Gourmet tea brand Tea Trunk’s Experience Centre in Fontainhas offers a wholesome drinking experience and an indulgent High Tea.
There is the fragrance of jasmine emanating from the bottle in front of me. It is a rainy morning and instead of a hot beverage, I am drinking an iced tea. My Floral Galaxy Lemonade has jasmine green tea and blue pea flower and its vibrant purple and butter yellow merge to create an aromatic, soothing drink.
This iced tea is a bestseller and part of my High Tea at the two-month-old Tea Trunk Experience Centre in Fontainhas, Goa. The cosy little tea room is housed in an old Goan home, with a bright yellow façade, a tiled roof, and plenty of plants.
Ten years back, tea sommelier Snigdha Manchanda made Goa her home. In 2013, she launched Tea Trunk, an online Indian tea store offering well-crafted gourmet tea blends without additives or colourings or anything harmful. In May this year, she opened an experience centre/tea room to allow people that offline experience: being able to feel, sniff, and sample her teas.
The opening was a happy accident. Manchanda moved office from Porvorim to Panjim during the pandemic. “We have always had people coming in to pick up teas. It made sense to create an offering that allowed them to sample our teas and allowed us to do different kinds of events,” says Manchanda.
Tea Trunk’s Experience Centre offers a wholesome tea experience. The aim is to offer something light and delicious in the hours between meals, for people seeking a comfortable space to just relax. “I want this to be like a neighbourhood café. We are not a chain of tea rooms. We only want to have one space and make it special.”
The tea room is an all-white space, minimally decorated with cutesy elements, pops of colour from artwork and a trunk (of teas, presumably), and plants.
“Everything you see here is upcycled or repurposed or borrowed and thrifted. We used our office tables, added some wallpaper to make them dining tables, the trunk is the one we use to store products at events, the plants are cuttings borrowed from neighbours, and some of the tea pots are from my personal collection,” says Manchanda, “We spent most of the money on the roof.” In addition, cups from the stay-at-home club they launched in the pandemic are now napkin holders, and the lids of old tins of Tea Trunk’s teas are repurposed into coasters, which also have a barcode that visitors can scan to leave a review. “When I started in 2012, I was mindful that I wanted this to be more about the local neighbourhood tea place and not a fancy coffee shop, which may seem a bit sterile,” she says.
A treasured sampling box allows you to look and inhale the aromas of their different blends. A small menu for walk-ins includes hot teas, iced teas, a monsoon special masala chai, hot chocolate and some sandwiches, a lemon lavender tea cake, and matcha chocolate chip cookies — the menu is seasonal. Those seeking a more elaborate experience can pre-book their Signature High Tea and Portuguese High Tea. The Signature is their version of an English High Tea, is more vegetarian/vegan friendly and is their most popular choice. On offer are Cucumber Cream Cheese Sandwiches, Coleslaw Sandwiches, Egg Mayo Sandwiches / Beetroot Hummus Sandwiches, Lemon Lavender Cake, Apricot Nuts Canapés, scones, and Orange Chocolate Mousse…prepared by Tea Trunk’s chef Smita Nandakumar. The Portuguese High Tea has Chicken Croquette, Prawn Rissois, Fish Cones, Forminhas, Pasteis de Nata, Bolinhas, Serra Dura, Bolo de Laranja and Bolo Sans Rival, sourced from home chefs. Both experiences serve two and include unlimited iced teas and hot teas. “We want to make high tea more accessible, and friendly.” The experiences are not just about food and drink — you get some insight into the origin of high tea, the cakes served, a bit about tea and how it became a British and Indian mainstay, and the origin of the English word ‘tea’.
Manchanda considers the tea room to be a “community project”. Tea Trunk has partnered with local tour groups like B:Live and Make it Happen and some of their walking tours end at the tea room. They have collaborated with local artists like Tamsin Noronha whose Sea Series is made using plastic waste collected at the beach, and Uzma Khan, who does watercolour paintings; both have lent their artwork for display (and sale). In a few months, one of the spare rooms will be converted into a gift store, Made in Goa, which will feature curated products by local brands and new-age entrepreneurs. “People who are here [in Fontainhas] to experience Goa’s cultural history will get to take back something unique,” she says.
The front of the tea room showcases Tea Trunk’s various teas and accessories. There are helpful Mix and Match samplers (10gm, makes six cups of tea) for those who wish to try a variety and then choose their favourite blend (the Mango Mint is particularly delightful). On a rainy day, Tea Trunk’s Apple Spice Black Tea, and a slice of Lemon Lavender Cake provides much warmth.
Manchanda wants just this: people to stop by for a cup of tea, rest for a bit and go about their day, refreshed. “This [tea room] is an extension of Tea Trunk’s online community to come meet us offline,” she says.
At Fontainhas. The signature experiences are from 11am to 5pm; book a day in advance. Signature Experience is Rs 1,299, Portuguese Experience is Rs 2,999. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 6pm. Available on Swiggy and Zomato. Website.