So if you happen to follow me on social media you would have seen in July that I was in London. I was there attending a Tea Sommelier course hosted by the UK Tea Academy. Last year I attended the Tea Masterclass which was hosted by Jane Pettigrew who is the Tea Queen & so knowledgable on all things tea. The one last year was a day course & went over the basics of tea. It was a great start to me wanting to learn much more about tea. When I found out that the UKTA had started & were doing more courses, I had to sign up to them. They do a Tea Champion (Beginners), Tea Sommelier (Intermediate) & Tea Master (Advanced) & I had spoken to Jane who said that I should be ok going to straight to the intermediate one.
So I booked my place & before long I was heading up to London for the course! It was held at an adult education centre so we were in a proper education kitchen which was great for their logistics in making lots of tea. There were 7 of us students which allowed for great discussion but also meant we got some individual time with the tutors. We briefly went over the basics of tea including tea cultivation & identities of the different types of tea which was a great recap & just reaffirms my own personal learning. We then were taught the major areas of tea production & what the teas are like from each of them.
Now obviously I love tea. Like seriously love tea. But I understand that a lot of people I speak to day to day aren’t so excited about it as I am. However it was great to spend a few days with a group of people who are of a similar mind as I am. And whilst I thought I knew quite a bit, I learnt so much! Like I was fairly switched on about the plants especially considerring my recent employment activities. But did you know that in Yunnan Province there are two whites teas that are made in exactly the same way for their processing using plants from the same region & same varietal. However one is using young plants of around 50 years old & the other is using old plants of several hundred years old & the difference between the two teas was staggering. One was a nutty, more mellow flavour with creamy liquor & the other had a slight smokey last with pepper notes. But both beautiful & delicious. It really shows that there is such a huge variety in the tea flavours of all types & varieties.
When going through the regions that grow tea, it was done at a fairly speedy pace because we had so much to get through but actually looking back I think it helped in being able to compare the differences between the teas. Like the Sri Lankan high grown versus low grown, really obvious flavour differences which I probably wouldn’t be so clear picking up on when comparing them if I was trying each a few weeks apart.
We had a little Chinese Tea Ceremony performed by Juyan from The Chinese Tea Company. It was amazing & beautiful to see such care & attention taken when making a cup of tea. GENERALLY speaking in Britain we are of the mind when it comes to tea of ‘just chuck a Tetley bag in the mug’ & all the awful things people do when making tea like that (milk in with the dry bag before the water has gone in, squeezing the bag etc) which is one of the major reasons I started this blog to help educate people in the wonders of tea. However this tea ceremony was like a dance & Juyan had such fluidity in her movements I could have watched her all day. It was great to try tea brewed in a different way to with the Gaiwan (a traditional Chinese lidded bowl used for brewing tea) & the small teapot where the leaves were brewed for matter of seconds rather than minutes.
We also did a lot of practise with cupping which is the method of tea tasting that you see in factories. In the factories or the blenders they will make & then try hundreds of different teas over a day. Whilst we didn’t do hundreds in a day as we were very slow in cupping just one, it was great to do it in the proper way. I am hoping to buy some of my own cups that are proper international standard ones so I’ll do a full post on that & the whole process of it.
In the last afternoon we looked at business opportunities within the tea industry such as running a tea shop/tea room or such & how to best utilise the varieties of options that are available. We also did tea pairing, trying a few different teas & compared the matching between different foods so we had lemon cake, salmon on bread, dark chocolate & cheddar cheese. It was really interesting how we picked out the elements in the drink or the food & identified if they actually tasted good together. Normally people wouldn’t really consider what pudding would be better with an Earl Grey or a Ceylon or if a Sencha would be more suitable with a savoury but then what type? People put so much care matching wines or ales or pairing cheeses or chocolates, why shouldn’t we consider tea pairing?
It was great to get to know the other people taking the course & finding out why they were doing it. Though we all came from different backgrounds we all had a passion for tea & were keen to take it further. One lady is opening a tea shop & another ( from Germany!) wanted to run courses on tea so it was great to share ideas & recommendations of our favourite blends.
After the course, I had time on my walk to Victoria coach station to pop past some shops & obviously had to visit Fortnum & Mason. It was great to see visit it whilst it still had some of the Alice in Wonderland display on. It does contain plenty of talk about tea in the book so I had to take a picture of this window. I love the giant tea cup! But I went in quite over excited & bought some Ceylon OP as that had been a favourite to try over the week. I also stopped off at Postcard Teas where I couldn’t decide what I wanted but went for Lapsang Souchong, a fairly well known flavour (the ‘smokey tea’) but I have been keen to find a proper nice one for when the winter comes along & smoked things are more in season. But I now have some more teas to talk about so will be doing more reviews very soon!
Hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea into what I did at the Tea Sommelier course. Sorry I didn’t take more photos of actually stuff we did, it was a bit tricky to learn, make notes & properly document in photographs. But it was a really brilliant week & I’m looking forward to telling you all more about what I learnt. But I think this post is long enough as it is so I’ll leave it here for the moment.
I think I need a cup of tea now!