Tea for Indians is probably what water is to fish. It’s more like a cultural phenomenon. On International Tea Day (May 21), we speak to Kaushal Kumbhat, Founder of Chai Craft, whose tea estates in Assam, Darjeeling and the Dooars have been brewing good sales even in the lockdown.
Founded in August 2019, the brand’s estates are certified organic, RainForest Alliance, Trustea certified and ISO 22000 and HACCP compliant. “Even the ingredients we source are from certified vendors and 100 per cent natural. We do not use any artificial flavourings or ingredients,” says Kumbhat.
India has around 700 million tea drinkers and yet, some people go wrong with the basics. Kumbhat says that there are three common mistakes that people make—steeping tea for too long and squeezing tea bags and tea leaves (the longer the tea steeps, the more tannins are released, which leaves a bitter taste); and using boiling water for all teas (water’s boiling point is typically at 100 degrees celsius and one rarely needs to heat water to the point of boiling. Only CTC teas and herbal infusions should be heated to the point of boiling or almost boiling).
In a short span of time since its inception, the company’s Spearmint Green Tea, Ginseng Spiced Green Tea, Darjeeling Second Flush Tea, Orange & Cinnamon Tea and Jasmine Green Tea have been selling like hotcakes.
Though Indians primarily have been masala chai lovers, they are warming up to new flavours. “We now see a more adventurous consumer who is keen to try herbal tisanes, fruity infusions and also premium, single estate orthodox teas that have mostly just been exported so far” explains Kumbhat.
He adds that a majority of baby boomers and GenX are old school style tea drinkers.
“The story, however, changes completely with millennials and GenZ, as they have, almost, completely shunned the sweet and syrupy variety of tea for herbal green teas, herbal infusions and single estate orthodox teas. They are also demanding newer experiences and international varieties of teas,” he adds.
A cool drink
The experiment is not just limited to the hot cuppa. “We are convinced that there is a tremendous opportunity for iced teas in India, as it is considered as a healthy alternative for its antioxidant and natural content along with its lower sugar content as compared to other carbonated soft drinks, which is expected to be a major factor driving the growth of the iced tea market,” he says.
The newly launched business had to be re-strategised and tweaked in the lockdown. “Since March this year, the entire world has struggled to come to terms with COVID-19 and like everyone else, it has impacted us as well,” says Kumbhat, adding that he has used the time to productively reassess and recalibrate strategies.
The company now is more focused on enhancing customer knowledge by designing exquisitely crafted artisanal teas in a wide array of flavours and fragrances and to also offer holistic and wellness teas; its efficacy backed by scientific research and clinically proven outcomes.
The company is taking great care to ensure that high levels of hygiene and purity of all their products are maintained. They are regularly sanitising all their facilities, ensuring adequate supply and frequent use of hand sanitizers. They have also made it compulsory for all the employees to wear masks, head caps and replace these periodically.
To celebrate International Tea Day, Chai Craft shares a recipe of a cool tea-infused beverage:
Iced Ginger & Green Tea Mocktail
Ingredients: (Serves: 4)
Spearmint Green Tea (Refreshing Herbal Loose Leaf Green Tea)
Fresh ginger, chopped
Fresh mint, chopped
Slice a chunk of ginger in thin slices and place them in a saucepan with 1.2 litres of water and bring to boil.
Remove from the heat and add mint and tea and allow to infuse for 20 minutes.
Strain the liquid into a large jug and add honey and lemon juice. Stir to combine.
Refrigerate until required.
Serve in long glasses with crushed ice and a sprig of fresh mint.