Posts in Tea Industry

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…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.