Tea has been a hot and popular beverage across the world for many years, and it is not hard to see why. Other than the host of health benefits it offers consumers and its sumptuously rich taste and aroma, you can never overstate the cultural significance of tea. Today, however, the tea culture across the globe is growing in leaps and bounds with hotels, restaurants and even local coffee shops expanding their tea offerings.
With over 1500 varieties of tea grown all over the world, there is so much to tea that most people do not realize. Many different factors go into making tea special and delicious, starting with where in the world the tea leaves are grown, the brewing process and even how it is consumed.
But with so many tea varieties to choose from, how do you know what’s good? This rising interest in tea has led to the development of a whole profession dedicated to learning everything there is to know about tea known as Tea Sommeliers.
What is a Tea Sommelier?
A Tea Sommelier is someone who specializes in expertise on all things tea. These professional are trained on the specifics of identifying fine tea, preparing and pairing it with other foods.
These professionals are usually knowledgeable about the health benefits of tea, how to choose the best one for your needs and even know how to cook with it. They are usually conversant about everything tea, and you can ask them anything from which countries grow some of the finest teas in the world to which type of tea can help cure certain diseases.
That said, someone just doesn’t earn the term Sommelier from having a passion for tea. To become a certified Tea Sommelier, you need to pursue a career in tea.
5 Characteristics of an expert Tea Sommelier
1. Find out the different types of tea
The first characteristic of a qualified Tea Sommelier is being able to identify the different types of tea available in the market. This would be the 4 main types of tea, which include black, white, green and Oolong. You should also know where each of these types of tea comes from.
2. Understand the benefits of tea to the human body
An expert Tea Sommelier knows what is special about each type of tea in terms of vitality, health, and even aroma.
3. Know the foods they can be paired with
Another important factor that differentiates an expert Tea Sommelier from a tea lover is their ability to know which types of food they can be paired with different types of tea for the best flavors and experience.
4. Know how to brew good tea
Obviously, they should know how to brew a quality cup of tea with extraordinary taste. The course teaches you the different methods of brewing tea and the variety of tastes which each method tends to give out.
5. Be able to differentiate different types of tea by their taste and aroma
They should also know how to differentiate various kinds of teas even with a blindfold on purely by their taste and aroma.
How to become a certified Tea Sommelier
A Tea Sommelier is not just anyone who knows about tea or can brew a cup of tea. This title goes much further than that.
For starters, you need to gain certification as a sommelier from a recognized tea academy. There, you will be trained by professionals in tea to gain the necessary knowledge and experience needed in the field.
The courses in the training program range from the history of tea, tea cultivation, processing, and grading standards, sensory development, health benefits, and business, all working toward making you a well-rounded tea expert.
The tasting aspect of the course aims to help the students learn how to pair tea with certain foods, which is important for event hosting or menu making. They assess flavor, aroma, weight, and mouthfeel of the tea, just like wine experts do.
Tea experts are also trained to help tea lovers find a flavor they will like, even if the client does not know much about tea. To identify this, the sommelier asks various questions, including what the customer’s favorite flavors are, what foods they want to eat if they are at a restaurant, and how much caffeine the would like in their coffee. The answers they receive from the customers help them select and perfectly prepare the right tea.
To become a Tea Sommelier, you have to go through years of training by a renowned and acceptable tea academy to be formally recognized.
What will you learn?
This training is not only about knowing what tea is. It goes more in depth, in terms of knowledge gained through appropriate course modules and grades.
- You will gain a deeper understanding of tea, including its history, cultivation, processing and preparation methods to achieve the best taste.
- You will be able to interact with people on the subject of tea and make smart suggestions based on the consumers.
- You will be able to create a wide-ranging tea menu for both retail and any food service setting.
- You will gain a better understanding of tea and how it can be paired.
- You will understand the different flavors associated with different types of tea.
Factors to consider when looking to become a Tea Sommelier
To hold the title of a certified Tea Sommelier with pride, you need to have 3 key things: passion, knowledge, and experience. Without the passion and conviction to learn more about tea or the experience of tasting different types of teas, it can be quite hard to be recognized as a Tea Sommelier.
Another important thing to know is that you will need to do some serious research on your own on tea as a whole. This will give you a good basic understanding of the wider subject of teas and tisanes beyond just your favorite brew.
Finally, it is crucial that you find a reputable and recognized academy or institute that provides professional and recognized services and routes to qualification. At the end of the day, you want your certification to be recognized wherever you plan on going.
The best part about this course is that it can also be followed and completed online. You can opt to follow the entire course online and complete the certification quite easily.
The course usually takes two and a half years to complete. Only after you pass the course’s exam and receive the certificate can you become a certified Tea Sommelier.
Tea Sommelier Course
The full curriculum of a Tea Sommelier program differs, depending on where you are studying from. Nevertheless, there are some basic topics that are standard for all tea colleges, including;
- Tea cupping
- Tea culture around the world
- The essentials of a Tea Sommelier
- Blending and flavoring tea accordingly
- Food safety and quality assurance requirements
- Different brewing and presentation techniques of tea
Adding all this up, you will quickly be able to see how it helps to have a real passion for tea in the first place. This will make it a lot easier for you to learn everything there is to know about tea. Remember that there are far more aspects to this field than you know and you are more likely to remember all the nuances of each type on a semantic level if you are truly interested in the topic.
The number of courses covered throughout the program might vary from 6 to about 10, depending on the institution you are studying at. The same applies to the content as some academies may go deeper into certain course areas than others.
This curriculum is usually available in the English language, but you may also be given the option to study in other languages such as French, Spanish, Italian, among others.
Where can a Tea Sommelier work?
Once you become a certified Tea Sommelier from a recognized tea academy, you can work, virtually anywhere in the world. Usually, most Tea Sommeliers work in restaurants that mainly brew teas with different tastes.
Other than brewing different kinds of tea, you will also need to be able to pair the tea with appropriate food items. Therefore, other than being a tea expert, you will also need to have a real passion for a variety of foods.
A Tea Sommelier can also be hired in a regular roadside tea shop or an upscale restaurant where they will be expected to come up with different menus based on tea.
You can also opt to start your own business running a tea shop, using the knowledge and expertise you gained. However, this might take some time and it helps to have some years of experience under your belt.
There is more to being a Tea Sommelier than just knowing a few facts about tea. This is why it is crucial that you follow all the right steps to be able to become an expert Tea Sommelier, just like a chef would need to with specialty food.
To meet consumers’ needs, restaurants and hotel management are taking a stand on acquiring knowledge and expertise to introduce a serious professional tea service to their establishments. Take advantage of the available resources and the tea colleges near you or online to enter this lucrative and ever-growing industry.