F&B Experts Speak: The History of Tea Experientials
Hospitality groups have jumped on to the tea bandwagon with their own version of experiential
Back in 1950 to 1980, tea was considered an essential ‘experiential’ in the hospitality industry. Abhishek Basu, Executive Assistant Manager, F&B, The Leela Mumbai, says, “While the amount served was less than 2 to 3 grams per serving, hotels earned a good profit margin for the cost the tea was sold at. It was after the year 2000 that the fortune of tea began to change rapidly. Hotels can be credited with the revival of the concept of high tea and tea lounges in India. While most of India was hooked on to coffee, hotels were offering an entire range of tea services, which reflected our culture and our colonial history far more effectively than coffee ever did.
Chef Sharad Dewan, Regional Director, Food Production, The Park Kolkata, says “Although high tea was always a ‘lure’ for the ‘western guests’, it was when India witnessed the rise of IT power and an influx of international hotel brands which further popularised the concept of drinking tea.”
For Wildflower Hall in Shimla, an Oberoi property, it was about recreating the colonial ritual at its Lutyens Hall which was complete with delicate cucumber sandwiches, scones and tea cakes. Fairmont Jaipur created a dedicated space for their teas called Anjum, where you not only enjoyed a fabulous afternoon tea but could also participate in tea tasting ceremonies. The Fairmont Jaipur tea experience includes an extensive study of tea and its origins in India, its medicinal benefits, aroma and colour.
The trend of experiential tea lounges and dedicated spaces for tea evolved between 2015 and 2017, spearheaded by two brands Shangri La Eros Delhi and Pullman Aerocity. Chef Neeraj Tyagi, Executive Assistant Manager, F&B, Shangri La Eros, New Delhi, “In 2014, when I began working towards establishing Mister Chai, a space that celebrates Masala Chai, the idea was to break away from the concept of lounges and create a restaurant. With Mister Chai, we went all out to ensure that the typical chai time is a far more luxurious experience.”
The up and coming Four Seasons Hotel, Bengaluru’s experiential Tea Lounge will take the tea experience a step further with an in-house tea sommelier, Mousumi Sharma The pool-facing space will serve house infusions and blends such as Apple Cinnamon Dust, Wild Berry Tales, Chocolate Mint, Orange Blossom and a few more. The highlight says Sharma, “will also be the food made of the same local ingredients that are used in our blends, such as scones that are flavoured with vanilla pods from Kerala.”