Cost Comparison of
Tea Industry Training Programs

Capture 1World Tea Academy, latest to arrive on the tea training scene, provides online curriculum to achieve tea certification.  The organization offers six core competencies, each with tuition individually priced at $325 ($400 for international registrants), along with a $50 examination fee for each one.  Classes, listed below, are delivered online in three-week sessions.  The program results in accreditation as a WTA Certified Tea Specialist™.   Registrants can continue their education and achieve an advanced accreditation:  WTA Certified Tea Professional™, WTA Certified Tea Sommelier™, or WTA Certified Tea Health Expert™.  These advanced accreditations require additional tuition, the cost of which has not been disclosed publicly.

Capture 2World Tea Academy delivers tea education without the need to travel to a training location. It is led by tea educator, Donna Fellman, with the support and oversight of its Strategic Technical Advisors, all of whom are tea vendors.

Classes are delivered online in three-week sessions. Their online learning platform creates a classroom-like environment for student-to-student interaction, and is filled with rich content, videos, learning points, group discussions, and PDF downloads of course materials.

Students taking the Core.01 Essentials of Camellia sinensis class are shipped both teas and a Cupping Lab Starter Kit that include cupping sets, digital scale, thermometer, and timer.

In the Advanced Curriculum students can achieve one or more of the following designations: WTA Certified Tea Professional™, WTA Certified Tea Sommelier™, and WTA Certified Tea Health Expert™. Advanced certification will require students to complete a minimum of six of the electives in their desired advanced certification.

WTA Certified Tea Professional™ – Designed for business owners and individuals directly involved in the tea trade.

WTA Certified Tea Sommelier™ – Created for tea room owners and staff and foodservice professionals.

WTA Certified Tea Health Expert™ – Perfect for spas, wellness centers, nutritionists, dietitians, health care providers, naturopaths, and individuals interested in leading a healthy lifestyle.

Specialty Tea Institute, founded in 2002, offers the country’s first standardized and accredited tea education curriculum.  Its courses consist of 4 Levels of training, each of which can only be taken after prior levels have been completed.  They are held in conjunction with various food and beverage conferences throughout the country. Level 3 consists of five trainings (Green, White, and Yellow Tea, Oolong Tea, Black Tea, Puerh Tea, and Professional Cupping).  To enroll in Level 4, all of the Level 3 courses must be completed. Level 4 trainings involve Blending, Cupping, and Tea Technology, each of which is a 2-day training.

Each training is $400 for STI Members ($500 for non-Members). In addition to the cost of training, registrants will need to pay for hotel accommodations, airfare, and meals as each training is held at various locations.  Most trainings are for 2-days, while several are only 1-day events.

Level 3 and 4 certifications will take at least 2-1/2 years to complete and will cost approximately $4,600, with additional expenses for travel, lodging, and meals.

Additionally, STI was closely allied with the World Tea Expo.  However, the World Tea Academy is attempting to be the “teaching” arm that STI once was exclusively.

Tea Association of Canada offers a Tea Sommelier Certification Course, which is designed for individuals wishing to expand and enhance their love of tea. Eight classes will help students practice new skills and expand their knowledge and palate for tea, design a menu for pairing, learn the delicate nuances of tasting, evaluating, preparing and consuming different teas, including a blind taste test.

The training is composed of eight classes that must be completed prior to the Tea Sommelier Certificate Examination. The certification program consists of 150 hours of instruction.

Total tuition fees are $2,904, excluding taxes, cupping sets, and training materials. Courses are available in various colleges throughout Canada requiring additional expenses for travel, lodging, and meals.

Capture 3

International Tea Masters Association, formed in 2007, provides mastery level training, education, and professional certification to individuals desiring to become Tea Sommeliers, Tea Blenders, and Tea Masters.  The association is respected as meeting superior educational standards by offering its Certified Tea Sommelier Course™, Certified Tea Blending Course™, and Certified Tea Master Course™ for achieving prestigious industry titles and professional designations, all highly respected in the tea industry.

