The Global Tea Institute at UC Davis is a hub connecting tea professionals and academics, a virtual campus enabling the creation and sharing of new knowledge about tea. Last week, the Institute conducted the first of 15 Professional Tea Program lectures in collaboration with tea industry experts. The live online learning advances the vision of a Certificate Program for tea professionals. The deadline to enroll is Oct. 10.
Listen to the Interview
GTI Founder and Director Prof. Katharine Burnett explains, “We started the UC Davis Global Tea Institute Professional Tea Program at the request of the tea industry. The instructors are largely from the industry itself. And that means these are leaders in the field who can talk to you about the tea supply chain, blending or plucking, and transport.
Industry Leaders Share Knowledge from the Own-Lived Experience
By Dan Bolton
Fifty years ago, career tracks for tea professionals were the province of global brands and expansive plantations. Future executives were recruited young, rigorously trained, and tested. Aspiring brokers spent hours in labs refining their ability to discern tea quality and set market prices. Future managers assimilated a wealth of knowledge as leaf line supervisors in the fields and junior factory officers. There is no substitute for on-the-job experience, but the 15 industry veterans who teach the course engage in a lively exchange of information among peers, replicating the one-on-one training essential to building confidence when dealing with real-world situations.
Reminder: Enroll by Oct. 10
Dan: Our guests today are Professor KathArine Burnett, Founder and Director of the Global Tea Institute for the Study of Tea Culture and Science at UC Davis, and UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education Program Manager Heather Ogle, along with Brendan Shah, CEO of ITI (International Tea Importers) in Los Angeles.
Katharine, will you tell us a little about the program?
Prof. Katharine Burnett: We started the UC Davis Global Tea Institute Professional Tea Program at the request of the tea industry. It’s being organized with the help of our Continuing and Professional Education program here on campus at the University of California at Davis.
I am thrilled to be the instructor of record. Our first session with Brendan SHAH was today (Sep 27, 2023). We’re off to a good start. The course is targeted to help people better understand tea and the tea industry.
It doesn’t matter if you are a tea professional already, or you want to be a tea professional, or you happen to love tea and want to know more about it. The individual topics explain what tea is, what is the culture of tea, what is the deep history of tea, and the many complicated parts of the industry that helped get that tea from the farm to your cup in your home so that you can enjoy it.
Dan: Heather, how does a career track for professionals fit into the university’s vision of continuing education?
Heather D. Ogle: Our goal at the Continuing and Professional Education Division is to design programs that are beneficial to folks who are either career changers or those who want to gain knowledge to expand their business. Employers might want workers to know more about topics like tea production and blending.
Those who take this program gain new skills. So, we make sure to include real-world instructors — people doing this work. Sitting with another working professional and talking back and forth works well. And that really resonates with our students because our students are already working professionals. They’re not college students. This is for adults.
Dan: Who benefits the most from enrolling?
Heather: It is aimed at a range. So it’s going to help if you have a little bit of experience in your pocket. But it’s okay if you come across some topics that are new to you. As Katharine mentioned, we are going from the soil to the cup. So we’re covering a lot of material here. You may not be an expert in some of it, and that’s okay. Even if you’ve been working in the tea industry for less than a year, you will benefit immensely from the deep dives that we do.
Dan: Brendan, you have some of your employees taking this program. What are their profiles like?
Brendan: We have a few employees taking the program. ITI is one of GTI’s Tea Advisory Committee members for the Global Tea Institute.
Our team has helped shape the course and the topics we cover. My employees are taking it. We have somebody who just started two weeks ago and somebody who started a year ago. And one of our veteran team members knows more about it than I do!
Dan: The lineup of trainers is awesome. If I were a startup and wanted to become a unicorn, that’s my team. Will you talk about what they have in common regarding the range of experience and accessibility because working professionals will need more detailed hands-on insights?
