Pursuit of Happiness

For the love of tea

Society Tea director Karan Shah on why kettle is the ultimate ode to tea tradition

Soumik Kar

Coming from a family of tea traders, Karan Shah’s affinity towards tea is but natural. But what leaves you spellbound is when he casually remarks that he consumes 3 litres of tea every day. Yes, you heard that right! The director of Society Tea, the retail tea brand from Hasmukhrai & Co and the oldest city-based tea trader, though, clarifies that it’s not the quintessential chai but more of the herbal kind. “I have over 35 blends at my office and I prefer to make my own blend to break the monotony of drinking regular tea,” says Shah, who is excited about the brand’s new campaign “The Tea Society Called India.” Society Tea, the 25-year-old brand, has made its mark in the branded space and is a more prominent player in Maharashtra. Explaining how the campaign reflects the growing consumption of tea in the country, Shah mentions that even in south India, traditionally the bastion of coffee drinkers, tea consumption is on the rise. “Given that there as many tea stalls along the roads in the south as you see in a city such as Mumbai, it is enough indication that how tea is becoming a preferred beverage,” adds Shah.

Besides being a tea connoisseur, Shah also has a fascination for kettles, a routine that began when he was just six-years-old. “As a kid I was always fascinated with kettles, and it’s still vivid in my memory as to how I threw a tantrum for a keychain shaped as a kettle when I was just six,” smiles Shah. Over the years as he kept travelling, his urge to find new kettles kept rising. Today, Shah has over collection of over 100 kettles, of varied sizes, designs and of different origins. “Almost every country that I have visited, I have always made it a point to pick up a kettle. I have picked up kettles even from cities where there is no culture of drinking tea,” adds Shah.

While there are over 65 kettles neatly stacked up against a wall at the office, the more rare and exquisite ones have been kept at home. “It’s rather sad to see that once a celebration, drinking tea has now been made into a more mundane affair. Serving in kettles is an art form that sadly is no longer prevalent,” rues Shah, who makes it a point to maintain the tradition when guests visit his home or office. Of the rare collection, Shah has a big egg-shaped kettle gifted to him by his grandfather; a 140-year-old antique Chinese kettle gifted by his uncle and another Turkish kettle. “I don’t look at it as an investment but as an ode to our culture of drinking tea,” adds Shah.

A recent addition is a kettle with intricate glasswork that Shah picked up on eBay. “Though I don’t know its origin, I quite liked its artistry,” says Shah, refusing to divulge the price. “I don’t want to reveal the price as I haven’t even told my father about it,” chuckles Shah.

With plans of opening the first Society Tea café in the city very soon, Shah is excited about the new chapter in the company’s history. “We aren’t in the hospitality business, so we want to position the café in a manner that best captures our legacy,” says Shah, as he happily poses alongside his prized collection.