The curriculum utilizes advanced learning techniques developed by the Foundation for Inspired Learning.  All of its courses are based on experiential, hands-on learning, instruction, and continuous positive reinforcement.

ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier™ – Designed for individuals directly involved in the tea trade and tea business owners.  Registrants will learn the correct way to evaluate the taste and aroma of numerous high quality teas.  The course consists of an initial 3-day in-person training held onsite at a hotel, followed by an 8-week home study course beginning a week later.

ITMA Certified Tea Blender™ – Registrants will learn to create professional blends, based on traditional formulas and current market demand, as they are trained in blending various types and grades of tea with other teas and with other ingredients.  The training is regarded as the finest, most complete tea blending course in the tea industry.

ITMA Certified Tea Master™ – The two-part, three-month course, contains all the educational requirements an individual needs for achieving the prestigious Tea Taster or Tea Master designation, the most prestigious title in the tea industry. The course holds the high level of focus needed to gain the competence to serve as a tea taster or tea master at a distinguished restaurant, hotel, or tea business, or start one’s own successful enterprise.  The first 3-days is in-person at a training location at a luxury hotel, while the next 12 weeks involve home study tasting and evaluating exceptional high-grade teas.

Capture 4

International Tea Education Institute (ITEI), formerly the Canadian Tea Masters Association, was replaced by ITEI in 2015.  The ITEI claims to have a presence in “multiple major cities worldwide with its Accredited Education Centres and has graduates from 13 different countries.”  It offers an ITEI Certified Tea Sommelier Course, an ITEI Certified Tea Blender Course, and an ITEI Certified Tea Master Course.

The company is owned and operated by Sylvana Levesque, trained by the International Tea Masters Association as a tea master in 2011.  She became an ITMA Trainer shortly thereafter until she was terminated for cause in September, 2013.  Her company’s web site ( basically copied the features and operational structure of the International Tea Masters Association.  A review of this site will reveal verbose editorial content, numerous grammatical errors, misspellings, and organizational features similar to that of the ITMA.

Capture 5

Nandi Hills Black Tea

Today’s review will focus on the Nandi Hills Black Tea, purchased from JusTea, a vendor of only Kenyan small-holder grown and processed tea, offering teas in both loose leaf form and in pyramid bags. JusTea is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, are Rainforest Alliance certified, and Non-GMO Project verified. The JusTea website gives a wealth of information about their farmer partners, communities, and commitment to improving the lives of those who help create these unique teas.

Before I begin the review of the actual tea, I want to bring attention to the quality of the product packaging, and the attractive (although somewhat impractical for proper measuring) wooden teaspoon that is included with the purchase. As you can see in the photos below, JusTea wraps each tin in a very eye-catching, artistically designed fabric, which is also sourced from the same communities in Kenya. This is probably the most visually pleasing, attractive packaging of any retail teas that I have purchased over the years. It is a tea tin that can be used decoratively in addition to its practical uses. The wooden tea spoon is also carefully hand-made. The handle is very smooth, with the top area between the handle and scoop being decorated and wrapped with small beads of many colors. It is another visually pleasing aspect of the total product, although (as mentioned above) the scoop itself is not necessarily very useful in properly scooping or measuring the tea leafs, as the leafs are quite long and light weight. Regardless, the hand-made teaspoons are still a welcome touch!

Nandi Hills BlackLet’s get down to the true matter at hand, the Nandi Hills Black Tea.

The dry leaves have a dark bronze to black color. It is easy to determine that the leaves are hand rolled, as there is much variation to the size, shape, and general consistency of the leaves. There are some bare stems in the mix, and no apparent full buds or tips. The leaves have a course, dry texture, and break easily into fine crumbs. The aroma of the dry leaves include scents of toasted grains, smoke, dry wood, raw cacao, and raisins.

Nandi Hills Black 1aJusTea Nandi Hills Black Tea Dry Leaves

Nine grams of dry leaves were infused for four minutes using purified water in an eighteen ounce Tetsubin teapot.

