• Teaching Tea Teachers

    Education program supports tea professionals as teachers

    You have been called to tea — as a tea sommelier, a blender, a farmer, or a small business owner.

    You are an expert in your field. And because of that expertise, people want to learn from you.

    Part of being a tea professional is imparting your knowledge to others, teaching the ways of tea, the history, the benefits, and the beauty of this ancient plant.

    More than just being called to tea, you are called to educate about tea.

    Are you ready to teach?

    Caption: Suzette Hammond, founder of Chicago-based Being Tea tea school prepares tea for an online class.

    Listen to the interview
    Suzette Hammond on teaching teachers
    Sooz Hammond teaching an in-person class.
    Suzette Hammond teaches an in-person tea class.

    An Education Program Designed for Tea Professionals

    A tea educator with more than 20 years of experience, Suzette Hammond — or Sooz — recognized a gap in tea training. Tea professionals, she realized, are not taught how to teach about tea, how to deliver meaningful programs in groups of all sizes, online or in person.

    To fill that gap in the industry, she developed an eight-month professional teacher training course for tea professionals, offered through her Chicago-based tea school, Being Tea.

    A conversation with Being Tea’s Sooz Hammond, tea educator

    By Jessica Natale Woollard

    Suzette Hammond gives a conference presentation
    Suzette Hammond presenting.

    Jessica: Can you tell us about a few people who’ve taken your program and how they’re using what they’ve learned to improve their tea business?

    Sooz Hammond: It’s really special to see how folks are using this in very unique ways.

    One of our students, Nicole Wilson, the founder of Tea for Me Please, recently published a tea recipe book. When she was developing that book, she told me she poured a lot of what she learned in Being Tea’s teacher-training program into that book in terms of her approach to teaching people how to make the recipes. She thought about accessibility, language, and structure. That was really inspiring cause to me because as a teacher, my framework is classes and workshops. But I realized that that’s not everyone’s format. Nicole’s main format is writing. It was amazing to see how she translated what she learned in the Being Tea program into writing.

    See: The Tea Recipe Book by Nicole Wilson

    Jessica: You mentioned small business owners are a large percentage of your students. Can you share the story of a small business owner who’s taken the teacher-training program?

    Sooz: One student who comes to mind is Tehmeena Manji, who goes by the name Tea, which is really cute. She’s the founder of Muthaiga Tea Company in Nairobi, Kenya. She came to the program as a certified tea sommelier, one of the first in East Africa. She has a really deep tea background, a lot of it in field research and understanding tea cultivation.

    I remember her saying to me that when she was getting started, it hadn’t occurred to her how important education would be, how in order to actually sell the tea, to move the tea, she would have to train people.

    During the program, I’d see her make these connections. Because we’d have a session together, and then she’d train people through her work. She was applying her learning in real-time, and she was excited about that.

    Sooz Hammond teaching an in-person class.

    Jessica: You spent part of your career training tea professionals in a business setting. From that experience, you’ve seen all the different ways teaching moments can happen — one-on-one in a shop, in front of a group at a conference, in an online event, or even perhaps a media interview. How does the curriculum of Being Tea’s teacher training program reflect the different environments where education happens?

    Sooz: One of the questions I’ve had from people who are interested in the teacher-training program is, what percentage of this program focuses on technical skills and logistics, and what percentage focuses on soft skills?

    A very large percentage of this program is soft skills, in other words how we relate person to person. Even the logistical and technical component of the program, like classroom management, is taught through the lens of how we relate to people.

    The first part of the program looks at what calls you to this work. We examine what we think a teacher should be, and what we think an educator should be.

    Then we get into adult learning theory, experiential learning theory, and the building blocks of creating an engaging workshop or engaged program with somebody. We look at the environment, the room, the space, what happens when people step into that room? How do we handle the energy in the room as we’re teaching?

    Then in the middle of the program, we transition to looking at some of those more technical and logistical components like time and lesson plan development. We look at logistics, and how you scale up or scale down a program depending on the groups that you have. We look at teaching online, teaching for different sized audiences and spaces. It all fits in with what we’ve been covering so far, keeping in mind the best ways that people are going to learn a very sensory subject like tea.

    Sooz Hammond streaming a teaching class.