Katharine: I’ll lead off, and then Heather and Brendan can chime in. I’m maybe the only professor addressing the group. The rest of the instructors are from the industry itself. These are leaders in the field who can talk to you about supply chain, blending or plucking, and transport. They have direct experience and know from their own experience what they’re talking about. And so they’re bringing this wealth of expertise to the classroom and the group. That is, frankly, pretty extraordinary.
One of the benefits of the course is that every week, you have the instructor of the day, along with several of our tea advisory committee members, who are leaders of the tea industry nationally and globally.
Brendan: I am one of the speakers that Katharine mentioned. The tea industry was very excited about supporting the Global Tea Institute, and when we designed this course, a big part was to get these big names in the tea industry.
We found an expert in every single one of these topics. So we have people from James Finlays, a large multinational corporation. Starbucks and Peet’s are some pretty big, hard hitters. Then, we have people like Nigel Melican (Tea Craft), who’s well respected in the tea industry and is next to none regarding farm operations and how to get a tea farm up and running.
We’ve found where the expertise is and used the weight of UC Davis to get them all into a Zoom Room to talk about what they love — tea.
Heather: I would also highlight that, whether it’s farming that we’re talking about all the way down to actual marketing and branding of tea, we’ve got Rona Tison, the VP of Corporate Relations from Ito En. You’ve got your tea, your blending, and you love it, but how do you share that with the world and let them know how great it is so that you can really have that product get out there? Whatever the topic, we have found that expert globally to have these discussions, which is just so exciting.
Dan: Katherine, give me one quick reason to enroll today.
Katharine: One of the cool things about the course is the optional benefits — I can throw this in now — everyone is invited to come to campus at the end of the course, as a sort of capstone day for a full day on campus, and talk with these industry leaders and work with GTI’s collection of art and material culture and see the rare books that we are collecting ON TEA. These are some of the first books on tea in the European languages and some of the earliest books on tea in Asian languages, as well.
There’s something special when you hold these books and objects in your hand. And you see these early drawings of tea plants and people’s early understandings of what is tea, and how we’re all continuing to strive for the same thing, whether it’s in the 16th century or today, it’s just, I don’t know, sharing that knowledge and that passion is, it’s just one of the coolest things about this course, I think. And it is a great opportunity for you!
Related: Global Tea Institute
Instructors (Links to Bios)
- Will Battle
- Paul Harney
- Lalith Paranavitana
- Bhavin Shah
- Brendan Shah
- Marcus Wolf
- Helen Hume
- Manik Jayakuman
- Nigel Melican
- Dil Senevirantne
- Raj Vable
- Katharine Burnett
- Kevin Gascoyne
- Paul Jefferies
- Eliot Jordan
- Scott Rimer
- Rona Tison
- The Human Relationship with Tea: History, Culture and Health
- Science and Growth of Tea: Camellia sinensis, Sensory, Taste, Grading, Organics and Sustainability
- Tea Production and Sales: Manufacturing, Safety and Regulation, Social Justice and Politics
- The Business of Tea: Marketing, Brand Management, Distribution, Supply Chain and Value Adding to Tea
Open to all, including students, aficionados, and industry professionals. This 360° exploration of tea covers topics from the history and culture of tea to science, agronomy, marketing, and distribution. Classes combining online education’s convenience with the networking and learning benefits of live instruction over Zoom will deliver new insights into this field.
Format & Fees
This class is designed as an interactive, online experience with live Zoom sessions with our instructors and the students. Expect to spend approximately two hours a week in class discussions. Class sessions are recorded for later viewing. There is no outside classwork.
Fees: $1,500 USD
- This 15-week course will consist of 2-hour sessions every Wednesday from 9 – 11 a.m. PST. Classes started on September 27, 2023, and end January 17, 2024. (EXCEPTION: No class on 12/27/23 or 1/3/24.)
- Students are encouraged to attend the UC Davis Global Tea Institute Colloquium the week following completion of the course.
- Successful completion earns three continuing education units (CEUs). Serial No. 232SNF001
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