Not Your Grandmother’s Indian Tea
Listen to Ruhani Sandhu, owner of Rangsaa tea in New Delhi, and you will hear the firm and confident voice of someone with a free spirit doing innovative and even playful things in the world of tea – extending its reach and scope. She revealed: “Every day I drink a different tea and I give my full attention to what I am drinking to focus on the flavors within it,” when I spoke with her last on a recent Zoom call.
If I were to characterize Ruhani by a recipe, I would mix one part fierce pride in her heritage, one part honesty and love for what she calls “genuine,” enlivened with a generous pour of an adventurous and experimental spirit and a well-honed aesthetic sense, all grounded in an immense wealth of knowledge about the healthfulness of tea. And don’t forget to add a dash of herbs, spices, flowers, and other flavorful plant materials. “Spices and herbs that I use are rare and are the magic ingredient in my product bringing a very different and pleasurable aftertaste.”
This recipe could symbolize the raison d’etre behind her small but wide-ranging enterprise operating from her home office with its very Japanese style: All stone and wood, kind of a “teahouse environment,” as she calls it. Before embarking on her tea business, she trained as an electrical engineer specializing in robotics; though she herself is anything but robotic in her approach to tea and the tea business. Collaborating with humble tribal growers around India, from whom she sources the leaves grown from wild plants, she continues to carve out new territory in a place where the traditional has ruled the tea scene for centuries. Going against the tide in a way, Ruhani likes to say, “I put a part of my soul into my tea; when you make something with love, it’s a very satisfying feeling.” She goes on: “I’m a renegade not a tea snob. I have turned down many opportunities to be a social media influencer but working within an ethical framework counts more for me.”
She likes to do extensive research in parsing the flavor components in tea, and in the process has come to realize that: “Tasting raw tea leaves gives me a lot of information about how I will end up incorporating that tea, once processed, into my blend. The tea tells you how it should be blended, what additions and enhancements I should make to it.”
I think here of the great American architect Louis Kahn who philosophized in his own inimitable way: “I asked the brick what it wanted to be, and it answered, ‘An arch.’”
Along those lines, she takes her blends and experiments by adding herbs, spices, and other natural ingredients that marry best with the tea, then takes this process one step further by concocting cocktails which blend tea with rum, brandy, whiskey, and other potables. No teetotaler, she revels in giving tea a place in the hands of savvy hip mixologists who understand tea’s roles in their signature drinks.
Along the way, she has converted her company into one that consults with restaurants, helping restaurateurs create memorable tea menus, certainly a growth area when the dining scene finds it new equilibrium post-pandemic. “My longer-range goals are to build a company with mass production leading to distribution of my line on a larger scale. Packaging design and aesthetics are important to me. I’m committed to putting my teas into the kind of packaging that celebrates the beauty of something that comes from nature.” Further, she says, “As part of an expansive view of tea, I also collaborate with fitness trainers and nutritionists who convey information to their clients about how tea should become a part of their exercise regimen and their lives in general;” advice that can apply equally to the tea-enjoying or tea-curious public overall.
Images are from the Rangsaa Tea Instagram (rangsaa_tea) and are used with permission
You can also check out Robert’s article New Winds Blowing in the World of Tea: Rangsaa Tea.
For more information on her product line, reach out to her at [email protected]