A cup of fine tea can make an ordinary day, a special one, believes tea expert, Radhika Batra Shah!
“Tea is yoga for the soul.” That’s the first thing she tells me. From the energy she emanates, I can tell she is extremely passionate about her teas. And, it’s not just about brewing. There’s more. Much more. And, much more to her as well! She is the mistress of tea ceremonies. In fact, she has pioneered tea ceremonies in India. A tea connoisseur, tea stylist and tea retailer, for Radhika Batra Shah, tea is religion. Tea is life. Tea is art.
Hailing from a Punjabi family that laid great importance to tea, Radhika was also exposed to tea ceremonies and etiquette from the Far East, owing to her dad’s work. Her earliest exposure to tea were tea rituals during her travels.
At a time when she held a cushy marketing job, after finishing a masters and MBA, she began to feel not quite contented. She knew her calling lay in a cuppa tea! “I pondered whether I should leave my job to start on my own! Will I be happy? My dad had started his own business at the age of 50 and was very successful. My brother too, gave up a great career to pursue film making! I guess It’s in my genes, for I too plunged into my own business,” quips Radhika, as she reminisces about her initial days into the tea journey!
She decided to shut her first venture, a tea boutique, ‘Teacup’, way back in 2006, and decided to model her next business based on educating people on tea, the leaves, drinking etiquette, rituals and so on. Her journey took shape as she first conducted training for about 20 chefs and sous chefs at the Taj Land End, Mumbai, where she focused on food pairings and infusions with tea. That was just the start — she has worked closely with several top chefs, creating tea infused food and serving to people, ever since.
Passionate about tea, she works very closely with tea gardens and sources premium, superior fine teas from all over the world. Traversing tea gardens and tea estates across the world, she sources leaves and curates different varieties of teas for her customers. In fact, there are several who follow her exciting tea trails across the world, and buy her handpicked teas online.
“I don’t want to go all commercial. It’s very, very exclusive,” explains Radhika, elaborating on honesty in her work in providing the best and pure teas, as she continues, “Tea is not just the ‘chai’ that we have. It has to be respected. Each leaf carries its own benefit, and one has to experience it and check if it suits the palate. Only then will it suit the body.”
Through her signature line, ‘Radhika’s Fine Tea and Whatnots’, the charming lady showcases different teas for different occasions — the perfect breakfast cup, the luncheon cuppa, to the one that cures hangovers, to energy boosting brews and romantic to soothing brews. The selection of teas also varies from single Darjeeling to whole leaves and Tisanes, i.e., teas blended with fruits and flavours.
“The best part of my work is,” says Radhika is, “The ability for me to make people enjoy the leaf, and relish tea ceremonies through the tea rituals I conduct. It’s like work well done, for me.”
There are also difficult days, as she explains that she is almost always torn apart between family and work. “It’s very difficult to make time for my family, sometimes. But, every summer, I make it a point to do something with my family. Today, I am on my way to Germany for tea etiquette training. And, my family will join me soon, after which we will have a good holiday,” she concludes.