Founder of ICHAI Teas
Helen Saini has a PhD in plant biology and has worked on the non-GM improvement of plants to enhance flavour and increase health benefits. Helen has enjoyed considerable success in her career at a global food and drink corporation, which she joined because of her interest in the fusion of flavour and evidence-led effects of botanicals on physical and mental well-being. Helen then left to become an independent consultant for the Food and Drink, Life Science and Health sectors, before founding ICHAI.
ICHAI teas combine Helen’s passion for spice with her passion for knowledge. Her teas are made with 100% natural ingredients, inspired by family recipes spanning generations throughout India and using methods that have been carefully developed in-house to deliver the very best taste and aroma. Methods include the optimal grinding and dehydration of spices in ways that are not available elsewhere.
Helen started making tea with spices after her first trip to India, back in 1995. She sipped her first cup from a tiny tea stall for one rupee, (about 2p). Despite the tropical heat of the Cardamom Hills of south India, Helen found traditional Indian tea to be strangely refreshing and she remembers the combination of delicate spices leaving the most exquisite aftertaste (and found it helped with her extensive travel-sickness). She was hooked, and grabbed every opportunity to try different blends as she travelled around India.
Helen has an interest in the fusion of flavour and evidence-led effects of botanicals on physical and mental well-being.
On returning to the UK, Helen hunted for something to rival the traditional spiced teas of India, but without success. She resorted to making her own, experimenting with different combinations of spices and different methods of grinding and preparation. During this time Helen was studying for a degree in Environmental Biology where she developed a fascination with plants.
Helen specialised in developing new, better tasting, healthier plants to be used in foods using non-GM methods, working with scientists, agronomists, process engineers and plant breeders from all over the world. It was here that she started looking in detail at the health benefits of consuming certain plants and started to see that there were more to her spiced teas than just their exotic flavour.
As Helen’s expertise in plant biology, spiced-tea making and the food, health and wellness industries grew, so she was able to deconstruct the tea-making process, identify specific traits and re-design her tea to provide health-giving functionality while keeping the balance of flavour intact by avoiding money- saving practices, such as the use of artificial flavours or the reduction of product to dust. A few years ago, Helen left her globe-trotting job and moved to the Highlands of Scotland where ICHAI was born. Helen said she “wanted to make it properly, without any artificial ingredients and using the methods that I had developed so carefully to produce and retain the best taste and aroma”.