Kavita Mathur brews interesting tea experiences with Tea TrailsRekha Balakrishnan
Tea Trails is a tea chain that offers a carefully curated range of the finest teas from around the world along with suitable accompaniments, bringing about a wholesome tea-pairing experience.
It was at an authentic Japanese restaurant that I first understood a cup of tea was not just about dunking a tea bag into boiling water and adding some sugar.
I was invited to attend a Japanese tea ceremony that involved the ceremonial preparation and preparation of matcha – powdered green tea. The experience blew me away – I realised that tea drinking was not just part of a daily routine but an emotion only avid tea lovers understood.
Since then, I have researched my teas before drinking them – from Oolong, Darjeeling and Earl Grey, to the comfort-filled adrak, elaichi chai at home or the inexpensive roadside chai karak in the Middle East, my experiences with tea have been myriad and fulfilling.
It’s this same fervour Kavita Mathur brings to tea with Tea Trails – an exclusive range of tea cafes that she and her co-founders launched in India and that’s found flavour all over the country through franchisees.
During her travels, Kavita discovered that different parts of the world drank this beverage and thus began her quest to understand tea better.
After a couple of years of travelling and visiting tea gardens in India and abroad, a business idea brewed. She, her husband, Uday Mathur, and long-time friends and business associates Ganesh Viswanathan and Sanjeev S Potti had witnessed how over the last few years, cafes had become ‘hangout’ spots for the youth.
India is the second largest producer of tea after China, but the irony is that all the best tea leaves are exported. And while the café market was expanding, there were no structured players offering a café that revolved around exquisite teas from across the globe. This is when the four decided to have the first-mover advantage by bringing something different to the table.
Kavita Mathur (55) is an educationist by profession and was one of the founders of Eurokids, the largest chain of preschools, before she decided to take a dive into the tea world.
“There were no branded organised players in the tea business in India and we took it up as a challenge to bring teas to our customers from across the globe.
Since we are in Mumbai, it was our choice to start the first tea café in Thane. India was used to being served tea bags,” she explains.
Kavita adds that the company is purist in a sense and that their first strategy was to do away with tea bags and offer whole-leaf tea to their customers. “There are many health benefits attached with tea, so it was very important for us to educate our customer. We have designed our cafes in a way that a customer gets educated about the health benefits, and experiences the aroma, taste and 100 varieties of exquisite teas. We also are the only ones offering tea food pairing,” she adds.
Tea Trails offers customers a chance to experience over 100 varieties of teas with various blends and added health benefits, with the styles that range from white to green tea and oolong to herbal tea along with a variety of freshly-brewed chais like adrak, pudina, five spices, masala, lemongrass to choose from. It further specialises in an elaborately tea-infused menu that includes Burmese Tea Salad, Tea Marbled Eggs, Tea Infused Thai bowl and more.
Kavita trains the staff, called Teastas, to help customers order food that best pair with a recommended tea.
As Kavita puts it: “There is a lot that goes in steeping a perfect cup of tea. It is both an art and a bit of science. Not only is the tea-ware important, but the quality and temperature of water, the quality and quantity of tea leaves and the steeping time are all very crucial too.”
Tea Trails operates with a team of experts with several years of franchising experience. The basic model rests on franchising the concept with like-minded and passionate investors; its target audience being the youth and well-travelled individuals between the ages of 25 and 35.
Initially bootstrapped, Tea Trails saw one round of funding by HNIs. Its biggest challenge and success, according to Kavita, has been to convert hardcore coffee drinkers into tea aficionados.
Tea Trails currently operates 31 successful outlets in eight cities in India and has perfected its business model. The brand has now embarked on a pan-India expansion strategy that is a combination of company-owned and franchised outlets. In the initial phase, as part of the expansion plan, it is now opening outlets in Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Pune. The brand plans to expand the network to over 500 outlets by 2020.
“We plan to take Tea Trails to Tier II and III cities and be the leaders in this business,” Kavita says.
So, the next time you make a cup of tea, think of it as an opportunity to seek, find and explore unique experiences. Cheers!