Ajit Madan, co-founder of Camellia’s Tea House in London, has just been appointed England’s first certified master tea sommelier by the International Tea Education Institute – a surprising first in a country that drinks 165 million cups of tea a day.
Much like wine, teas produced by different estates have specific ‘vintages’ and differing levels of quality, depending on which leaves are harvested during the production process, so certification as a sommelier is quite intense.
Madan has a background in molecular biology and formed Camellia’s Tea House in 2007, along with his sister, Lubna Madan – a qualified homeopath – in an bid to create a wellness range of teas and revive the typical English tea room.
Today, the company not only operates its tea house in London, it also supplies more than 100 different hand-blended teas to leading spas and hotels around the world, including Shangri-La and Corinthia hotels.
To qualify for the master tea sommelier title, Madan completed a two-year course, and had to analyse various tea types, their origins, processing methods and how they can be perfectly paired with foods. He also gained an extensive knowledge of various types of tea service in different hospitality settings, from Chinese tea ceremonies to traditional English afternoon tea.
Madan also travelled to tea gardens around the world to gain first-hand experience of tea production and manufacturing, attending the Japanese Shincha Festival – which celebrates the first new, green tea of the year – and spending many months discussing tea with tea masters from across the world.
“I thought I knew a lot about tea, but this process has widened my knowledge further and taken me on an even deeper tea journey,” says Madan. “This will certainly help me with our company’s mission to improve tea culture.”
Madan now uses his Master Tea Sommelier experience to train spa and hotel clients, and also runs one-day classes aimed at those who work in F&B departments in spas and hotels.
Camellia’s teas include Health and Wellness infusions, Classic Teas and Exotic Infusions, which are blended with flowers, fruits, spices and essential oils.