The infusion resulted in a bright, reddish-copper color. The aroma had scents of toasted grains, pine, malt, and peppercorns. A medium body was complemented by a bright, lightly brisk mouth-feel. The taste had notes of toasted grains, pine, lemon, malt, and peppercorns. The aftertaste had lingering notes of pine and peppercorns.

Nandi Hills Black 2aJusTea Nandi Hills Black Tea Infusion

The wet leaves have a range of colors from copper brown to dark greenish brown. The leaves have a soft, smooth texture, with slightly rubbery feel when trying to tear them. The fragments vary from small pieces to large, nearly full intact leaves. The pluck appears to be two leaves and a bud, although no buds can be located in the leaves. The leaves can be reinfused two or three times, and still produce a pleasant tasting infusion. The aroma includes scents of wet wood, grains, malt, and a very light floral perfume.

Nandi Hills Black 3aJusTea Nandi Hills Black Tea Wet Leaves

The Nandi Hills Black Tea from JusTea is certainly a unique, well made black tea. This tea is lighter than any other black tea from Kenya that I have tried previously, and is perfectly enjoyable without any additives, such as milk or sugar. The bright, lively taste will give an instant boost of energy. If you think all Kenyan black teas are too strong and full bodied for your preferences, think again. The Nandi Hills Black Tea is closer in character to a mid-elevation grown Sri Lankan black tea than a Kenyan. As of the date of this review, JusTea is selling the 60 gram (2.1 ounces), beautifully wrapped tea tin with hand carved teaspoon, of the Nandi Hills Black Tea for $17.00 USD plus shipping.

As always, thank you for taking your time to read my review of the Nandi Hills Black Tea from JusTea. I welcome your replies, and look forward to getting in touch with my readers once again! Cheers!

By ITMA Certified Tea Professional Kevin Craig

Oriental Beauty: An Incredible Tea to Remember

oriental beautyDong Fang Mei Ren (also called Bai Hao) is a Taiwanese oolong unlike any other.  Its English name, Oriental Beauty, was given by Queen Elizabeth II in the early 20th century when she tasted this tea for the first time.   The tea is hand-harvested and crafted by a tea master in Taiwan using two leaves and a bud. Enzymes change the color of the leaf edges to a deep red, and cause the plant to give off the aroma of honey and fruit, and an unusually sweet flavor.

Oriental Beauty is named for the unique appearance of its tea leaves, which are mostly dark in color with the very best and rarest distinguished by silvery tips.  The leaves are naturally oxidized by leaf hoppers that chew on the leaf edges while still growing on the tea bushes.  As such, it is harvested only in the early summer.  It yields a rich, strong honeyed liquor which produces a sweet tasting bright-reddish orange tea liquor without any astringency or bitterness.

oriental beauty 2The best Oriental Beauty is made from a cultivar called Qing Xin Da Mao.  Teas produced using this cultivar have an incredible cooling sensation on the palate, and when layered on top of the sweet aroma and smooth taste produced by the response to leaf hoppers, it produces an incredibly balanced and complex cup of tea.

The top grade of organic Oriental Beauty we tasted and evaluated comes from where it was originally produced in Taiwan.   It had both wonderfully complex aromas (peach, orange, pineapple…), and also a sweet, round mouth-feel and aftertaste. Although we steeped it in a Yixing teapot for only two minutes at 170 F, it can brew oriental beauty 3longer without turning astringent, a trait of the very best teas.  We were delighted to experience one teaspoon (2.5g) of Oriental Beauty producing six wonderful infusions of tea.

Oriental Beauty is one of the most precious oolongs to come from Taiwan, a superb example of one of the world’s most extraordinary teas.  Truly a “beauty” not to be missed.

Oriental Beauty available online from:  Adagio Teas $49.00 for 2 oz.

