cheese. Mildy spiced chicken/meat curries also complement the flavors of Darjeeling.

White Tea – this tea has the most delightful aroma. I like to serve it with desserts that use honey. Avoid foods that use chillies or spice mix. Suggested pairing with honey lemon cupcakes or boiled sweet corn.

How are spiced teas different from Indian masala chai ? Is Indian chai ie boiled with milk sugar and spices even tea in the classical sense ?

Around the world, teas are prepared using the process of steeping and infusion, while the classic Indian chai is literally “cooked” by boiling the tea with milk. Thus, even though it is not a tea in the classical sense, it is this addition of milk and spices that brings out its uniqueness and its strong association with Indian culture.

The spiced teas offered by us include blends such as Apple Spice Black Tea and Saffron Kahwa Green Tea. These teas are to be prepared by steeping the tea in hot water.

What are the five teas everyone should have in their tea caddy?  

Darjeeling Tea, White Tea,  Chilli Chai (Assam with a kick of red chilly flakes )  Saffron Kahwa, Green Tea and Matcha Green Tea.


Your favourite Tea Trunk pick would be … 

Rose Oolong is my favorite tea. The complex flavor profile of an Oolong tea is a mix between black and green tea. Infused with real rose buds, Chinese medicine describes this combination as “Tea of Beauty” for its many benefits on skin and overall detoxification. At Tea Trunk, we source our teas directly from farmers and craft them into unique blends.

Our rose petals are sourced directly from a farmer co-operative in Jaipur. This differentiates us from other rose teas, since our blend use the native Indian Rose (desi gulaab) which is more flavorful as compared to the chinese rose. Chinese rose sometimes has a perfumery -aroma in tea which can be strong for  a sensitive palate. Hence, even though my favorite is a simple rose tea, it’s the ingredients that truly make it divine

Things to know about tea

Tea absorbs other odours/smells very quickly. While storing tea, please make sure it is not close to items with strong odours, else it will influence the natural aroma of the tea. Hence, storing in an air-tight container is important.

I have met some people who store their teas in the fridge to prolong it’s shelf life. However, this is the most common mistake. Refrigerators are full of odours and tea is an excellent absorber or odours. You may have the tea in a waterproof container but that does not mean it is airtight or odour proof.

For most teas, optimum flavor will last upto a year. If stored carefully it can also last for upto 2 years.

Brewing Tips:

Always pour hot water on the tea and never the other way around. This allows the tea to breathe and release flavor the flavor gradually. This way you are able to get more flavor from the teas.

Water temperature is the most important thing while brewing. Each kind of tea requires a different water temperature. Black tea should be brewed at 100 degrees. However, make sure you are brewing green tea and white tea at less than boiling temperature. If you are not sure of what that is, then boil water, turn off the heat when water starts bubbling. Let it stand for 2-3 minutes. By this time it will lose some heat and would be approximately 80-90 degrees, which is the required water temperature for lighter teas

.Use 1 teaspoon of tea leaves or 1 tea bag for 200 ml of water. Use water at correct temperature depending on the kind of tea you are brewing. Steep for 2-3 minutes depending on how strong you like your tea. 10 ml is the ideal quantity, if adding milk to your tea.

Tea is best consumed six minutes after it has been brewed. Enjoy!

Check out and order Snigdha’s curated collection at 

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