Indians adopted their tea culture from the British – one where the tea is cooked in milk and sugar. Tea sommelier Neetu Sarin teaches us to appreciate the subtlety of green tea
When Neetu Sarin brews tea her otherwise cheery face is solemn and she is consumed by the ritual, her countenance is straight when she sprinkles some sencha tea into water just before it reaches a boil. She guides the small audience that had gathered at the Le Creuset store through a tradition that exalts tea and recognises it as a symbol of refinement and luxury.
She is uncomfortable with the word sommelier, “I’m not sure what it means,” she confesses, “It’s a very specialised profession where a person’s palate is trained and accustomed to recognising different kinds of tea. I just love tea and want to introduce people to tea, green tea in particular.”
Neetu has lived in Belgium for 32 years and over three decades she has watched Europe embrace tea and enjoy it, “When I come to India I realise that people don’t know about the many different kinds of tea, over here tea is limited to chai or your CTC or crush-tear-curl tea. Green tea has to be prepared differently; it is a very delicate tea and has to be brewed in water that is below 90 degrees for about three minutes, of course it also depends on personal tastes and preferences,” she says.
Neetu is also the brain behind Tea Of Life, where she has taken good quality Sencha green tea and hand blended it with freeze-dried herbs and flowers, “So while the base is Sencha tea, the other flavours are there just to compliment the tea,” she explains as she points to a deep green pack of La Vie en Rose.
Green tea has become popular and more Indians are making it a lifestyle habit just out of curiosity, if not for the hundred health benefits, and from a recent study Neetu confirms for me that green tea does help you lose weight. “If you drink three cups of green tea for one year and don’t change anything else you will lose at least three and a half kilos; it helps with metabolism and suppresses hunger,” she says backing the statistic with facts.
The well-travelled, global Indian citizen is open to trying different things but drinking tea is also part of a healthy, spiritual, relaxed lifestyle, “It is a habit that is in synch with a more health conscious and meditative mind,” she explains before she goes on to talk about the ancient Chinese and Japanese traditions of tea, their associations with wisdom and inner calm and the sanctity of the ritual, “Just by drinking tea we enhance our lives and we need it now more than ever.”