June 2016, with my first attendance of the annual World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, I came upon Kenya Purple Tea. There's a first time for everything, this was one...
The beginnings of Tea Sommelier Certification
Two days, 17 evaluation of loose leaf tea cultivars, multiple infusions per…our adventure began. Two and half hours of travel to my destination in Southern California, lands me in Pasadena for the ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier training. Along with seven future tea sommelier, we introduced ourselves and our reasons for the certification.
This ranged from future business owners, personal knowledge of tea or just curiosity. Asking a ton of questions is highly encouraged, although we had a time schedule. This course consists of 2-day comprehensive on-site course, followed by 8 weeks of tasting course.
We were introduced to:
- history of tea from multiple countries: China, India, Sri-Lanka (Ceylon), Japan, Taiwan, England
- growing regions, terroir, climates, harvesting and production
- chemistry of the tea leaf
- benefits of tea
- teapots and utensils
- tea ceremonies
- tea terminology
- tea tasting mechanics
Just to name a few, we evaluated the following, with 2-3 infusions:
- Gyokuro – Artisan Japanese Green Tea
- Liu An Gua Pian or Melon Seed – Artisan Chinese Green Tea
- Imperial White Peony – Bai Mu Dan
- Silverback White – Kenyan White Tea
- Tie Guan Yin Supreme – Oolong Tea of China
- Oriental Beauty – Artisan Taiwan Oolong Tea
- Da Hong Pao or Big Red Robe – Wuyi Yancha Oolong
- Arya Spring Diamond – Artisan Darjeeling Black Tea
With varying infusions, we discussed before and after aromas, color, dryness, texture, tastes and personal ratings. Infusion water temperatures and time increased from the first to second infusions and so on.
Depending on our cultural background, each tea taster had varying comments: bitter, roasted, dry, light grassy, vegetal. Notice, majority were broad descriptions, and at times I found it difficult in describing what I’m smelling and testing. This will all improve with time, including my writing and photography, hence the only photo I’ve posted of this course…maybe a few more.
Did I go overboard listing? I will refrain from providing the evaluation of each tea on this post, but more details in future postings. This is to share my experiences for future tea sommeliers and interested readers. As an eye opening course, especially learning that white, green, black, oolong and pu-erh all came from Camellia sinensis, with the varietals.
I am awaiting my package of teas to evaluate in the next 8 weeks, 2 teas per week to taste and evaluate. For now I will continue my reading and invests and multiple tea wares…