“Despite being a tea-drinking nation not many of us know tea,” claims Delhi-based Anamika Singh, a tea expert and founder of Anandini Himalaya Tea, a company that brews organic tea blends and infusions.
“We know that Assam and Darjeeling are two places from where our tea comes, but do you know the estates? Do you know the person behind the tea you drink? I wanted to take tea to people in a way that they would understand and appreciate,” she tells The Better India.
Anamika worked with her father, in their family estate Manjhee Valley Tea Estate in Dharamsala and has spent close to three decades working in the tea industry. To change people’s view of tea and introduce exotic blends in the Indian tea industry, she launched her own enterprise seven years ago.
“I started with seven varieties of brews — with various kinds of flowers and herbs from the mountains, the tea from our own family estate in Dharamsala,” informs the master-blender.
Today, Anandini offers more than 150 infusions and brews and works with more than 170 farmers and their families across India to grow the ingredients that she requires to make blends for her infusions.
“I have been a tea-taster since birth”
Born in Darjeeling, where her father Abhai Singh was based as a tea manufacturer with over 51 years of experience in the tea industry, Anamika grew up with a strong understanding and appreciation for tea.
“When I was to join college, my father gave me two choices — either I go ahead and attend a regular college or I join the tea business, shadow my father and learn on the job. There was no thinking what I needed to do — the choice was clear,” she says.
She recollects how most of their conversation would revolve around tea — techniques, new trends, markets etc. “So much so that I would get fed up and wonder if and when we would ever have conversations about other things. Little did I realise then that I would be doing exactly the same thing when I grew up,” she laughs.
Working with Tea Blends
Anamika recollects how her day would begin at 4.00 a.m. with a trip to the factory with her father. “It was amazing and demanding all at once. I maintained a little notebook during those initial training days and even now flip through it,” she says. She also met tea farmers in the course of her work on the estate and built a network of suppliers and other stakeholders.
While working at the estate, she enrolled for a degree in Economic Honours as well. “I am very happy I did what I did — these learnings are for life. It’s what has brought me this far,” she shares. “But through it all, tea has always ruled my heart. So while the world knew of Himalayan Tulsi and mint teas, no one was experimenting with lavender and chamomile, I loved working with these blends,” she says.
For two years Anamika took on every single role within the company — she took orders, blend, packed and delivered the tea and worked on marketing and social media. The efforts paid off as she now has a steady clientele. In 2015, her brother, Kunal Singh, joined her and things became easier from then on.
“When it’s your baby you just give it your best, and I did. Having Kunal join me just gave me more strength,” she says.
Anandini delivers pan-India and has a tea room in Delhi and tie-ups with boutique hotels across the country.
How Well do you Know your Tea?
One of Anandini’s USP is their desire to bridge the gap between the consumer and the manufacturer. “So far it’s been sort of a catch 22 situation – the manufacturer produces what they believe the consumer wants, and therefore the consumer buys what is available. With Anandini we attempted to change that.”
Anamika finds it immensely challenging and creatively satisfying to make a special brew for her customers. “We all have that one favourite memory that is triggered by smell, taste, or even texture. In having very deep conversations with the client, I understand these nuances and then make an infusion that captures all this.”
It could take a few hours or a few days, these specially curated blends depend on how she connects with the client. “We do not use artificial flavours or oils. The flowers, herbs, and spices we use are largely sourced from India, with the exception of Rooibos and Yerba Mate.”
Jayanti Pandey, a travel experience curator based in Gurugram, says, “We often get Firdaus from Anandini and also one infused with rose and chamomile. I have also attended two workshops that Anamika conducted. She explained about how to brew tea correctly and how to pair tea with cheese. I still follow those tips.”
“At Anandini, we give great emphasis on supporting the farmers who grow organic and natural ingredients for us. We work closely with the farmers and know what goes into what we are putting out there,” she informs.
As for the price range, a packet of 75 grams of blended tea would cost you Rs 275 and will give you about 35 cups of tea. It goes upto Rs 1,100 for 75 gms of hand-rolled tea.
“What makes our blends slightly more expensive are the ingredients we add as well as the kind of tea that we use to create the infusions,” she informs.
How to Make that Perfect Cup of Tea
“Brewing your cup of tea is an art and a science,” says Anamika.
- You switch off the gas at 95 degrees C, or when you see the water bubbles appear on the side of the pan.
- To make one cup of tea, you will need one teaspoon of tea to 1 mug of water (200 ml).
- Add tea to a tea-pot, and water over it and let it infuse for four to five minutes depending on the tea that you are using.
“The trick is to measure everything you use to brew the tea. Follow this rule strictly and you will always get the perfect cup,” says Anamika.
The bestsellers at Anandini include a blend called First Flush infused with lavender flowers and lemongrass, which is a very versatile tea and the peaty, brisk Tea called Pinewood smoked tea which has a sweet after taste.
Firdaus which translates to heaven in Urdu is another favourite of many. It is a classic Green Tea from the estate infused with saffron, marigold flowers, cockscomb, and cardamom.
She faced many challenges in the beginning, including finding farmers who practised organic farming and doing all the work related to her business on her own.
When Anamika began her career almost three decades ago, it was a path less tread. With dedication, hard work and passion for the fragrant brew, this tea connoisseur has established a brand that has loyal admirers who are also its ambassadors.
If you wish to place an order or better still get your own personalised infusion made, reach out to Anamika and her team here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)