Posts by Shabnam

Where is my Darjeeling?

August 30th, 2017 Posted by General, Tea Industry 0 comments on “Where is my Darjeeling?”

Some of you may remember my travels through India and the deep love and respect I found for the land as well as the people.  So, like many of you, I have been looking for and waiting for my Darjeeling tea this year; to no avail.  So where is it?  What is happening in the land high above the clouds?  I’m afraid it’s politics.  I’ll try and give you a brief overview of what is happening.

The ‘hill people’ – Gorkha – of the Darjeeling area have been wanting independence for a long time. The Gorkha are Nepali migrants, tea workers, who have lived in the region. They want autonomy and not to be part of Bengal – a large Indian state.  The issues are language, land ownership as well as political autonomy.  Ultimately, the people there are demanding to be recognized as Gorkhas with their own land: ‘Gorkhaland’.

I have simplified the issue of course immensely and wouldn’t dream of explaining all of the sides and positions on this issue.  To be quite frank, I don’t think it’s for any of us outside of India, to place judgement on.  It would be yet again another arrogant attempt by the west to meddle in issues more complicated than most want to learn about.  For those of you that do want to read more, The Wire has a good summary of the issues.

What all of this amounts to for the tea world, is that there has been no tea production in Darjeeling for over 70 days at this point.  The conflict is continues.  People have been injured and died in the struggle.  Talks between both sides are ongoing, but no resolution has been found.

I find that these are the times we are all reminded that there are real people behind our cups of tea.  Real people in countries far away, with real struggles.  And although we may lament at not being able to enjoy a cup of First Flush Darjeeling this year, the effect on the tea plantations and the workers dependant on these plantations is far more outreaching. The weakest and poorest are the hardest hit – not those of us missing our cup of Darjeeling.

In their own words…Anne Ricard

August 30th, 2017 Posted by General, Interviews 0 comments on “In their own words…Anne Ricard”

Anne Ricard, Sherbrooke, Quebec {MysTea}

When the opportunity presented itself to buyout a fledgling tea business, Anne Ricard, a TAC Tea Sommelier, jumped at the chance.   “Tea is very ‘tendence’ (French for trendy)” says Ricard. “So the opportunities are endless.” Anne launched her physical tea shop and online store, MysTea in Sherbrooke, Quebec, while concurrently taking the Tea Sommelier program. According to Ricard, the designation has resulted in press and marketing opportunities for her business. “The sommelier certification garners respect from others in the industry” states Ricard.

Q+A with Anne Ricard

What is your earliest memory of tea? My dad drank Earl Grey tea daily and would give me a taste while my mother made me herbal tea to help me sleep.

Favourite TAC Tea Sommelier module? Tea 107, Menu Design, Food Pairing and Cooking with Tea. I ended up developing my own chocolate and tea pairing course for my customers. Watch here and here.

If you could drink two teas what would you drink? Sencha and Long Jing.

Where in the world has tea played a role in your travels? As a result of running my business full time, my opportunities to travel have been few. However, if I had time, I would travel to the Wuyi Rock tea region in China for a cup of oolong.

What is next for you? A collaboration to create a tea box set between us and someone famous. The box set will be distributed around Québec at a classy store *still a secret*.

In their own words…Gabriella Lombardi

May 16th, 2017 Posted by General, Interviews 0 comments on “In their own words…Gabriella Lombardi”

Gabriella Lombardi, Milan, Italy, Chà Tea Atelier

For marketing professional, Gabriella Lombardi, forging a path for tea in Italy was no small feat. “Spreading tea culture is a stimulating challenge in a country like Italy, where coffee is culturally the traditional drink” shares Lombardi. Armed with ideas and a TAC Tea Sommelier certification, Gabriella launched her tea shop, Chà Tea Atelier in 2010 in Milan. As she ran her business, her passion for educating people about tea grew. Lombardi involved herself in educating consumers and professionals about tea as well as consulting and developing pairing menus for the hospitality industry. Gabriella also parlayed her experience into a teaching gig for Protea’s Tea Academy (Italian Tea Association) as well as serving as the national coordinator for the Tea Masters Cup competition.

Q+A with Gabriella Lombardi

 

What is your earliest memory of tea? I fell in love with tea when I was studying at the University of Granada (Spain) and discovered tea leaves; something unusual in Italy.