Summertime or Anytime Great Iced Tea

by Chas Kroll, ITMA Certified Tea Master

iced_teaAs the warm summer months approach, our tastes begin to shift from wintertime warmers to summertime coolers. In the U.S., iced tea dominates the list of summertime thirst quenchers.

Making iced tea is simple. Making great iced tea is another matter. It takes more than simply boiling water and dropping in a couple of tea bags.

A few important facts. About 80 percent of the tea consumed in the U.S. is served iced. The average American drinks nearly 6.5 gallons of iced tea per year. As much as 60 percent of the tea consumed in the U.S. occurs in the Southern states, most of which (90 percent) is iced.

A few important tips. Fresh tea makes the best iced tea, so don’t refrigerate it for days after you make it. Make it and drink it. Adjust sugar or sweetener to personal taste if used. Thoroughly chill the tea before serving. If you add ice, use cubes, not chips.

Most important. You make great iced tea by starting with a great tea, one that is full of flavor and will satisfy your tastes. Great chefs sauté their cuisine using a wine they would serve their guests. The same principle applies to making great iced tea.

Preparing great iced tea. Measure out the amount of tea according to this formula: Four heaping teaspoons of loose-leaf tea for each quart you want to prepare. Add it to your serving pitcher.

The big surprise. Add spring water at room-temperature, 18°-24°C (65°-75°F), not boiling water, to the pitcher. Set it aside and allow the tea to steep for an hour or so in your refrigerator. Because the tea leaves can be used again, set them aside and refrigerate. You will be able to make at least two more pitchers when you start with a quality, loose-leaf tea.

About lemon. The purpose of lemon is not just to make the glass look attractive. For many serious iced tea drinkers, lemon is a required accoutrement. So, cut a lemon into eight wedges, and serve one alongside each glass. Serve in ice-filled glasses.

About sun tea. We are often asked about “Sun Tea.” Scientific evidence supports the idea that the sun provides the perfect medium for bacteria to grow.

Waldorf in London Hosted ITMA Tea Sommelier Certification Course™

waldorf-londonThe luxurious Waldorf Hilton in London was the stunning backdrop for the recently-held  ITMA Tea Sommelier Certification Course for becoming an ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier. A symbol of English heritage, the Waldorf is steeped in Edwardian tradition. Its fabulous West End location leaves London at one’s fingertips with many of the city’s most exciting attractions within walking distance or just a quick tube ride away.

waldorf-london-afternoon-teaRegistrants attending the course were invited to experience the British tradition of Afternoon Tea at the Waldorf with its historic, elegant surroundings. They enjoyed a glass of Champagne and chose from a selection of 13 fine loose leaf teas, including the hotel’s signature Waldorf Tribute Blend that was created by Twinings exclusively for and only available at the hotel. They also savored a selection of finely cut finger sandwiches, warm freshly baked scones and delicate pastries that were beautifully served on a three-tiered stand made of Royal Crown Derby fine bone china. Royal Crown Derby is a Royal Warrant holder and supplier to The Royal Household.

Registrants attending the initial ITMA Tea Sommelier Certification Course experienced some of the most exquisite loose-leaf teas from around the world. This training was followed a week later with the ITMA Tea Sommelier Tasting Course™ involving tasting and evaluating 18 different teas, as well as a Mystery Tea, a Report (oral or written) on a topic assigned by ITMA, and a Final Examination.

stijn-van-schoonlandtThe training was conducted in English by ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier and  ITMA Certified Tea Blender™ Stijn Van Schoonlandt. With a strong background in tea and blending, and proprietor of his own coffee and tea establishment in Belgium, he made this an especially memorable, life-changing experience for everyone.

The course contained all the educational requirements an individual needed for achieving the association’s prestigious ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier designation once the program was successfully completed.

Tuition for the complete program is $1,475 for ITMA Members ($1,975 for Non-Members).

The next  ITMA Tea Sommelier Certification Course for becoming an ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier at the Waldorf will be held in September or October.  The exact dates will be announced on our home page on June 30th.