There’s something romantic about a vintage trunk. Within the confines of it’s heavy secure lid it keeps prized possessions safely guarded. Well kept secrets, family heirlooms, a once-used wedding dress, billet-doux and yellowed books often find themselves cozily confined to a forgotten trunk. Snigdha Manchanda Bijola keeps one such trunk, but her’s is far from forgotten and you wont find any discarded souvenirs in this one. Her Tea Trunk holds her priceless collection of teas, each with a special place in her heart.
What began as a fondness for this brewed beverage, slowly boiled over into an obsession. Her tea collection grew and so did her desire to know more. She found herself making her way to Sri Lanka to the Tea Sommelier Academy (Colombo) in September of 2011. For one rigorous month, Snigdha tasted at least a hundred cups of tea a day, studying each one and building an even stronger relationship with tea.
She was taught by a Japanese tea master, Nao Kumekawa who once said to her ‘Don’t let your brain tell your tongue, let your tongue tell your brain.’ Tea tasting is not a skill that can be learnt. It’s an attribute one is born with. Like many art forms, tea tasting is meditative and requires submission of the senses. ”When I am tasting teas, it’s almost a spiritual experience for me.” explains Snigdha.
With this acquired knowledge, Snigdha returned to Mumbai where her Tea Trunk inspired the formation of a company of the same namw. She conducts tea appreciation workshops, where attendees learn about the history and process of tea making. They are introduced to flavor profiles which help them gain an insight into food pairings. She demystifies the humble cup of tea, by dispelling popular myths. Perfecting the skill takes time but at the end of a workshop you can at least brew a perfect cup.
The profile ‘tea sommelier’ brings to mind an elderly gentleman with a stiff upper lip and a pocket watch, but Snigdha brings a young whimsical approach to the art of tea tasting. Her events aren’t academic or boring. For instance, one such workshop, conducted at Kala Ghoda Arts festival was called ‘Around the World in Eight Teas’, where she spoke about teas from around the globe.
She even mixes tea with philanthropy. Tea Trunk conducted an event at The Bombay Hub called ‘Chari-tea Party’ where attendees tasted Single Origin Ethical/Fair Trade Teas, they learnt about different tea infusions, how to pick tasting notes and even made their own tea bags. All proceeds went to the Rahee Foundation, which uses sports as a medium to address social evils in slum communities.
Snigdha doesn’t limit herself to workshops; she extends her expertise to several tea estates in Assam, Darjeeling and the Nilgiris. Besides this she also consults with Cafe’s and Restaurants regarding their tea menus and food pairings. She also experiments with tea, creating interesting recipes like the ‘Red Grape and Black Tea Lassi’, which she has shared on her informative blog.
Snigdha followed a cup of tea down a rabbit hole, and has since been on a journey full of tea-parties. Her dream is to open a tea lounge where she can experiment, create new blends and spend her time brewing up a storm. For all dreamers like her, let’s hope this girl and her beloved brew continue their whimsical adventures!
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