Tea Professionals?

I’m just finishing up my baking and pastry certificate at a community college, and will be applying to the French Pastry School (Chicago) as well as the French Culinary Institute (California) to continue my education. One of my possible professional goals is to run a tea house, or a pastry shop with a good selection of tea… and was wondering what types of certification was available for a “tea sommelier.” All I found this morning was the TeaMasters program. Is that all there is?

(Also, I would love to take the French Culinary Institute’s “serious amateur” wine program while I’m there. For any wine folks around. :D )

9 Replies
Will said

I would suggest traveling as much as possible in tea producing areas, and studying with different teachers. However, if you really want to do some sort of formal training, the only one that I’ve heard of which seems even remotely good is this one:

It’s run by Bill Lee, who runs China Flair Tea in the Vancouver, BC area, and who has studied with Vesper Chan of Best Tea House in Hong Kong.

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Random tea shop sources and info, including certification organizations on my “Resources for tea rooms” page:

I HIGHLY recommend attending the World Tea Expo. (annual trade show) They offer a “Business Bootcamp” for such as you; and the STI usually offers a course during the Expo. … links on page above

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I may have disappeared for two weeks, but I appreciate all the responses. The expo especially looks good. I doubt I’m ready this year, but probably next year.

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Will said

I would also say that spending time exploring tea by yourself, and with friends, will probably teach you more than any certification. Spend time comparing waters, comparing similar types of tea, both competition style and brewed normally. See how different cup shapes affect the taste and fragrance of tea. Sometimes a good teacher can teach you something that would take a long time to learn on your own, but even so, experience is the most important thing. It’s also a good idea to spend time brewing tea for others. This will give you more confidence in your brewing, and will also get you used to the kind of questions that people who don’t know about tea are likely to ask.

If you go to the California school, the bay area has a lot of tea enthusiasts as well as some good tea shops, so that would be helpful. You can learn a lot on your own, but it’s also good to learn from others.

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there really is no experience like real experience. Having met many of the “teachers” at the world expo, I wouldn’t pay a hundred bucks, yet alone a thousand for all the fake classes and certifications they offer.

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david said

My recommendation is to become familiar with the world yourself. How? Drink LOTS of tea. Don’t pay exorbitant amounts of money for someone to give you a random degree. Buy some books on tea and just read and enjoy. After all, 99% of the time, people are just concerned about how good something tastes.

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I echo the previous two statements.
Having just celebrated my 5th anniversary of my own Teahouse, what I would add additionally is that you can gain experience by applying at Teahouses that give the kind of experience you would want for your own establishment.
You will have the opportunity to use what you have learned in pastry school, and if your employer is willing, become involved with learning about the business of management.

Attending the World Tea Expo provides experience in information opportunities as well.

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N1 said

This is super far behind, but wondering if Cody did persue her degree. We are actually launching a new tea line in Chicago and looking for people with experience.

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Not yet, no. I’m still looking into getting some sort of training, but haven’t decided on which yet.

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