I am asked regularly, who takes the Tea Sommelier program. I’ve decided to do a series presenting to you a few of our tea sommeliers and a little bit about them. It may inspire you to start your journey as well…
Introducing Kristina Inman – Niagara, Ontario
Wine industry veteran, Kristina Inman, expanded her palate by pursuing the TAC Tea Sommelier certification. “I became a CAPS sommelier in 2008 and worked with wine in restaurants, wineries and most recently in education at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College. But once you start talking terroir and tannins, the two worlds are not far apart” states Inman. Kristina parlayed her tea knowledge into educating future brewmasters and hospitality majors at Niagara College. In fact, she created and launched the college’s new Tea Sommelier program. “It is advantageous for my students to look at tea in a new light. Most of them come out of my class saying “Wow, I had no idea that tea was so interesting and so diverse” shares Kristina.
What is your earliest memory of tea? Growing up in a family of self-declared coffee aficionados, my mother introduced me to tea when I was sixteen while on a trip to London. She took me to department store, Liberty and said, “Kristina, if you’re going to try tea for the first time, this is the way to do it.” Boy was she ever right. I had an English Breakfast tea.
Favourite TAC Tea Sommelier module? Tea 106 Tea Preparation. I loved learning about different cultural practices for tea preparation and consumption. Sipping tea while having a spoonful of jam in your mouth (the Russian way)?! I mean, learning doesn’t get any better than this.
If you could drink two teas what would you drink? My daily go-to teas are Jasmine Green pearls and Earl Grey usually with lavender blended in. But, the purist in me always goes back to a lightly oxidized Oolong, such as Tung Ting or a Darjeeling First Flush could carry me through the ages.
Where in the world has tea played a role in your travels? Send me back to Paris to Mariage Frères in Place de la Madeleine. Whenever I visit the store I get swept away. The choices are extraordinary and the staff is well educated so it’s a delight to shop there. Another memorable experience is visiting Gamla Stan (the “old town”) in Stockholm. The Swedes take their daily fika (the Swedish coffee break) where you can find tea blended with local Nordic berries and cardamom-scented buns.
What is next for you? Building the tea program with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute. I also want to explore more in the tea industry through travel, perhaps to Japan. I’d also like to experiment with tea blending.
Have you always worked in the tea industry?
On the contrary, I’m a wine industry veteran. I became a CAPS sommelier in 2008 and have worked with wine (as well as beer and spirits) in restaurants, wineries and most recently in education at Niagara College. But once you start talking terroir & tannin, the worlds don’t seem so very far apart.
In what capacity are you currently working in the tea industry?
I’ve worked with my colleagues at The Canadian Food & Wine Institute at Niagara College to launch the Tea Sommelier program as of this past year. We are weaving in the program through our new division, Expert Edge, all in the heart of Ontario’s food & beverage scene.
What role did the TAC certification play in your career?
The TAC certification helped pave the way for these new horizons at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute. There is so much happening there; from the wine programs to the beer program to the new distilling program. Tea is a natural progression, in my opinion. I even worked with the college greenhouse where they are attempting to grow Camelia Sinensis.
What are some of the highlights and challenges presented with working in the tea industry today?
Most of us can probably relate to this, which is in my opinion, simply getting the word out there. Tea is on trend, certainly, but we are still the underdog to so many other beverages. It is going to take a lot more hard work and persistent attitudes to propel us forward. I really feel strongly that we need more education on tea, which is largely why I’m in the field that I’m in. I teach a wide range of students, from future brewmasters to hospitality majors and there is a huge opportunity for these students to look at tea in a new light and use it to their advantage. Most of them come out of my class saying, “Wow, I had no idea that tea was so interesting and so diverse!”.
What current trends in the tea industry excite you the most?
It’s exciting that tea itself is on trend! It’s no longer “your Granny’s drink”. I’m quite excited about using tea in other realms. Tea & mixology is something I think we’ll see more of, and tea & brewing has a lot of potential. One of my former brewmaster students made an Earl Grey Milk Stout for example, and that was fantastic. I bake a lot at home, and often incorporate tea into my baking. I’m even teaching my four year old the recipes, and that’s what’s inspiring as well. Tea can truly reach all ages, and that opens up its realm of possibility.