TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

April 27, 2015

Ramblings: “Mastering” tea?


A good percentage of my friends on Facebook are people involved with tea, whether professionally or as an interest. Recently I got a request from someone who had identified as “Tea Master So-and-so.” I was expecting to see an old wrinkled face as their profile photo, and was surprised when the person looked like they were in their 30s. This was a”Tea Master?” Really?


I didn’t accept the friend request, altho’ I’m sorry now that I didn’t because I would have liked to have asked this person what exactly made them a Tea Master. Clearly it wasn’t a long lifetime spent learning, working with, and perhaps teaching, all aspects of tea. So where did the designation come from and what did it really mean?


Some years ago, someone who was a member of my now pretty-much defunct online tea-business discussion group contacted me about a business he was part of, teaching classes and seminars about tea and the business of tea. He told me that they conferred the title of Tea Master on their student/clients who successfully completed the course of study. He also referred to himself as a Tea Master. I asked him who had given him that title — what individual or organization? His response was that he had “taken all the courses” and had the experience necessary to be a Tea Master, and refused to answer my questions about the origins of the title because he felt that I was “too judgmental.” I finally drew my own conclusion that the person had simply chosen to apply the designation to himself. (I still have the email exchange filed away lest anyone doubt the accuracy of my memory. And I would still welcome a response to my question.)


A couple of years later, I was reading about a person in their twenties who had become America’s youngest Tea Master and had opened a tea salon. I suspected that there was some relationship between the two “Tea Masters”, and it turns out that the younger had been the student/client of the older (or more experienced?). One of the comments in the article — actually a public-relations matte written by a publicist — was: “[This person] can even discern the difference between a first-flush Darjeeling and a regular [sic] Darjeeling.” Now, while I’m aware that there are several flushes of Darjeeling pluckings between early spring and mid-Autumn, I’m not aware of any of the teas from any of these flushes being referred to as “regular” Darjeelings. I had never heard the term before and have not heard it since.


In fact: It has been my experience that pretty much anyone who tastes a first-flush Darjeeling can perceive the difference between that tea and teas from later flushes. This was one of the first things I learned about fine tea, graciously explained and demonstrated to me at the Harney tasting room by John Harney himself. I also mentioned this comment to my dear husband, who enjoys tea but will be the first to tell you that he knows very little about it; he observed that even in his limited experience he can spot a first-flush Darjeeling essentially from the first sip. Not only do neither of us claim the title of Tea Master for this un-extraordinary accomplishment, we’d be shocked if anyone suggested that this had earned us the title!


You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried.

Image courtesy of TheSpiritScience.net

My purpose for writing this is not to denigrate anyone’s knowledge of and skill with tea, nor to suggest that anyone should not parlay the love and knowledge of tea into a profitable business. It’s just that “Tea Master” seems a rather grandiose and presumptuous title to adopt, or confer, as a result of taking courses, passing tests, and perhaps visiting some tea-growing, tea-processing, and tea-service facilities on a more or less tourist basis. There are people who have worked on tea plantations all their lives, and who have mastered many aspects of tea production and usage, who do not identify as Tea Masters. It is not a title to be bandied about lightly, nor conferred on anyone who has not spent a long lifetime involved with tea.

Again some years ago we had a discussion about this very topic amongst the members of my (still active) online tea discussion group Teamail. One of the points made was that the title “Master” should be conferred by consensus of others in the tea world who are familiar with a person’s skills, knowledge, and achievements. Or, as another member — a member who is, by the way, extremely knowledgeable and experienced in all things tea — suggested, perhaps the title of Tea Master is one that should be awarded posthumously.


None of the tea people I’ve come to know, either in person or through their writings, that I would consider a Tea Master has been willing to accept this designation. Some of the more accomplished amongst them, people who have spent a lifetime immersed in all things tea, have even been quite vehement in their refusal.

Back when I was studying psychology in college, one of our profs explained to us the requirements for being an expert witness in a court of law. To be accepted as an expert witness, a person must convince a judge and opposing counsel that s/he has more knowledge of a topic than the average person; this is done by demonstrating that they teach, consult, write about, or otherwise make their living or are recognized in the community as having this kind of experience and expertise. According to that definition, I am quite willing — as I suspect most of us are — to grant that anyone who has spent a significant portion of their time learning, teaching, consulting, writing about, or otherwise making their living in any area related to tea is indeed a tea expert. But “Tea Master?” No indeed. I admit that I subscribe to the “posthumous” designation for this title, and am unable to respect anyone who identifies themself with the title.

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All content Copyright 2007-2015 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

August 3, 2011

World Tea Expo — June, 2011

Filed under: exotic tea,green tea,tea classes,tea seminars,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 10:44 am
Tags: ,

My previous posts (part 1 and part 2) detailed the experiences of a first-time exhibitor at WTE. I also had the opportunity to step out of my booth and walk the aisles, check out all the other booths, view exciting new teas and tea products, and meet with and talk to some of the most knowledgeable people in the tea industry.

Read the full article at English Tea Store Blog.

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December 13, 2007

Service review: Tea Business School

Filed under: food,online tea classes,tea classes,tea seminars,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 5:19 pm

Tea Business School — Tea Advice
Consumers and B2B
Stock photos

Tea Business School 1I’m almost willing to bet that at some point every tea drinker entertains the idea of getting into a tea business. Hey, you love the stuff, so why not find a way to make money with it? For some this is just a daydream, but plenty of people have turned their daydreams into reality.

A few tea lovers are fortunate to have worked for or apprenticed at a successful tea business, giving them a head start to setting up their own businesses — but there’s always more to learn. Maybe you’ve just decided to move from teacup meditations to exploring tea house ownership, and you want to know how to start turning your lifestyle into a livelihood. Or perhaps you’re a current tea business owner looking to expand your offerings or keep up with the newest tea trends.

In other words, you need some tea education. And in 2007, where do you turn first? The Web!

Recently I was invited to sit in on a tele-seminar offered by Tea Business School. Based in Vancouver, Washington, owner Jennifer Peterson has been consulting, training, teaching, and speaking at seminars for a number of years. (I actually met Jennifer for the first time when we were both speakers at TakeMe2Tea Expo in Las Vegas.) Earlier this year she entered the high-tech world of online classes.Having designed off-line and online computer courseware in a previous life, I was delighted to have the opportunity to participate.

Tea Business School 2The skill-building seminar, on blending and flavouring teas, took the form of a slide show presentation and talk by Wolfgang Boehmer of Flavor Dynamics, Inc. My own background is quite limited in this area, and I was very interested to see the actual step-by-step on a professional level.

Interactive voice and chat allows Q&A — you’ll need a telephone connection to dial the toll-free number to hear and to ask questions. I used Yahoo Messenger’s call system, and it worked just fine with computer speakers and mic.

Tea Business School offers a wide variety of seminars ranging from focus on different tea-growing regions, to various types of skills to enhance your business offerings, to universal and tea-specific business skills. Some seminars are suitable for everyone, from tea professional to interested consumer, while others are clearly targeted to current or aspiring tea business owners.

In addition to a telephone line, you’ll need software to play the presentation, so get to the “classroom” early to make sure your system is properly set up. Some seminars are also available on CD. And Jennifer offers a number of other educational and consulting services. If tea is your business, or your passion — or both! — check it out.

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