Favourite TAC Tea Sommelier module? Tea 105 and Tea 107. Tea 105 was rich in technical details and a sound introduction to cultivation. Tea 107 deepened my knowledge about pairing and cooking with tea, one of my passions.

If you could drink two teas what would you drink? Chinese and Japanese green teas such as Long Jing, Sencha and Uji Matcha and oolong teas such as Chinese Da Hong Pao, or Taiwanese Alishan and Dong Ding are among my favourites.

Where in the world has tea played a role in your travels? I visited a beautiful tea garden in Boseong, South Korea. However, the best place to enjoy a good cup of tea is in my living room with family or with my best friends.

What is next for you? I’m a volcano of ideas, so I’m always up to something. I would like to travel more and maybe to find the time to write my second book on tea. My first book “Tea Sommelier” (published by White Star – DeAgostini in 2013), gave me great satisfaction.

Have you always worked in the tea industry?  Until 2009 I worked in marketing activities for different advertising agencies, leaders in the Italian scenario of communication. However, my real passion has always been tea and the cultural aspects and rituals related to the world of tea. In 2010 I changed my life and I founded Chà Tea Atelier, the first tea shop in Milan with a tea room, specialized in high quality loose leaf teas and flavoured & herbal teas.  In recent months I have also had the honor of being Tea Instructor of Protea’s Tea Academy for TAC TEA SOMMELIERTM/SM Certification Program in partnership with Tea Association of Canada.

For Protea (Italian Tea Association) I’m also the national coordinator for Tea Masters Cup competition.

 

In their own words…David Pasieka

May 5th, 2017 Posted by General, Interviews 0 comments on “In their own words…David Pasieka”

David Pasieka, Vancouver Island, British Columbia {Teartisan – teartisan.com}

For tea enthusiast and collector of high end, specialty teas, David Pasieka, the TAC Tea Sommelier certification both deepened his knowledge about his favourite drink as well as launched a new professional path. “In addition to providing a foundation to explore all facets of the tea industry, the course helped me turn my personal passion into a new career” says David. He is in the process of launching a new tea house on Vancouver Island in the near future called Teartisanteartisan.com

Q+A with David Pasieka:

What is your earliest memory of tea? The first time I tasted tea was at my aunt’s house; she used to drink tea the British way: brewed black tea with milk and sugar. However, when I was seven years old, I remember dining at a local family restaurant that served Bigelow tea. My parents let me order a tea of my choice and I chose Bigelow’s famous Constant Commet. From then on, tea lover was born.

Favourite TAC Tea Sommelier module? TEA106: Preparation, Consumption, and Health. It provided an overview of global tea traditions, which is interesting as I am fascinated by different ways people consume tea around the world.

If you could drink two teas what would you drink? The first one is an exclusive from Camellia Sinensis in Montreal. Nan Mei Wild Tree Budsis a white tea sourced from the Nan Mei valley in China’s Yunnan province, and it consists entirely of golden buds harvested from wild tea trees growing in the region. Next is Meng Ding Huang Ya, the most expensive yellow tea on the market. It is bright, rich, and full, with a creamy mouth feel and a flavour with notes of hazelnut, vanilla, and honey butter.

Where in the world has tea played a role in your travels? This past summer, I attended the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, and a two-day tea intensive at Camellia Sinsensis in Montreal. But one place that is very special is Tao of Tea’s Tower of Cosmic Reflections teahouse located in the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon. This is a beautiful, Chinese-style teahouse that looks straight on the majesty of the garden. Tao of Tea offers a wide variety of superb, origin-selected teas as well as traditional food items.

What is next for you? I am moving closer to the launch of my own teahouse and retail shop called Teartisan (teartisan.com) in 2017.

 In what capacity are you currently working in the tea industry?  I am currently in the final planning stages for opening my own teahouse on Vancouver Island. The location is not yet finalized, but I have my eye on a few specific places which I will narrow down when I visit next month.

 What role did the TAC certification play in your career? My TAC Certification was a major turning point for me at a time when I needed to find a new career path for myself. In addition to giving me a foundation in the history, production, classification, identification, traditions, and preparation of tea, it also showed me that I could , in fact, make a move into the industry and turn my personal passion into something more.

