In the quieter lane of a bustling neighbourhood market in East Delhi is an unassuming shop where Abhijeet Mazumdar works on tea and tea blends seven days a week since 2012.
This shop was a result of the desire that, having slogged 18-long years in the instrumentation and design industry, Abhijeet did not want to work for someone else.
"Food was the first thought which occurred to me and my friend and I started a recce on the varied food offerings around town. For two years, every weekend, we used to go around Delhi and see what’s new, what the kiosks were offering and how they were performing,”
remembers Abhijeet. “We found everything from novel food offerings, a variety of cuisines and fancy coffee shops. We also found lacunae as far as tea was concerned. We Indians love our tea dearly and home-style tea could be sipped either in our homes or at roadside tapris. When we have fancy coffee places, why was a tea lounge missing from the food scene in Delhi? This drove us to think of opening a tea lounge,” he adds.
It only helped that while at his last job at Samtel, where he was designing CRT displays for consumer products, Airbus, and F16, Abhijeet’s business associates from China and Japan brought him tea as presents. It was their way of carrying to a visiting country a part of their country’s heritage and culture. These tea presents soon filled his cupboard. “My colleagues were enticed by my collection and would often ask me for tea and I’d happily brew them a cuppa. So, while thinking of a tea lounge, it was only natural for me to study more about it,” Abhijeet says.
He first cut to a partial role as a consultant in his organisation and continued to expand his knowledge on teas. He’d procure various teas and research about them. He found mentors in Shiv Saria of New Glencoe and Vikram Mittal of the Mittal Teas, New Delhi. Finally, Abhijeet gave up his role at Samtel to start up on his own. He got a space in a market in East Delhi for the lounge. Along with his friend, Abhijeet even managed to score funding.
Abhijeet and his friend hit a plateau as they could not start the business within the stipulated timeline because of various infrastructural issues. After some struggle, Abhijeet shelved the tea lounge idea and started focussing on selling tea instead. His mentor Vikram of Mittal Teas promoted him and asked to become a supplier for his shop. Alongside bulk orders for others, Abhijeet also started retailing from his shop. He has managed to find a group of faithful patrons. Some come to buy their tea quota and others drop in to chat with Abhijeet over a cup of well-brewed Oolong.
The biggest factor going for Abhijeet is his ability to engage his customers such that they become his brand ambassadors. He doles out advice about various types of tea, storage and food pairings. Over the years, his loyal customer base has increased rapidly. “A Japanese family used to come by every month to buy their quota of tea from me,” he says.
Along with retail and bulk selling, Abhijeet launched the portal chaiwalah through which he sells tea online. He has also partnered with online portals like Amazon which has given a filip to his sales. On the side, one would see Abhijeet quietly working on his vision of the tea lounge to be launched next year.
As he sells a lot of floral teas or Tisanes and reads even more about them, Abhijeet says, “I came to know about the healing powers of various Tisanes. I started exploring them more and stumbled upon the idea of selling them as natural therapy. I am currently working on safflower and Borago officianalis amongst other tea infusions. Safflowers have excellent curative properties for intestinal ailments, act as a natural laxative, aid digestion, and recommended for post-pregnancy wellbeing. Borago officianalis is a blue petaled flower and a natural antiseptic, but rarely found in India. It forms the base of most talcum powders and antiseptic creams,” Abhijeet explains.
He is working on procuring the rare flower commercially and trying various tea infusions using the same. For the correctness of his formulations, he also has Ayurvedic practitioners on his panel.
Abhijeet says, “We encourage people to use natural loose leaf teas, and educate them on the different tasting notes like floral and peppery, that are different for each tea.” He banks on a strong network of tea auction houses and estates like Sourene, Namring, Gopaldhara, Sungma, and independent suppliers from India as well as abroad for his stock. His network abroad helps him procure premium teas like Matcha and Pu'er, Fermosa, and Blooming Tea at competitive rates.