Tea tasting is an art where developing a discerning palate for the different flavours, colours and qualities of tea can be a fascinating exercise. While a passion for tea counts foremost, students’ flair in the field can be developed through a Tea Management course (usually of 1 year’s or 18 months duration) where tea tasting is an integral part.
“It continues throughout the curriculum where we teach our students the different tea grades, pricing and blending techniques,” says Nabanita Dey, a tea taster who is in-charge of Birla Institute of Management and Futuristic Studies, Kolkata, which offers both a Diploma in Tea Management and a three-month Certificate Course in Tea Tasting. The latter, “a polishing course” at the Institute, acquaints participants with the manufacturing process to understand tea in all its flavours and liqueurs and the different terminologies of the tea trade.
What the courses entail
At the Dipras Institute of Professional Studies, Kolkata, the Certificate Course is for seasoned professionals in the tea industry who need to upgrade themselves where the participants keep on tasting teas and blending different varieties. They also get guidance from the faculty—who are usually tea scientists, tea technocrats and tea tasters –on how to improve their business through knowledge of branding and marketing,” says Ranjana Dutta, principal of the Institute.
Since location is an important factor in tea tasting, students are taught to assess the strength of tea depending on whether it is CTC (crush, tear, curl) tea or of the Darjeeling variety where the assessment depends on whether it is a first flush—characterised by its delicate fragrance and fruit peach flavour or a second flush where the tea has more colour and shine,” says Nabanita.
“In Tea Management, hands-on experience is gained through a week’s mandatory visit to the tea gardens to watch tea cultivation, pruning and plucking of tea leaves. The course also teaches them export and import of tea, logistics and marketing to prepare them for production houses (where the company might own a tea garden); merchant and auction houses; broker firms and even the multinational companies where tea needs to be sold as a brand and consistency in tea quality has to be maintained,” Nabanita says.
“Practical exposure at our Institute is ensured through students’ visits to STEP (Science and Technology Entrepreneurs’ Park)-IIT Kharagpur, where an experimental garden located just outside the campus helps students observe how tea saplings are nurtured in the nursery and transplanted into the garden. Additionally, they get a month’s training in the Doars/Darjeeling/Assam,” says Ranjana.