What are some of the highlights and challenges presented with working in the tea industry today? Being unique and finding your niche can be a challenge, especially with bigger tea retail players such as DavidsTea and Teavana that have such a huge presence in the minds of consumers. But I also think there is a lot of room for more players of various types in the industry. Although the public has really started to embrace specialty tea in a big way, it’s nowhere near where other beverages such as coffee and soft drinks are yet.

 What current trends in the tea industry excite you the most? The fact that, especially in Canada, tea seems to be in many people’s minds in a way it hasn’t been in a very long time. People seem to be discovering that tea is more than simply an alternate to coffee, and that there is much more to tea than generic black tea bags. I’m also very interested in the embracing of tea by chefs and mixologists as a quality, versitile, and delicious ingredient in meals, desserts, and cocktails.

In their own words…Desiree Prins

April 12th, 2017 Posted by Uncategorized 0 comments on “In their own words…Desiree Prins”

Desiree Prins, Palo Alto, California

Tea is a common thread that has played a role in education, culture and an international move for TAC Tea Sommelier, Desiree Prins. As a teenager Desiree moved from Namibia (German coffee drinking culture) to a town in South Africa (tea drinking culture), not far from where Rooibos is cultivated, thereby piquing her interest in tea. A move to California further entrenched Desiree’s interest in tea when she discovered new types of teas in San Francisco from what she was accustom to drinking in Africa. “At my dentist office one day, I saw an ad for the TAC Tea Sommelier course in TeaTime Magazine. I inquired, signed up and my life literally changed” shares Prins. “The discovery that tea was all one plant, camelia sinensis, blew me away.”

 

Q+A with Desiree Prins

What is your earliest memory of tea? My earliest memory of tea is drinking Rooibos. I used to live in South Africa in small area where Rooibos was cultivated; near the Cedar Mountains in the Western Cape. South Africans love to visit with one another and tea is always offered in a teapot covered with a tea cozy and served in tea cups and saucers. We drank Rooibos tea as well as strong Ceylon teabag tea with lots of milk and sometimes sugar. Later on in life, when I moved to San Francisco, I discovered Chinese and Japanese green teas and I was hooked.

Favourite TAC Tea Sommelier module? Tea 105 From Bush to Cup. I enjoyed learning about tea and its cultivation and manufacturing processes as well as Tea 104 Tea Types where we learned about the cultural differences that shape tea drinking habits.

If you could drink two teas what would you drink? High Grown Ceylon Tea and Oolong tea. I also discovered purple tea from Kenya in Africa. I find it to be a little ‘gruff’, but it may have potential for blending and scented tea.

Where in the world has tea played a role in your travels? My dream is to go to Rue Cler in Paris to visit the Mariage Freres Tea Boutique. My daughter brought me a few of their teas from Paris and I have never tasted such exquisite blends with such high quality tea.

What is next for you? I will continue my tea education and daily tea tastings to further my understanding of the nuances of tea. However, a tea business is in my future.

 

Have you always worked in the tea industry?  I have never worked in the tea industry. Tea is a love and a hobby, but I would love to transition to the tea industry.

What role did the TAC certification play in your career?   I learned a tremendous amount about the tea world in all its facets. The certification course opened the world of tea for me and cultivated in me a desire to develop my skills in tea tasting. I love educating my friends and students about tea, and even ordered a few tea plants for my demonstrations, i.e. from the bush to the cup.

 

What are some of the highlights and challenges presented with working in the tea industry today?  Expanding the experience of and love for tea to young people is such an exciting trend and challenge for the tea industry. Appealing to the palate of the young person as well as creating exciting venues for them to experience tea. The millennial market is a very rich market with a receptive generation – so if done smartly, the tea industry can establish a strong foothold.

 

What current trends in the tea industry excite you the most?ccTea blending and scenting. The science of tea and food pairing. Both these trends bring tea to the everyday person, especially the young person. These trends present tea in an exciting and appealing light.
MORE THOUGHTS:

Truth be told, I took on a 2nd job, a contract position as an educational/school psychologist which requires 10 more hours on the road per week over and above the extra hours. Right now I am drowning in work and have had to scale down on my Tea Activities.

So here I’ll just give you my story as it flows from my pen in a rather unstructured way.