    Sooz: One of my favorite tea people in the whole world is Donna Fellman who developed the World Tea Academy. She also developed a large portion of the program that’s taught for the Specialty Tea Institute. She’s retired now from teaching.

    She’s someone who had a background in education herself, and I really loved the presence that she had in front of people. She was so comfortable and at ease in that moment in front of a group of people. It didn’t seem that there was a boundary between her and the classroom.

    When you’re teaching in front of a large group, you wonder, how do you maintain a sense of intimacy? She could. I loved watching her in front of a group. It made me realize that you can bring that same quality of self to a small experience and to a big one. I think of Donna a lot when I’m teaching.

    Jessica: Self-reflection is an essential component of self-improvement, which is why reflections are part of the Being Tea teacher-training program. Sooz, you mentioned your self-reflection on one-on-one interactions helped shift your view of those very private moments in teaching. Those moments are very private and very powerful.

    Sooz: I initially didn’t think I would do much private teaching through Being Tea. But then when I looked at a lot of my own learning background, I realized I really do enjoy one-on-one work. I’ve had private yoga classes, private acupuncture, and private movement therapy. I really enjoy it when it’s just me and the teacher; I learn in a different way.

    Now I do versions of the teacher-training program where I am working with somebody one-on-one.

    So I ask my students to consider that. Reflect on your own experience of when you have benefitted from a one-on-one relationship with somebody who’s teaching you something. Consider how you can channel it into your experience when you’re sharing tea with somebody.

    Learn more about Being Tea’s teacher training program.

    This interview has been edited and condensed.

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  • UK Tea Academy

    Co-founder and Director of Studies Jane Pettigrew describes the remarkable evolution of the UK Tea Academy into an innovative global tea education resource that has emerged from the chaos of COVID-19.

    • Caption: Jane Pettigrew, author, educator, historian, and tea retail expert

    Hear the Interview

    Jane Pettigrew and Suranga Perera on how the UK Tea Academy evolved to meet challenges posed by the pandemic
    Jane Pettigrew at the UKTA's launch party at the Cafe Royal in January 2016.
    Jane Pettigrew at the UKTA’s launch party at the Cafe Royal in January 2016.

    Online Adaptations Enhance and Expand Tea Education

    By Dananjaya Silva | PMD Tea

    The United Kingdom Tea Academy is recognized as a world authority for online tea education. Staffed by professional tutors the academy offers courses from beginner to advanced. I sit down with Co-founder and director of studies Jane Pettigrew, who is a leading author and speaker on tea, along with Suranga Perera, the chief instructor of the Ceylon tea program, who counts over 20 years of experience in tea and is the former CEO of Ceylon Tea Brokers PLC.

    UK Tea Academy

    Dananjaya Silva: Will you explain the essential role that is performed by UKTA in the growth and expansion of specialty tea?

    I think that what we’re doing is actually raising awareness amongst consumers of the possibilities of drinking better tea and also helping food service employees to deliver better tea and to know more about the sort of tea we’re hoping they will serve. 

    There’s an awful lot of people amongst the general public, but also working in restaurants and hotels and tea lounges, coffee bars, etc., who really don’t ever stop to think about tea as a suitable offering for what they’re doing. 

    And so I’m afraid tea has always been treated as a bit of a loss leader, a second cousin — twice removed. 

    It’s never really featured in a lot of people’s minds. Our aim is to raise people’s awareness of the fact that there is so much more than paper teabags. 

    Suranga Perera
    Suranga Perera

    “We have created a very, very exciting master class for Ceylon Tea where we will be tasting roughly 80 teas. Some of the sessions are live at the factory so that the audience can see the production line and talk with factory owners and managers for a greater understanding.

    – Suranga Perera

    Dananjaya: Specialty tea is growing in popularity and there are more tea houses being established. Who are the courses that you offer aimed at and how do you deliver these courses? 

    Jane: So the people we aim at are specifically food and beverage. But of course, we are also found online by people who just love tea. About 15 years ago, shortly after the new Millennium up to about 2005, things really started to change. China opened up and people began drinking more Chinese tea again. 

