His father, master tea taster Sanjay Kapur started one of India’s earliest tea boutiques, Sancha, way back in 1981 in Old Delhi. After 35 years and five gourmet boutiques in Delhi, Gurgaon and Mumbai, the son, Suhail Kapur has just introduced the Sancha brand to Bengaluru. In a chat with RITZ, Suhail speaks about what Sancha has to offer Bengalureans and how the tea drinking habit was instilled in us by the British.
Photographs: Faheem Hussain
Stylish and elegant, Sancha Tea Boutique at one of the city’s upmarket addresses has just opened its doors to connoisseurs of fine foods and beverages. As Suhail provides us a glimpse into his first experience in Silicon City, the multi-hued packets packed with the finest oolongs, green, white and black teas and stacked neatly in symmetric shelves are too hard to ignore.
“The difference between black, oolong, green and white is the oxidation. When you pluck the leaves, there is zero oxidation, which is white or green tea. But when you leave it for some time to oxidise, it becomes oolong tea. When you leave it even longer, it turns into black tea, which is good for heart. Oolong is good for weight loss, and if you want to detox, then you should sip green or white tea,” says the soft-spoken tea taster who tastes over 200 cups every day! “It’s our job to taste hundreds of varieties before narrowing down to two or three. Estates are huge, and the tea differs in flavour depending on which part of the hill it comes from, what was the elevation, etc. That’s where our role as tasters comes into place as we try each variety to get the mouth feel, flavours and aromas.”
Ushering in guests for a tea tasting session, Suhail says the objective behind the boutique is to share information about various teas, the benefits and brewing techniques, highlighting the nuances of each cup as guests sip the brew.
Sancha has been used as a state gift of India since 1985 and has been gifted by Indian Prime Ministers to other heads of state
“Our tea is special, and is made in small lots. We are able to buy the best teas, taste them in auction first, value them and put them in our boutiques. We want to emphasise that it’s a beverage which is good for health and at this place you get to try 80 kinds before you even come to a decision to purchase.” Suhail says his father believes that tea should be not be gulped in haste. “It’s all about relaxing and enjoying a cup.”
Even before you can quiz him about his plans, he swiftly points out that Sancha is not into “hard-selling.” He wants us to bear in mind that this brand, which has been used as a state gift of India since 1985 and has been gifted by Indian Prime Ministers to other heads of state, is a “gourmet tea company.” “We are not bulk manufacturers and have no expansion targets. Our products are not available anywhere beyond our boutiques as we want to sell in small quantities,” asserts Suhail. Why is it so? When brands speak of expanding left, right, centre; why does Sancha want to keep it small? “There are chances of the quality getting compromised when you multiply over a short period of time. We don’t have a 5-year or 10-year plan and want to grow as we feel like by enjoying being with our customers. We are not here to compete with any other brand. This is our journey and our story.”
Besides visiting tea plantations and consolidating the brand, Suhail is pursuing his thesis on ‘tea in England’. He feels that though India has a great tea culture in terms of production, the same is not true when it comes to consumption, “as we primarily drink only ‘chai’.”
But till 1930, Indians never really drank ‘chai’, he states. Taking us to the pre-independence era, he says that the tea-drinking British wanted to grow tea in India, as it used to earlier come from China and was expensive. “They brought a plant from China and grew it here and simultaneously discovered an indigenous tea plant of Assam. Then gradually tea was grown in the Nilgiris and the Tea Committee was set up and the first consignment was taken to England. Tea in India is more of a British journey and then there came a time when they felt that a local market for consumption was needed here as well,” details Suhail, taking us back to our history textbooks, adding that since the Brits were determined to make Indians drink tea, they started selling at railway stations. “The tea sellers then added spices, milk and lots of sugar and that’s how the ‘chai’ was born. So if the Indian taste buds could embrace ‘chai’ 86 years ago, we can certainly adapt to the oolongs, blacks, whites and greens now.” Articulately put.