My passion for tea knows no bounds. Everything that has to do with tea. As a teenager I moved from Namibia to South Africa to the   quaint university town in South Africa, not far from the Cedar Mountains where Rooibos was cultivated. This move also meant that my environment changed from a largely coffee drinking German culture to a tea drinking South African culture. I was simply drawn to the ritual of setting the tea tray, sitting down and sharing a cup of tea over conversation with family/friends. I was/am a master sconce baker, and can whip these up in no time. We made strong black tea (teabags from Ceylon) and served it with milk (and sugar for some), just like the British. I loved the sound of porcelain/bone china cups clinking onto the saucer; the sound of the tea poured into the tea cups. I love to set a quaint table. I love my teatime. I am THE tea hostess in my circle of girlfriends (the guys in my world are not there yet).

At the time, living in South Africa I did not know there was anything beyond Rooibos and Ceylon Tea. Incidentally, it was common practice to make a pot of vert strong Rooibos in the morning, and have it sit on a hot plate/simmer on the stove all day long, simply adding hot water as needed. Both Ceylon and Rooibos were served when guests arrived.

As I noted in my previous responses, the world of tea really only opened up for me when I moved to the US, and I learned to drink it without milk. It was a natural and exciting journey to go into the various Japanese and Chinese shops and experiment with the greens. Then I discovered an Iranian store – The Rose Garden – with lots and lots of black teas and Earl Grey. It was like an explosion hit me. And I discovered the most interesting black teas.

At this time on my tea journey I was simply exploring and enjoying this wide variety of tea options that were unfolding for me.

Then at my dentist office I saw an ad for the TAC Tea Sommelier course in a TeaTime Magazine, inquired, and signed up. My life literally changed. The discovery that it was all one plant, the camelia sinensis, blew me away. After each lesson with Shabnam, I would hit Google and read and read and read. But to my dismay, when the tea samples arrived, I had a difficult time discerning the different teas, and describe them. But over time, as Shabnam reviewed these with us during almost every lesson, describing the taste experiences became easier.

I attended the World Tea Expo twice, and felt drawn in into a world of passionate experts. But also felt overwhelmed by the fine art of tea tasting and the vast amount of teas. So I would pick a few vendors, and revisit their booths frequently.

My dream was born. I would love a TeaHouse, but I am reluctant to put out the money – too risky at my age. I am still full time in a very lucrative career, and am nervous to give it up for a business that I know very little about. And I have serious doubts about my ability to transform myself into a business woman.

BUT….. I do want to sell tea in the small shops in South Lake Tahoe, a quaint holiday/ski resort on the border of California and Nevada. I am working on a website. I am working on my tea logo and tea label. I thought I could do this slowly when I can find the time from my day job, but I have discovered that this is not practical.

So the plan is to take the summer off June/July/August 2017, pay professionals to help me set up a small tea-selling business and have it launched by August. During this time I want to connect with the small shopowners and try to persuade them to have me do some tea tastings/education in their shops.

But as you can see, my goal for now is to keep it small and practice becoming a business woman. This is a very far cry from the real world of serious tea business, but for now it is all I can manage. I guess it could probably best be described as an extended hobby.

However, I plan to retire early in a few years, and then revisit the tea business options more seriously.

In the meantime, I am enjoying my tea journey, and I share it with friends and colleagues whenever I have a chance.

 

In their own words…Jan Subchartanan

March 22nd, 2017 Posted by General, Interviews, Uncategorized 0 comments on “In their own words…Jan Subchartanan”

Jan Subchartanan, Bangkok, Thailand

Hotel management graduate, Jan Subchartanan, took a strong interest in tea while pursuing her degree. While tea was always part of the daily rituals of her family life, it took on another dimension after learning about afternoon tea at school. Subchartanan pursued the TAC Tea Sommelier certification to complement her studies and expand her personal knowledge on the subject. However, today she finds herself hunting for the right tea to import via a Thai import/export company she works for. “Even though I have not pursued a career in tea industry, I enjoy and appreciate every sip of tea I take and had fun learning about it” shares Jan.

Q+A with Jan Subchartanan

What is your earliest memory of tea?   Since I was young, tea was a part of my daily life. I watched my grandparents and relatives drink tea as well as serving tea to guests who visited.

Favourite TAC Tea Sommelier module? Tea 107: Menu Design, Food Pairing Cooking with Tea. I was amazed how one item can change the flavour of a food item and make both things taste even better.

