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Tea Education – Where Does It Fit In?

Over the past two decades barista coffee courses have come a long way from their early beginnings. Back in the late 90’s, some early pioneers of the coffee industry were finding their feet, offering coffee training through barista courses and competitions. I remember being involved with Paul Jackson of Danes Coffee, Sydney in his first barista competition held at the International College in Manly. It was so new and exciting, and I remember chatting with Paul about his dreams for education in coffee and his pursuit of a better served cup of coffee.

Australia is now seen as one of the best places in the world to be served a cup of coffee, with Australian baristas taking out top accolades around the world. How times change!

Today it’s a new frontier but with similar connotations, tea education and the pursuit of a better served pot of tea! Around the world there are establishments offering tea sommelier courses, tea master courses, and a plethora of tea appreciation events. As in the early days of the coffee training experience, there seems to be a mixed bag of quality, with many average and some dubious offerings out there if you want to raise your understanding and appreciation of expertise in tea. Eventually – as educational establishments and institutions take tea seriously, and offer tea training then structure, reliability, and accreditation will become an accepted part of tea education. After all, why would you not create sound education around a beverage that creates US$45 billion in sales annually?

One educational institution here in Australia, taking the aspects of tea education seriously is the Blue Mountains International Hospitality Management School. This internationally recognised hospitality management school with campus in Sydney and the Blue Mountains educates students from around the globe. Students are also able to study at one of BMIHMS’s international educational partners in China, Malaysia, Switzerland, Spain and the USA. In July 2015 the BMIHMS will be offering tea tutorials as part of its International Hotel Management Master’s Degree. Students will be offered information on subjects including: the history of tea, tea regions of the world, tea varieties and classification, tea preparation and storage, and career and entrepreneurial pathways. Also a workshop open to students on the Bachelor and Master Degree courses will include tea tastings in a far less informal environment. This is a great step forward not only for the students participating on the course, but for tea education generally. I’m sure there are other educational institutes considering how they can get involved in tea education, and BMIHMS set a great example. Recently a competition was held to create focus, and develop understanding around the brewing of tea: the 2015 Brita World Tea Brewing Championships, held in Shanghai, China. This new event was sponsored by BRITA the water filter specialist and drew competitors from various countries around the world, with a Chinese competitor taking out first place. In May, the US-based World Tea Expo, focused heavily on tea education through seminars. In August, Sydney will hold the second Sydney Tea Festival, which after the enormous success of last year’s event will also have a strong focus on tea education through seminars and workshops on the day. Then, in November, Melbourne is holding the first Australian International Tea Expo at Geelong. So is tea where coffee was in those mid to late 90’s? I suppose it’s all down to the enthusiasm of individuals, backed up eventually by companies and educational institutions. The Blue Mountains International Hospitality Management School and BRITA water are two good examples of this progress. Let’s see what the next few years bring the least we can hope for is a better cup of leaf tea being served correctly in our local café or teahouse.

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