That’s a question you may have heard, let’s say never. Unless you are displayed at a cannibal meat shop. Which is a gross thought. Sorry.
But seriously, unless you are a food critique or a next level foodie, you wouldn’t have even paid much attention to your taste buds let alone put a price on ‘em!
But allow us to break that bubble for you. Meet Sebastian Michaelis, a philosophy graduate from the University of Sussex, who tastes hundreds of teas every day, and thousands in a week. But this does not resonate that he drinks a lot of tea. But yes, tiny slurps of hundreds of teas everyday.
Michaelis agrees and adds that a tea taster doesn’t actually drink much tea. “We brew the tea incredibly strong to ensure we pick up all the finer notes and flavors and then we use a dessert spoon to slurp the liquid and spit it out. It has to be seen, or heard, to believe, but tea tasting is a very noisy affair,” said the master tea blender for Tetley, the largest brand of Tata Global Beverages (TGBL).
6000 Cups A day!
If combined, the TGBL blenders’ 900 years of tea tasting adds up to a gigantic sum of 40,000 cups of tea every week! That is over 6500 a day – that is if they don’t work on Sundays.
According to A TGBL spokesperson, “the blenders have a palate so adept that they can identify a variety of teas from any tea garden from across the globe. To achieve the best blend, their taste buds are extremely important for our business. Our blenders travel the globe in search of the finest ingredients before they create the finest quality cups.”
The Million Pound Tongue
And that is precisely why the head taster’s taste buds are no less than a Kohinoor diamond to the organization. Which explains why TGBL has insured Michaelis’s taste buds for £1 million.
We wonder if he thinks twice before biting his tongue though?
Silly jealousy-oozing humor aside, Michaelis is happy about the insurance. In an interview he said: “The insurance of my taste buds is a reflection of the amount of time and effort the company has invested in my training, and the importance it places of ensuring the best quality blends.”
Weather to Blend or not
But there is a reason why the tea stalwart thinks so highly of their taster’s expertise. The taste also depends on the weather, so it’s critical for experts like Michaelis to use their skills to precisely grade every tea that is purchased and decide how much to use in each blend.
According to TGBL, tea tasting is critical in an evolving consumer market. One of the key challenges in blending is ensuring consistency so that the brand always tastes the same. Every blend is taste tested eight times before it goes to market.
That’s why TGBL invests heavily in training the tasters. It takes a minimum of five years before they’re considered `qualified’.
With so many details and minutiae involved, tea tasting is no less than an art. And the master tea blender for Tetley agrees.
“First, I examine and grade the color, size and density of the leaf. Then I assess the brew’s purity of color (its sparkle), the weight of the tea in the mouth (its body) and the overall liveliness of the tea on the palate (its zing). This is how we ensure that each Tetley blend is made to deliver the same quality taste, cup after cup.”TGBL’s tasters even have a secret language they use to grade any tea from around the world.
Besides, Michaelis also keeps an eagle eye on global consumer trends.
“In tea trends, we’re seeing the green, fruit and herbal market growing across geographies. This is partly influenced by the growing importance consumers place on health and wellness as well as an increasing willingness to experiment with new flavours and formats in tea,” he said. “In India, tea preferences vary across regions, so blenders need to be able to create varying blends depending on whether a strong brew is preferred or a milder cup of tea.”
The green tea segment has seen rapid growth in India, so blenders need to develop a portfolio of green tea options. Hmm, do we see another half a million piling up with the insurance company?