If you could drink two teas what would you drink? Oolong and green tea

Where in the world has tea played a role in your travels? I do quite a bit of travelling and no matter where I go, I always make a point of visiting at least one cafe to try their tea. I really enjoyed afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria (Canada) and at the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto, Canada. The Peace Oriental Tea House and the Drawing Room at the St. Regis Hotel in Bangkok also have great teas.

What is next for you? I am looking for a tea brand to import into Thailand.

Have you always worked in the tea industry? No, I did not. I used to work in a hotel industry. Currently, I am working in an import-export industry as a member of a management team. Tea is always an item I would like to add to our product line.

In what capacity are you currently working in the tea industry? I am working to bridge the tea industry and my current work.

Altitude and Tea

March 20th, 2017 Posted by General 0 comments on “Altitude and Tea”

There are so many different elements that affect the flavours of tea – soil, sunlight, precipitation, temperature, altitude.  These elements are what we refer to as ‘terroir’ – borrowed from the world of wine: “the characteristic taste and flavour imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced”.

I can’t say that any one of these elements are more important than the others, but I thought I would take a moment to explain the affect of one of these elements – one that I think makes tea leaves a lot like people: altitude.

The higher the altitude the tea is grown at, the more complex the flavours become. When we are at high altitudes, as I discovered on my trip to Darjeeling, we struggle as well.  Our breathing is shallower and we tend to slow down. The tea leaf reacts in very much the same way – it’s growth slows down and it struggles. That struggle is what produces complexity and interest. Much like us. Each and every one of us has our own story. We struggle, we go on and we survive. And we all come out the other end more interesting than when we went in.

Remember that the next time you sit with a cup of tea. Think of the struggle that leaf went through to produce the delicious flavours in your cup. And when you do that, think of the person who has tested your patience, driven you mad, and provoked your anger today. And then remember that they have a story, a complex story with struggles…you just don’t know their story.

In their own words…Jennifer Commins, Tea Sommelier

March 7th, 2017 Posted by General, Interviews, Uncategorized 0 comments on “In their own words…Jennifer Commins, Tea Sommelier”

Jennifer Commins, Toronto, Canada {Pluck Tea}

TAC Tea Sommelier, Jennifer Commins, can’t remember a time in her life when she didn’t love tea. After a career selling furniture, Jennifer shifted gears into the tea industry and today is at the helm of a growing specialty tea company in Toronto. “This certification was critical to my success in the industry” states Commins.  “Learning to evaluate teas properly, and to understand the subtle nuances that can be coaxed from each terroir and processing style are skills I use daily in my interactions with suppliers and customers.”  With over 40 teas in her product line, Jennifer designs tea offerings to suit restaurant client menus and is committed to working with local, Canadian grown and sourced ingredients for her tea.

Q+A with Jennifer Commins

What is your earliest memory of tea? I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love tea. My dad grew up in the UK, and tea was part of our house.  At age 9, he taught me how to make a ‘proper’ cup of tea: Preheating the cups and pot, using his favourite brand, waiting five minutes, then adding milk to adjust the colour of the tea to his perfect Pantone beige.  If anything ever happened in the family, the first thing to do was boil the kettle for tea.  I learned early that there was no situation in life that a cup of tea could not improve.  I grew up with the knowledge that there were some people in the family who ‘could not be trusted’ to make tea, such as an aunt who would save her soggy used teabags on the edge of the sink.

Favourite TAC Tea Sommelier module? I really enjoyed the sustainability aspect of the education in Tea 105 From Bush to Cup.  Debating the merits of the various tea certification bodies that are competing to be the ‘gold standard’ was fascinating, and sometimes quite troubling.  This module taught me to ask good questions to my suppliers, and to make informed decisions in terms of what I deem ’sustainable’.  The tastings were always a joy – and the day we created our own ‘English Breakfast’ blend was a highlight.

If you could drink two teas what would you drink? A fine lightly oxidized Taiwanese Oolong, and Pluck’s CTRL+ALT+DEL blend.  (Lemon and ginger notes, perfect pre-bedtime)

Where in the world has tea played a role in your travels? In 2012 I visited South Africa where the highlight was watching a herd of wild elephants while drinking a fresh mug of rooibos tea on safari. A close second would be waking up in a tent in Peru and being handed a hot cup of coca leaf tea on a frosty morning en route to Machu Picchu.