    And a lot of completely non-tea people came into the tea business. There are many people who have been working in tea for a very long time, and I think a lot of these new people came into tea from just a completely different direction, either with outside experience and a business degree or because they traveled and they’d come across Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese teas that they couldn’t get here. 

    Some of those people opened tea businesses so that they would make those teas available.

    And as more people learned about teas, cafes, restaurants and hotel lounges started serving more teas, and they all began to realize that they actually didn’t know very much about tea. 

    So we try to be at least one step ahead, particularly with food service operations, to give them an insight into the different categories of tea which they’ve never heard about. We help them understand fine teas and help them brew the tea properly. We also help them answer clients’ questions about caffeine and why tea is good for us, and to talk about the different flavors. 

    I mean there is just so much to know, which obviously raises the profile of a really good restaurant or tea lounge or even a coffee bar. 

    In the past, we were classroom-based here in London which meant that people flew in to find us and sit with us in the classroom. Because of COVID, we had to reinvent ourselves into a completely online business. 

    There have been a lot of advantages of actually doing that. We of course now can reach people absolutely anywhere in the world. 

    We try to gear our courses in two different time zones because if we’re teaching in Asia, they’re eight hours ahead, and if we’re teaching in West Coast America, we’re eight hours behind. So we try and find times that suit the different markets, which seems to be working really well. Instead of teaching for a whole day, now we teach in three-hour chunks or less, and the three hours absolutely fly by. Quite a lot of our courses include brewing together, discussing flavor and aroma profiles together, learning to talk about tea, and sound exciting. 

    There’s just so much to this that people gradually get very drawn in, and once they start with us, they tend to go through the different levels. 

    Dananjaya: You mentioned that it’s a global course. How does someone sitting in Australia or New Zealand receive those samples? Could you take us through the process?

    Well, yes, of course. Our foundation level, what we call Tea Champion is taught in two segments, practical and sensory. We don’t have so many teas going out for that course.

    For our Tea Sommelier class, which is the second level up we send out something like 170 teas. We’re not drinking all of those. We add things in for little quizzes on dry leaf recognition and for blind tastings. 

    We try to do as much as we used to do in the classroom, but of course, we have to plan ahead and allow a good month to get teas out — and not just to far off places but actually into Europe, which has since Brexit been a bit of a problem. So then we send them the recording of a class or event and they can listen along on their own and brew the teas on their own time.

    We have a brilliant team now who are constantly packing teas for the next course. The students keep in touch with us to let us know whether or not they’ve received the teas. So with good planning and “military precision,” we can actually do this. 

    Dananjaya: So by the sounds of it, although COVID had a massive negative impact around the world for your organization, it’s actually allowed you to reinvent yourself and have a much wider scope, hasn’t it? 

    Jane: It’s been amazing Dananjaya because when we were teaching in class, particularly with the more advanced class, it was very, very intensive. We went through lots of material in four days, maybe with a day off in the middle, but we had to do it like that because people were flying in specially and they couldn’t keep coming back for the class. 

    They did well, but I think it was an awful lot of material for them to take in and with less time for revision, quizzes, and games. 

    So now that we’re teaching online, we can actually spread the classes out over four weeks, six weeks, and weekends, whatever we want to do. There is a longer gap between each module and the students are now brewing the teas themselves, which they never did in the classroom, and that means that they actually build up a much closer personal relationship with the tea. 

    And they have enough tea to brew more than once, so they’re getting a lot more, I think, that we delivered in the classroom. I’ve been running quite a lot of exams individually online, talking for about three hours. The results that we’ve been getting since we began teaching online have been absolutely phenomenal. You know, some people are absolutely word perfect. I think it is because they’ve had more time to build up not just their understanding, but their passion for tea. It’s not hard to develop a passion for tea. Everybody gets caught up in the whole thing.

    Dananjaya: Yes, there’s so much to explore. What you’re saying is that participants needed to let the information brew for a while.

    Jane: Yes, it’s assimilating it and making sure you’ve really understood it, and if they haven’t, having the time to go back and ask more questions. What we aim to do is give people the tools they need to go off on their own tea journey.

    This is particularly true of the lower-level class. It is absolutely essential because tea is difficult to learn on your own. There’s a lot of stuff out there now, more than there used to be, but it’s still quite confusing if you don’t get the basics absolutely clear. We can then introduce the higher-level classes with some of the most amazing teas from all around the world. People just can’t believe the many options.

