A tea sommelier is a person who has been trained about how teas are made, how they should be brewed, and what their effects are on the mind, body and soul. They also know about flavour, and are trained in tea palette tasting. A well trained sommelier can not only recommend a tea to someone who doesn’t know much about the subject, but can also pair food and occasions with the right type of tea.
Tea Masters have been around for years, mainly in the East. They have rituals that follow a strict guideline that adheres to deep cultural symbolism. The Japanese Tea Ceremony is an example of this. By contrast, this concept of tea tasters and connoisseurs is a fairly new concept in the West. However, many schools that teach courses in Tea Sommelier-ship are popping up all over the place. Look for a local course in your area and sign up for a class if this seems interesting to you! We know we are.
The International Tea Masters Association has even developed an aroma wheel for tea, modeled on a wine aroma wheel, which lists aromatics such as spicy, earthy and floral as starting points for evaluating tea.
Here are some intriguing tea sommeliers from around the globe:
1 Stephane Erler – Taiwan
Stephane moved to Taiwan in 1996 and studied tea under Teaparker, an international tea expert. Since then he has become a master brewer and conducts classes for people from all over the world. He also blogs and sells tea in an online boutique, and has been featured heavily in online publications worldwide.
2 Aurelie Bessiere – France
Aurelie is a tea expert at the esteemed Palais des Thes, a tea production company based in France. She has trained her palette to find tea’s that enhance the flavour of the food in your mouth, so you can access different layers of taste. They also conduct courses and classes in tea tasting.
3 Christopher Day – USA
Christopher Day isn’t simply the dining room manager at Eleven Madison Park, he is also the man behind its tea program. His goal has to put together a tea list with the same standard and rigor as one would with wine. He tastes and selects teas that are representative of the major styles of oolong, black and green tea.
4 Janaka Ratnayake – Sri Lanka
Janaka is a tea master from Colombo. He conducts masterful tea ceremonies in hotels, banquets and tea halls. His speciality is an Italian Almond teaccino. A host of tea cocktails have been created by Sri Lankas biggest tea brand, Dilmah, to promote gourmet varieties of teas, and Janaka leads the Dilmah pack.
5 Shabnam Weber – Canada
Shabnam is the founder and owner of the specialty tea boutique The Tea Emporium Inc in Toronto. Prior to this, she had opened restaurants in Bermuda and Germany, but truly fell in love with tea cafes during her time in Europe. She created a place for herself in the tea industry by speaking at numerous tea events and sitting on the Board of Directors of the Tea Association of Canada.
6 Radhika Batra – India
Radhika is one of India’s first tea sommeliers. She explored her love for tea from an early age, as her Punjabi household had an already strong chai culture. Her forté are tea ceremonies, in which her audience gets to sample 4- 5 kinds of teas, while learning about their health benefits too.