What is next for you? As Pluck Tea grows, so too will our commitment to sourcing Canadian ingredients. I am currently looking at planting several more acres of mint in Ontario this spring, procuring ingredients from new aboriginal partners, and creating innovative new blends.

Have you always worked in the tea industry? Before Pluck I sold office furniture.  Becoming a Tea Sommelier was the obvious next step.

In what capacity are you currently working in the tea industry? I am the CEO of an emerging specialty tea company called Pluck Tea in Toronto.  We hand blend over 40 varieties with locally grown and sourced ingredients, and serve restaurants primarily.

What role did the TAC certification play in your career?  This certification was critical to my success in the industry.  Learning to evaluate teas properly, and to understand the subtle nuances that can be coaxed from each terroir and processing style are skills I use daily in my interactions with suppliers and customers alike.  The industry was foreign to me when I started out, and the TAC certification helped me build a road map to success and quickly build rapport with my new colleagues.

What are some of the highlights and challenges presented with working in the tea industry today? Working with tea allows for endless creativity, and I love working alongside our restaurant clients to help them design their tea offering to suit their unique and varied menus.  However, tea remains an afterthought for the vast majority of potential foodservice customers out there.  This in my view is a missed opportunity for restaurants to delight their customers at the end of the meal – right before they decide whether they are coming back, how much to tip, and if they are going to have dessert.  Good tea is good business.

What current trends in the tea industry excite you the most? The opportunities that the specialty tea industry has opened up for the tea world as a whole are really thrilling.  People are excited about trying new teas all the time, and are willing to pay a fair price.  This means that companies such as mine are able to source ethical and sustainably produced teas and pay farmers a fair price for that tea.  Driving the cost per cup a few cents northward is the best thing that can be done for the quality of life of people working on the tea estates.  Also, the integration of tea and food, whether by pairing or by adding tea to foods or mixed drinks as an ingredient is really exciting.

 

 

In their own words…Tess Thormodsgaard, Tea Sommelier

February 6th, 2017 Posted by General, Interviews, Tea Industry 0 comments on “In their own words…Tess Thormodsgaard, Tea Sommelier”

Tess Thormodsgaard, Los Angeles, California

As the designated office iced-tea maker for a tech company in L.A., TAC Tea Sommelier, Tess Thormodsgaard, approached the tea program as a means to fuel her interest in food and drink culture. “I felt I was neither learning enough in my normal life nor was I learning enough at my day job” comments Thormodsgaard. For this multitasking Millennial, tea, a topic about which she is passionate, led her to pursue the sommelier certification. “The scope of the program meant I would be learning more than just about tea, but also its history, the production and business side as well as a cultural perspective.”

Q+A with Tess Thormodsgaard

What is your earliest memory of tea? When I was young, my father used to make me a warming, calming (and delicious) cup of Sleepy Time tea with milk and sugar. It was my gateway tea. I also remember having Afternoon Tea at the Ritz Carlton in Washington DC with my family when I was 13 years old. The environment was luxurious and relaxed with great food.

Favourite TAC Tea Sommelier module? Tea 107: Menu Design, Food Pairing, Cooking with Tea. I loved developing my own menu, as well as having to taste cheese and chocolate with tea. However, the most beneficial module was probably Tea 104 Tea Types because the course introduced me to the landscape of different kinds of teas from different regions, times of year, and blends and improved my tasting skills.

If you could drink two teas what would you drink? A lightly oxidized Taiwanese Oolong (iced or hot) and a Moroccan Mint (iced or hot).

Where in the world has tea played a role in your travels? Drinking green tea and eating petit fours at a Buddhist Temple in Koyasan with Buddhist monks after a 5am meditation, drinking Moroccan mint tea while negotiating a pair of slippers at a Souk in Marrakesh and indulging in tea and desserts on a Ladurée rooftop in London after day of flying.

What is next for you? Who knows! But isn’t that exciting.

In their own words…Kristina Inman, Tea Sommelier

January 30th, 2017 Posted by Courses, Interviews, Tea Industry 0 comments on “In their own words…Kristina Inman, Tea Sommelier”

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.