So, What Exactly Is A Tea Sommelier?
Written by Ashley Laderer
You’ve probably heard of wine sommeliers, but what about tea sommeliers? There’s so much to learn and know about tea, so it’s no wonder tea sommeliers exist! In fact, our founder, Laura Cepeda, is a certified tea sommelier.
There’s a lot to tea that people don’t realize! So many different factors go into what makes each tea special and delicious, starting with the region of the world the tea is grown in and ending with how it’s brewed and consumed. You can imagine how many other aspects of everything else in between there are! Across the world, there are over 1500 varieties of tea. So next time someone tells you they’re “not a tea person” you can ask them how many different types they’ve tried. Surely, there’s a type of tea out there for them.
Tea Sommeliers are basically tea experts. They are your go-to for everything tea related. You can ask them anything from what type of tea will pair best with a certain type of food or which type of tea will help heal a certain ailment. They may have become certified sommeliers because they wanted to pursue a career in tea (either working at a hotel or restaurant or starting their own business like our founder did) or they may simply just have a passion for tea and wanted to learn all there is to know about it.
Sommeliers go through an extensive training program to get certified. Courses in the training range from the history of tea, grading standards, tea cultivation and processing, health benefits, sensory development, and business–all making for a well rounded tea expert! A big part of the training involves tasting tea (fun, right!?) and being able to accurately identify and specifically describe the taste. Of course, the tasting aspect will also help the student learn how to pair tea with certain foods, which is crucial for menu making or event hosting... like the high tea celebrations our founder hosts!
I asked Laura a couple of questions about being a tea sommelier, since it’s such a unique title to hold, one which many people don’t know about. Read on for the Q&A!
What made you decide to become a tea sommelier?
As a little girl, I was fascinated with the many healing remedies my grandma created using leaves from different bushes. Grandma Modestine was a Master Tea Crafter. She used plant medicine to help cure many ailments in her community, and when it came time for a celebration, she turned to these leaves to create mixed beverages and desserts. Imagine being a little girl watching someone create so many different things with simple leaves. In my innocence at that time, I conceived this as magic. Since then I wanted to know more, I wanted to explore the magical vibrations in these tiny leaves. I wanted to go deeper in the world of tea, from understanding terroir, (the natural environment where tea is grown, characteristics, soil, climate, etc) to being able to tell in which area a certain tea was grown, by simply tasting it. The tea plant is sacred, there’s so much wisdom to unpack from these little leaves. I wanted to bring the awareness of tea’s Wisdom to the table. I‘m all about relationships and connection, and I couldn’t see myself becoming involved in the tea business without first connecting to its essence and very nature. Baking is one of my passions, and I wanted to explore the options available in culinary teas, as well as gain knowledge on how to pair the right food with the right tea.
What’s your favorite part of being a tea sommelier?
Tasting, Pairing and Creating Tea menus for private events.
What are some misconceptions about tea sommeliers?
Tea Sommeliers can be snobs, their careers are limited only to the world of tea, they can only succeed in European countries, and that being certified automatically gets you a job.
What’s the most challenging part of being a tea sommelier?
Unless one plans on building his/her own tea business, or has experience as a restaurateur where he/she can work, a Tea Sommelier can run into challenges securing a position at a high-end hotel, etc.
So there you have it! A little peek inside the process of becoming a tea sommelier and the possibilities it may bring you. The world of tea awaits!