Carine Baudry: Food Scientist Finds Flavor for Teaching Tea

Carine Baudry spent her childhood in the northern part of France with a father involved in food engineering, watching him in his lab surrounded by unusual textures and odors – things like algae, sea weed and other edible particles for more elaborate food preparations. The result was a young girl bewitched by fragrances and smells, who would grow into an expert tea blender. “When I was a little girl, I was allowed to sip from my father’s cup when he had lunch at home,” Baudry recalled. What he drank was “a dark brew with a strange and intense but pleasant smell.” Only many years later, at one of her first training and tasting sessions at Le Palais des Thés (“The Tea Palace”), would Baudry discover what her father had been drinking with his meals: dark pu-erh tea. “Suddenly coming across that same fragrance again after so many years really struck me with an intense remembering and strong emotion,” she said. With Baudry’s early developed sensory faculties and her home-bred interest in food technology, she ultimately completed a master’s degree in chemistry. Afterward, she graduated from the renowned Postgraduate Institute for Perfumes, Cosmetics and Food Flavorings in Versailles, near Paris. Baudry then went to work for a small company that specialized in the creation of food flavors for drinks, candy, yogurt, soup… and tea. Carine Baudry PhotoDuring her decade of working on sensory product profiling, flavor creating and taste evaluation, she also had a job teaching some introductory courses on flavors and flavor assessment at the recently created Tea School at Le Palais des Thés, which she found intensely interesting. As is so often the case, events converged in Baudry’s life to create a completely new focus to her career. The person in charge of the tea school left to follow her husband on a mission to West Africa, and management asked Baudry whether she would be prepared to take over. “Now, I was very experienced in flavors and sensory evaluation, but I had little knowledge about tea,” she said. “Therefore I was wondering if my tea training would entail a lot of  traveling and take me away from home for too long for my two young children.” The job was too attractive and interesting for her to hesitate for long. After she accepted the position, Francois Xavier Delmas, the founder of Le Palais des Thés, and his associate Mathias Minet took on teaching Baudry. They also shared the burden of school responsibilities with her by splitting teaching duties among the three of them. Delmas and Minet completed Baudry’s training by taking her along to the most prestigious origin countries when they went on tea sourcing trips. In 2004 Baudry became full-time director of the tea school. Some real estate became available next door to the company headquarters, and the tea school was expanded and renovated in January 2009. The 150-lesson program that trains an average of 1,500 tea students per year is now a full-time occupation for the mother of three children. She is also responsible for drafting tea profiles for the company’s catalogue, which contains more than 300 references, and training staff for new shop openings. Nevertheless, Baudry remains fascinated by the universe of tastes and flavors. Several years ago, she began researching cooking with tea and tea-food pairings. Having gradually built up her own inventory of sensorial references, she teamed up with a successful young chef, Sylvain Sendra, to create tea foods and menus. The pair tried their creations on some students in classes at Sendra’s restaurant. These experiments went so well that they decided to share their ideas with the public. Their first book “La cuisine au Thé” (“Tea Cuisine”), was published in October 2009 and won two awards in the Paris Cook Book competition in February. Baudry said the editor had been on their back to finalize the book within three months, making for “a rewarding but exhausting experience” she said, smiling proudly. “Sharing my passion for spreading the knowledge of appreciating the flavors, savors and fragrances of fine teas as a full time job is simply serendipity,” Baudry said. “I am really grateful for having achieved such a fulfilling professional life.”