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Fresh Thinking for a New Era in Tea

Open up your imagination, don't be bound by the past. Take our old drink and modernize it and just do fun things with tea, says Brook37 founder Mou Dasgupta. The new era of tea is not just introducing tea it's also explaining how you consume the tea.

Brook37 founder Mou Dasgupta says the new era of tea is not just introducing tea, it’s also explaining how you consume the tea. We are saying that yes, traditionally, you drink tea from a cup, but why not break the barriers and drink tea from a champagne glass or chill the tea and drink it in a martini glass? Make other drinks using tea. Open up your imagination, don’t be bound by the past. Take our old drink, modernize it, and just do fun things with tea.

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Mou Dasgupta, founder of Brook37 The Atelier

Mou Dasgupta, founder of Brook37 The Atelier

Elegance Begins with the Leaf

Mou Dasgupta is pursuing her passion for tea after 25 years of trendsetting corporate leadership in the financial services industry. She developed a love for fine-quality tea while living in West Bengal, India, where she attended university in Calcutta. She trained in the sciences and holds a master’s degree in software engineering. “Brook37 is proud to bring fresh thinking and an ethical and sustainable mindset to all we do,” she says. “Our unparalleled tea selection of flavors, aromas, and colors from around the world, along with exquisite packaging, help you choose a positive and aspirational lifestyle.”

Dan Bolton: Thank you for taking the time to talk about your vision of a new era in tea and how it led to the launch of Brook37, a premium brand sourced directly from suppliers in the most famous of India’s tea-growing regions. What are some aspects of this new era?

Mou Dasgupta: In describing a new era of tea, what I want to talk about is tea reimagined in the USA.

The new era of tea is not just introducing tea it’s also explaining how you consume the tea. So what we are saying is that yes, traditionally you tea drink tea from a cup, but why not break the barriers and drink tea from a champagne glass, or chill the tea and drink it in a martini glass. Make other drinks using tea. Open up your imagination, don’t be bound by the past. Take our old drink and modernize it and just do fun things with tea.

That’s how I feel that the younger generation may find it more interesting. When I go to a friend’s house, they offer me Diet or a regular Coke, or maybe a club soda as a non-alcoholic beverage. I want people to offer tea. It is a non-alcoholic beverage with fantastic health values. So, keep our tea caddy next to your wine bottle and open a beautiful tea caddy when your special guests arrive. That’s how I want to position tea.

Dan: You grew up drinking good tea.

Mou: I moved to the USA from a place that is about 300 miles from Darjeeling about 25 years back, and one of my big struggles was to find the high-quality tea that I used to drink before I moved to the USA.

Over here, you can find great coffee stores everywhere but finding a great tea shop takes a lot of work. Tea is also looked upon as a health drink. It has many health values, but I want to make people understand that tea can bring people together. Tea can reconnect people and rejuvenate, it’s a drink that can elevate the moment, and it’s a non-alcoholic drink with value like fine wine. And you know, in wine, the quality of the grapes, the soil, and the weather drive how the taste and the flavor will vary. Darjeeling tea is exactly like that. I want to make people aware. I want them to taste Darjeeling tea and see that it’s a different drink altogether.

Dan: Many brands position themselves as premium, but only a few succeed in conveying the elegance visible in your color palette, your choice of tins, and a clever pairing of an engraved traditional silver-plated infuser with a modern silver measuring spoon in your gift set Will you discuss your view on what makes a tea premium?

Mou: First, elegance starts with the look of the tea leaves. A high-quality tea leaf is not dust. It’s a long, beautiful leaf, and it is rolled to perfection. It’s dried to perfection. It’s hand-picked at the perfect time. Recently on a trip to Darjeeling, I noticed a tea leaf plucked before the rain can taste and smell different than a leaf plucked after the rain. It’s the elegance of flavor. It’s the elegance of taste.

To that, we added silver accessories. When you drink a high-quality Scotch or a single malt, you could drink it from a plastic cup, but most drink it from a beautiful crystal glass. High-quality Darjeeling tea demands that kind of setting. It is more than just flavor and not just the tea’s color. It’s also the accessories, all of them, that elevate the moment.

That’s where beautiful packaging comes in and where the look of the tea matters. So that people feel it’s a beautiful moment that they’re creating, whether it’s with their children, whether it’s with their grandchildren, whether it’s their significant other, or by themselves. Tea is an elevation of the moment — any moment.

