People often ask me why I decided to study to be a tea sommelier. My love of tea stems from my Cake Awards days when I was introduced to the Sri Lankan tea company Dilmah and its quality single estate teas.
I attended their School of Tea course in Sri Lanka and everything about that trip – from the lush fields of tea bushes to the tasting sessions akin to wine – made we want to discover more.
Not long afterwards I saw how I could turn my passion into a business opportunity when I started working on a Dragons’ Den business for Kelly Hoppen. Here I was using loose teas, learning about their different flavours and processes for the products we were working on and it only served to heighten my taste for it.
It was Dilmah who recommended the Tea Association of Canada Tea Sommelier course as the best available way to learn more and I’m half way through it now.
The course is quite a challenge – eight modules that are four to six weeks each. I’m always excited when the mysterious collection of packets arrives at the start of every course. I have to study modules on sensory analysis, teas by region and terroir, types of tea, menu design, tea pairing, tea for health and more. You can’t sit the final exam out in Canada until you’ve passed them all.
Not surprisingly tea is drunk whenever I’m at home. You need to in order to keep your taste buds keen.
Gadgets like the tea infuser I bought at Kusmi Tea in Marylebone High Street help with this. You can brew single portions of loose tea and its funky design includes a stand that catches any drips. It comes apart easily for cleaning too – handy for all those brewed leaves.
The highlight of my beverage odyssey has been the introduction to Chinese green teas. I like the fact they are less vegetative and more toasted in flavour. But since I’m only half way through my course, I expect more delights are to come.
Oscar Woolley at Suki Tea has been my unofficial tea mentor. I can quickly check something with him or ask for further advice on what teas to try which has been so important to my studies.
If I pass the course next year I will be one of only a few qualified tea sommeliers in the UK, and will look forwarding to using my new skills to inspire new food products flavoured with teas, to work specifically on hot and cold beverage innovations and to help customers with tea menus too.
If you’d like to know more then please Tweet me or drop me a line. I’ll put the kettle on.
Food industry expert Jane Milton has been in the business for more than 30 years and has the inside track on all things food!
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