Tea is one of the most refreshing and popular beverages of the world. India being the world's largest producer, exporter and consumer of tea there is wide scope for careers in this field. Though not a very well known career option, jobs in this area can be interesting.
There are a variety of jobs one can specialize in a tea industry. All together it is known as tea management. Tea tasting is one of the highly specialized area of work. Other areas are that of researchers, plantation managers, tea brokers, consultants etc.
Work in the Tea industry includes plantation, processing, auctioning, branding, marketing and research. Plantation work involves nurturing tea plants in the plantations which includes preparing the soil, applying the appropriate fertilizers, choosing the right variety best suited for the prevailing conditions and supervising the pinching and plucking of the leaves. Processing work involves the crushing, tearing and curling of the leaves which take place in factories. The tea is then packed and dispatched to auction centres. The various samples of tea from different plantations are tested, blended and branded by the tea tasters in the auction centres. Tea brokers who have a background in planting, tasting and a know how of market trends auction the tea and the Marketing personnel market the final product. Although computers are now used for blending varieties of tea, the tea taster’s verdict is still considered the ultimate test for determining the quality of tea.
In India, best tea growing areas are Assam, Darjeeling and Nilgiris. Several varieties of tea can be grown in any one garden. As tea is a seasonal plant, the same leaves from the same bush, plucked in different seasons, have different bouquets. Each of these varieties requires different ways of handling.
Educational: Even though anybody who have a basic educational background can get into tea industry, and pick up the skills required on the job, a degree in Agricultural Science or a B.Sc. in Botany, Food Sciences, Horticulture or allied fields is preferred these days. Candidates who have specialised in business management or marketing are recruited for marketing jobs.
New entrants are taken on as Assistants at the plantation level. After gaining experience and competence an assistant can get promoted to the level of Assistant Manager, and then Manager of a tea garden. Most assistants can expect to become managers in 12-15 years of service.
Potential tea tasters selected are trained on the job. Besides natural talents, vigorous training for a number of years is essential before becoming a professional tea taster and then a tea tasting manager. Besides acquiring skills in tasting, they need to work on their managerial and marketing capabilities too.
One opting for a career in the filed must have an interest and liking for outdoor life. Must be physically fit, adaptable and self-reliant. Leadership qualities and the ability to deal with labourers is an added asset for plantation/ factory managers. One must also have initiative, be knowledgeable about the tea market and be alert to changing market forces, and should be willing to undertake strenuous work. Should possess fair knowledge about the topography and geographical location of the tea estate. Tea tasters need to have keen taste buds and should keep their sensitivities clean. They should therefore be inclined to keep smoking, drinking and intake of spicy foods in check. Those planning to become brokers should be level headed.
India being the leading producer of tea in the world, the scope for a career in this field is immense. Tea companies or tea gardens, Tea broking Houses, Tea associations and the Tea Board of India offer lucrative positions.
An experienced tea planter can move into tea brokerage or tea tasting or take up a job in a tea broking house. Senior professionals can branch off into becoming consultants offering advice. Those academically inclined may get into research positions open at many tea plantations.
Tea gardens are controlled by Managers who have junior assistants and Assistant Managers, depending on the size and requirement of the garden, to assist them in the smooth functioning of the tea estate. Their work involves supervision of all plantation work involved from planting to plucking, processing to packing and transport of tea to auction houses. New entrants are taken on as Assistants at the plantation level. Experience is the deciding factor in the appointment of a manager. It is a long wait as it usually takes twelve to fifteen years. The Indian Institute of Plantation Management, Bangalore offers a training programme on the relevant subject under the Indian Commodity economy.
Tea tasting is a highly specialised area. Tea tasters differentiate between the various flavours of tea and help to brand the varieties according to quality. Most tea companies employ tea tasters for ensuring quality standards, and preparing blends. Tea tasting is typically learnt on the job. Tea tasters have to develop the expertise to distinguish between the taste and aroma of different teas. Tea tasters need to develop managerial as well as marketing skills. Tea tasters should keep their sensitivities clean and should keep smoking, drinking and intake of spicy foods in check. The drawbacks can be damage to your digestive system especially at the peak season when you may have taste as many as 200-300 cups of tea a day and result in stains on your teeth which has to be removed periodically.
Tasters are recruited by manufacturing companies, brokers as well as buyers. In a manufacturing company, the taster detects defects in the production process by looking at the colour and size of the leaves to determine if they have been fermented or dried under fire and sends them back to the factory to rectify if needed. They also have to coordinate with gardens, look after import and exports, advise researchers on commercial factors like taste, economic viability and maturability of tea etc. In the broker's office, the taster plays an advisory role and informs manufacturers about market trends. In buying houses besides ensuring quality, tasters have to know what's happening in both the domestic and international markets. Many youngsters opt for this profession because of the out-of-the-ordinary nature of the work and the high pay.
Research is an integral part of the industry. Much research is conducted by botanists, biotechnologists and other scientists, who study methods of producing disease-resistant, high yielding varieties of tea, as also strains that produce leaves that are natural blends of various teas. They receive advise from tea tasters on commercial factors like taste, economic viability and maturability of tea. The Tea Research Association at Jorhat (Assam) is a premier organisation where pioneering work is being done in the field of research. The research associations as well as Tea plantation owners employ researchers.
Tea brokers act as intermediaries between the planter-producer and the buyer, and must be up-to-date with market trends and international prices. A background in tea industry and developing a keen tea tasting ability are important requisites in becoming a broker. At the auction centers, the tea samples are listed and evaluated by tea brokers. There are broking houses in the country where the brokers test the various samples of tea, which come from the different tea gardens. Those planning to become brokers should be level headed and disciplined and be able to strike a good rapport with producers and buyers.
The tea board of India and various tea associations employ consultants. Experienced tea planters can take up consultancy services proffering advice on the varieties of tea to be planted, new varieties and their sources, recruitment and training of personnel, compensation, benefits and incentives to labour and so on.
A field most suited for nature lovers, as working on a plantation may seem like living in a virtual paradise for those who like living in close proximity to nature. However, long spells of loneliness are a common occurrence. Despite the drawback, many youngsters are coming into the profession because of the good pay, attractive perks including a comfortable lifestyle with bungalow, car etc. Trainees get, on an average, Rs. 5,000 while senior professionals draw Rs. 25,000 per month and specialized professionals can earn in the range of 40,000- 50,000 per month.