Dan: You have a wonderful founding story, first finding success as a software engineer, angel investor, and executive director of JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley before directing your talents to tea.

Mou: My primary inspiration is that for 25 years, I have been looking for this kind of tea. I had a very hard time finding Darjeeling tea like the tea that I enjoyed in India. In our Country, in the USA, the tea comes through many hands a lot of the time, and every time you open a bag, the quality of the tea goes down.

When I left my job and decided I wanted to do something on my own, something more meaningful, tea kept coming back to me.

I realized this was an opportunity because all the best quality teas get picked up by Germany by Japan right away from Darjeeling. In most cases, they don’t come to our country. We are deprived of that highest quality. Brook37 is buying exclusive small lots of seven to ten kilos of the best Darjeeling offers.

That’s what drove me. I don’t want to just bring the tea; I want to bring the whole experience with it. We call ourselves the Chanel of tea because we present tea as a high-end beverage that celebrates life. We have created a brand that will catch everyone’s attention, all the sensorial organs, the look, smell, touch and feel all of it together. That’s what inspired me.

I didn’t want a company that was all about money or finance. It was not a motivating factor for me. I wanted to have a responsible company. There is a saying that we do not inherit nature or the environment from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

I didn’t want a company that was all about money or finance. It was not a motivating factor for me. I wanted to have a responsible company. There is a saying that we do not inherit nature or the environment from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

The environment that I’m borrowing from my children, I want to give it back in good shape in a conscious way. Hence we are building a conscious brand from day one, plastic-neutral, biodegradable and reusable packaging, certified by 1% by the planet, etc. It must be empowering, and it must be socially conscious.

“There is a saying that ‘we do not inherit this earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’ I want to give back in good shape the environment we have borrowed from our children.”

– Mou Dasgupta

Dan: Will you share your inspiration for creating a women-led team with listeners?

Mou: It’s not a conscious decision. I didn’t come in saying that I was only going to hire women. But 90 percent of the people who work in our brand happen to be women. We found the best talents who happen to be women. The best tea pluckers are women, and the best tea packaging laborers are women. Our tea sommelier happens to be a woman. Our photographer and videographer is a woman. Even our marketer and our social media leads are women. I just happened to have a team of women I found to be the best at their work.

By elevating Darjeeling tea, we also elevate the people back in Darjeeling. It’s with pride that we produce one of the best teas in the world. I want them to share that sense of pride. Darjeeling should be a name that stands above the rest, not just a tea; it is a distinguished beverage, and hopefully, Brooke37 will give that to them.

Dan: Will you discuss sourcing? That’s a challenge in Darjeeling right now, with many of the 87 registered estates in distress, several recently acquired, and all experiencing an overall decline in production from around 10 million kilos 10 years ago to six million kilos in recent years.

Mou: My primary goal is to bring the best quality tea in my country to the USA. And it is not to promote Darjeeling’s biggest tea growers or tea estates. It’s really to work with anybody who is growing high-quality tea.

We are looking for small growers. We’re looking for entrepreneurs innovating new types of teas and bringing them here at a good price.  I do feel that, at times, the prices are compromised. When someone gives 70% to 80% off the price of tea, that is just dust of Darjeeling tea, and calls them Darjeeling; they are diminishing Darjeeling tea to the world. Sometimes the price paid at the back end is too low and unfair to the tea growers.

We are ready to pay $100 for a bottle containing five glasses of fine wine, but we are not ready to pay $100 for 40-50 cups of the finest tea. If we don’t elevate Darjeeling to that point, people in the back end will always suffer.

I alone don’t have the power to eliminate poverty in Darjeeling. I make sure that I at least do my part. I promote their work, I promote their tea, and I promote their small businesses because I am also a small business owner.

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Editor | Publisher | Podcaster | Consultant | Journalist Dan is the founder of Tea Journey Magazine, the Tea Biz Podcast and Blog, and a contributing editor at STiR coffee and tea. He is the former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine, former editor and publisher of World Tea News, and former editor-in-chief at Specialty Coffee Retailer, then headquartered in San Francisco. Dan has traveled the tea lands, speaking on retail beverage trends in Canada and the United States and at conferences in Europe, China, India, Australia, the Middle East, South America, and Africa.

1 comment on “Fresh Thinking for a New Era in Tea

  1. Marina Varghese

    Wonderful to see Mou doing a fine job of appreciating and promoting high quality Darjeeling tea . Salutations for encouraging and believing in women empowerment. Kudos and good luck

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