    Ceylon Tea Masterclass and Diploma

    Dananjaya: The UK Tea Academy is relaunching the Ceylon Tea Diploma course in July can you explain what the new course entails?

    Suranga Perera: As Jane said, the main objective is to bridge that gap between the consumer and the producer. We have created a very, very exciting master class for Ceylon Tea. We have got some very exciting teas and gone into great depth. It’s roughly 10 hours long

     The first session will be one hour. We will be tasting one or two teas just to break the ice and get people moving, and we’ll be talking about the history, of Ceylon teas. Then a current overview of production and discussions about certifications and Ceylon Lion logo in particular. There is a segment on ozone-friendly teas a discussion about the employment that Ceylon tea provides and an explanation of the auction system. 

    The second session is three hours long and covers what are known as the “high-grown” tea gardens on the island. There are some teas that we are tasting for the first time. For example, we are featuring a Mattekelle Golden Curl from a Japanese clone that is extremely flavorful, and quite different. Few have tested and tried it out. In this masterclass, we will be tasting roughly 80 teas. 

    The third session is also three hours long. it will focus on low-grown teas. We will cover teas from Sabaragamuwa, Galle, Deniyaya, Matugama, and other tea producing subdistricts. Having been a broker for 21 years I worked with these factories very, very closely and personally tasted these teas and picked the best at the time. Because teas change all the time due to weather and various reasons, we need to pick the right teas for the current season. We want to make it as current as possible and as precious as possible so it’s a dynamic masterclass. There are eight teas in this session to be tasted at home by participants.

    The fourth and last session is about specialties, amazing teas that are not readily available. We see that a lot of factories are now getting into manufacturing specialties from which we have picked up the best available. Several of these factories are so, so, exciting, so authentic, so organic.

    Some of the sessions are live at the factory so that the audience can see the production line and talk with factory owners and managers for greater understanding. 

    Bridging the gap to the best of our ability is what we are trying to do with this masterclass.

    London-based Dananjaya Silva is the managing director of PMD Tea and a fourth-generation tea man whose family business, P.M. David Silva & Sons date to 1945 during the Plantation Raj in Ceylon’s Dimbula Valley. The company was founded on Brunswick Estate in the fertile Maskeliya Valley as a small independent Tea shop for tea plantation workers to gather, relax and enjoy a quality cup of tea.


    Outstanding Education for Tea Professionals and Enthusiasts

    The UK Tea Academy was established in 2015 to raise the standards of tea service in hospitality. One of the UKTA founders and director of studies, Jane Pettigrew, is a passionate advocate of high-quality tea, prepared correctly to draw the best flavor from the leaf. Jane is among the best-known and most highly respected professionals in the tea world. She has worked as a writer and educator for more than 35 years and is tirelessly committed to sharing her knowledge of tea with anyone who has an appreciation for this fabulous leaf. She teaches all over the world, has written 17 books on tea, and was awarded a BEM (British Empire Medal) for services to the tea industry.

    A certificate from the UKTA is recognized in the hospitality industry as representing a high level of achievement and means the holder has attained a deep understanding and serious appreciation of quality tea. On completion of the introductory Level 1: Tea Champion, most of our students are inclined to develop an even greater knowledge of this fascinating world and enroll in Level 2: Tea Sommelier. Some go even further, to the ultimate challenge of Level 3: Tea Diploma.

    UKTA Tutors
    Tea experts living in the United Kingdom teaching live webinars

    Jane PettigrewSam KimminsKate Popham
    Dr. Tim BondBeverly-Claire WainwrightCarri Hecks
    Asako StewardAlex ProbynSunjin Lee
    Chau-Jean LinEunice PallotJuyan Webster

    Licensed Tutors
    Teaching UKTA courses online in other languages

    HyunSei Yu, South KoreaIsaline Lannoy, FrancePilar Serrano, Spain
    Sabine Gullatz, GermanyStefania Gilardi, Italy
    Asako Steward, JapanGabriella Scarpa, Italy

    Online Study
    Linktree: UK Tea Academy Courses

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