It’s still warm enough that you’ll call it summer, but you’ve started wearing cardigans at night. You’re still enjoying summer tomatoes from the garden, but the though of pumpkin filling is also starting to occupy your thoughts. I’ve got some cozy goodness to give away today (yay!). Cozy up with these smooth Indian Teas and honey-sweet poetry from Rupi Kaur.
Read through the interview below to meet Yatra Tea Company, and then enter to win a trio of their White, Green, and Black tea, along with a copy of Rupi Kaur’s ‘Milk and Honey‘ After all, what goes better with tea than a little milk and honey?
Welcome to the twilight of summer. A magical time when we hit reset, head back to school, set goals for that final quarter, and wonder how many blankets you can pile on your coach before it becomes unacceptable (this is a trick question—you can never have too many cozy blankets). There’s nothing better to warm you up on a chilly autumn day than blankets + tea + book. It’s practically math.
Today I want to introduce you to a new tea company and its founder Vikram Mathur. Vikram is a thirty-something tea lover with an adorable golden retriever. Yatra Tea Company focuses on premium grades of whole leaf tea, plucked from the world-famous Darjeeling region in India. Freshness in tea is key to them, and they ship them overseas so we can drink them as soon as they’re produced by their skilled partners.
All the following teas I’ve tasted are exactly what I’ll be shipping to you! They’re all first flush (a.k.a. the very first group of tea leaves picked in a tea’s harvest season), harvested in April 2017.
White Tea from Thurbo Estate
Grown in the lush Mirik Valley, this ‘Moonlight’ white tea is a really nice, almost spicy peachy floral. Extremely smooth, no astringency. Bright and crisp. Thurbo is known for its delicate teas, and I can see why.
Preparation: 80˚C Water, 3 minute steep.
Green Tea from Glenburn Estate
Immediately I get notes of sweet, split pea soup. Vegetal with minimal astringency. Mild mouth feel and a bit nutty. Here’s a thing: I haven’t had the pleasure of tasting a lot of Indian green teas I like. Black tea is hands-down the dominant Indian grown tea, and I really like Japanese greens, typically. So that being said and know that you know that Indian greens are an area I don’t know much about, I still have to say: this is the best green tea I’ve ever had from India. Very sweet.
Preparation: 85˚C Water, 3 minute steep.
Black Tea from Goomtee Estate
Stay with me here. This is a first, but when I smelled the aroma of this black tea the first thing that came to mind was tempura. Yes, the lightly battered Japanese shrimp or veggies. There was a savoury umami there. I took about five more smells, just to make sure. So there you have it. Once I got beyond that, I got into the flavours I was more expecting: muscatel with subtle floral notes. Delicate and smooth. The dry leaves with a mix of light brown and green.
Preparation: 90˚C Water, 3.5 minute steep.
Let’s Meet Yatra Tea Company
Let me introduce you to Vikram Mathur, founder of Yatra Tea Company.
Q1. Tell me a bit about yourself! Who are you, where are you, and how did you get into tea?
I’m a 37-year-old guy. I spent half my life in Calcutta, India, and the other half in the US. I live in Cambridge, MA with my wife and golden retriever.
Growing up in Calcutta, one of the major tea auction cities in the world, I have been around tea in some capacity my whole life. I had friends involved in tea production and export, so I was always privy to what was going on in various tea growing regions, specific estates, and so on. Perhaps the seeds were sown many, many years back, unbeknownst to me!
Q2. When you’re not working, what do you like to do?
My wife and I have an almost-3-year-old golden retriever, Maya. We enjoy spending time outdoors with her. Rain or shine, she is always up for an adventure, whether it is exploring the small, bucolic towns of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, or simply headed to the local park for a game of fetch.
My other passion is traveling. I think it is one of the more underestimated investments in life. I use the word “investment” because it does cost money to travel the world, but the thrill of experiencing different cultures and cuisines is unparalleled to me.
Q3. Where does the name ‘Yatra’ come from?
Yatra’s roots are in Sanskrit, and old lndian language. It refers to a journey. In this specific case, the journey of tea from its source to the consumer/tea drinker. My goal is to inform the tea drinker about where the tea is coming from. Where is the estate located? At what altitude? What is the history of the estate? What makes their offering special and unique? All the information you would seek if you were embarking on a journey yourself.
“There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.”
— RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Q4. How did you come to be based in Somerville?
I came to the U.S. when I was as 18 years old. I was based in upstate New York (Rochester). Upon graduating, I moved in with my brother, who had recently taken a job in Boston. So I ended up in Boston. I was always drawn to the charm of Cambridge/Somerville. Lots of small roads and cul-de-sacs. Unique shops and stores and a diverse group of people. I lived in various parts of Cambridge/Somerville over the years. And by chance, I found a lovely culinary incubator in Somerville where I decided to work on Yatra.
Q5. You focus on sourcing teas directly from estates, working with friends in India who are multi-generation tea producers. How did you meet?
Quite frankly, I would not be in this business without the support of a couple of people far, far away in India. These are childhood friends who have known me since I was four or five years old. Through several interactions with them over the years I have learnt the basics of tea. They have been kind enough to continue educating me, and have been instrumental in curating a catalogue of premium teas for me. Their knowledge of the tea growing regions in India, their relationships with the actual producers – I have leaned heavily on their expertise and will continue to do so!
Q6. Tell me about your relationship with the NGO, Induz. How did you find them?
I was adamant that Yatra needed to be more than just a seller of fresh, single origin teas. There needed to be a social benefit. And it was important that it involved tea labourers as their plight has been truly deplorable. I searched long and hard but was unable to find an organization that: 1) had intimate knowledge of the issues tea labourers face, and, 2) had operations on the ground to help. Then I came across Induz’s initiative in a local Calcutta newspaper. I called the head, who happens to be based in California. We had a few good conversations – very candid, and pretty soon we were discussing an agreement.
Induz’s Project Kopou, which Yatra supports, is very dear to us. I came from a family that was able to provide me with a quality education. Children of tea estate workers generally do not have that opportunity. Project Kopou provides education and vocational skills to children of tea laborers. Above all, they have a presence in Assam to ensure that the Project is meeting its desired goals. There is visibility and communication. And above all, a passion to help these children, They share our vision of empowering through education.
Q7. What’s your favourite tea?
Having grown up in India, I am always partial to a good masala chai served in small earthen pots. This is a staple. However, in the last few years, I have been exposed to a variety of teas from various origins. I have thoroughly enjoyed Darjeeling first flush teas and they continue to be a personal favourite of mine.
I promise not to drink these while waiting for the giveaway to close. I promise real hard. After all, if I did that then I wouldn’t get to send a wicked awesome package to someone. Do any of you miss snail mail? Do any of you object to fun stickers on your parcels?
Yatra Tea Company Fall Giveaway
So here are the deets: The giveaway closes on Tuesday, September 26th at 12:00 a.m. Atlantic. There are a few ways to enter. Just sign in with your email or Facebook so I can reach out if you win. Good luck! ????
Just let me know if you have any questions. In the meantime, I’m going to check out Rupi Kaur’s upcoming new book, ‘The Sun and Her Flowers.’
09/26 Update: Congratulations to Annamarie V. who won the Yatra Tea Co. Giveaway! Thanks to all who entered. Tea you next time. ????