International Tea Masters Association Acquired

Recognized throughout the world, the International Tea Masters Association, acknowledged as the Gold Standard in tea education and professional certification, was acquired today by Claudia Zárate, one of the association’s asteemed, competant course trainers. The association was originally founded in September, 2007, to educate, train, and certify tea sommeliers, tea blenders, and tea masters.

Zárate is both an ITMA Certified Tea Master and  ITMA Certified Tea Blender, and an expert on high-end sophisticated teas.  She is also a professional wine sommelier, an expert on sake, tequila, and vodka, and a gourmand of fine cuisine. Her expertise is vast in each of these arenas.

She graduated from the Universidad Anahuac in Mexico City and then attended the University of California, Davis Campus, where she studied wine and winemaking. To further her education, she traveled extensively to vineyards in France, Germany, Spain, and Calfornia.  Zárate is also a member of the Dallas Sommelier Society and Mexican Sommelier Association.

She participated in the celebration of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Zárate is just as passionate about tea as she is about wine. She had the good fortune of studying imperial tea and its preparation under the tutelage of ITMA Certified Grand Tea Master Roy Fong during a special training event in San Francisco.

ITMA Certified Tea Master Chas Kroll, the founder of the International Tea Masters Association, sold the organization to Zárate . Prior to launching the association, he owned and operated a successful online specialty tea company for ten years, which he sold in June, 2006.

His original vision for his company was to disseminate information on the healthy benefits of consuming tea to a broad cross-section of the population. In doing so, he believed that people would be able to reduce the incidence of harmful, life-threatening diseases, increase their energy, enhance their lifestyle, and live longer, more fulfilling lives. He carried this same belief with him as he managed the association.

Kroll’s colleagues in the tea industry and his students over the past ten years regard him as a skilled and knowledgeable tea master, developing several of his own proprietary, custom tea blends, a tea-based seasoning rub, and several outstanding courses of instruction.  Besides his talent and ability with tea, he is also a professionally trained life coach, author, speaker, soft-spoken motivator, and empowering leader-by-example. On a personal level, he’s an articulate, intelligent, confident, sincere, caring man. His spirituality and integrity are two of his unique gifts. What most people get from him when they meet him is his authenticity.

For additional information, contact Claudia Zárate,  ITMA Executive Director, at (432) 210-2628 or


# # #


ITMA 12-Day China Itinerary

Program dates: October 17-29*, 2018


D1 – October 17, 2018 Arr. Xiamen (-)
  Arrive in Xiamen, meet your driver and transfer to hotel.
  Overnight at Sheraton or similar.
D2 – October 18, 2018 Xiamen (B)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Round trip transfer for China Xiamen International Tea Industry Fair.
D3 – October 19, 2018 Xiamen (B,L)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Tour of South Putuo Temple, Xiamen University (outside), Coastal Road, Hulishan Fort, Zhongshan Road.  Lunch included.
D4 – October 20, 2018 Xiamen – Gulangyu Island-Xiamen (B,L)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Take ferry to Gulangyu including Shuzhuang Garden, Piano Museum, Longtou Road, Hi Heaven, International Architectural Exhibition. Return to Xiamen.  Lunch included.
D5 – October 21, 2018 Xiamen – Quanzhou-Wuyishan (B,L,D)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Bus to Anxi (approx. 2 hours), visit local tea plantation. Take high speed train to Wuyishan. On arrival Wuyishan, meet and transfer to hotel.

Dinner on arrival.

  Overnight at Wuyishan Ramada Hotel or similar.
D6 – October 22, 2018 Wuyishan (B,L)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Visit Tianyou peak, bamboo rafting on JiuquStream.
D7 – October 23, 2018 Wuyishan (B,L)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Visit Dahongpao Scenic area, visit a local tea plantation.
D8 – October 24, 2018 Wuyishan – Hangzhou (B)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Take high speed rail to Hangzhou, also known as Heaven on Earth.

Transfer to your hotel.

  Overnight at Blossom Hill or similar.
D9 – October 25, 2018 Hangzhou (B,L,D)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Full day tour to West Lake, Dragon Well tea farm.

After lunch, learn the Chinese handicrafts workshop of traditional fan making.  Tour the famous Hefang ancient street.

Dinner at local restaurant.

D10 – October 26, 2018 Hangzhou – Shanghai (B)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Take the high speed rail to Shanghai.  Tour of Shanghai, see the new Shanghai development.
  Overnight at Shanghai Intercontinental Hotel or similar.
D11 – October 27, 2018 Shanghai (B,L,D)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Tour of Yu Garden, Silk weaving workshop, the Bund, shopping at Tianzifang.

Farewell dinner with acrobatic show.

  Overnight at Shanghai Intercontinental Hotel or similar.
D12 – October 28, 2018 Shanghai Dept. (B)
  International buffet breakfast at hotel.
  Free time until transfer to the airport for your flight.

Program Cost

Based on a minimum of 10 passengers

Land only cost

$2,872 per person based on sharing double occupancy

$3,816per person based on single room

International Air

Estimated air from Los Angeles $880 per person. Fare subject to change.


  • 4 nights Xiamen Sheraton or similar
  • 3 nights Wuyishan Ramada or similar
  • 2 nights Hangzhou Blossom Hills or similar
  • 2 nights Shanghai Intercontinental or similar
  • All transfers and tours by private coach
  • English speaking guide/escort service
  • All tax & services
  • Daily international buffet breakfast. 7 lunches, 4 dinners
  • 1st class high speed rail from Ximan to Hangzhou, Hangzhou to Shanghai
  • Special visit to tea farm and cultural workshop
  • Registration to Tea Expo in Xiamen


  • International air from US to China
  • China visa fee: $255 per person inclusive of visa agent fee and return postage. Recommend applying by July 2018.
  • Travel insurance is recommended to protect your trip. Travel insurance details will be provided upon request.
  • Any personal expense, other tours, beverages and meals not mentioned not mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Extra luggage fee.
  • Trip Deviation: Any deviations (such as changing departure / return date) are subject to surcharge.


  • Above quotation based on a minimum of 10 passengers travel together
  • Above quotation subject to change upon reservation
  • Gratuity ( guides, drivers, porters) of $100 per person to be charged upon final payment


  • A valid passport is required to travel internationally. Passports must be valid for six (6) months after the return date and should also have sufficient blank pages for entry and exit stamps.
  • A completed reservation form, a scanned passport copy, insurance waiver form, and deposit is required by July 1, 2018.
  • All travel documentations will be delivered to you electrically. Please ensure to provide a valid email address.  Please check your spam mailbox.
  • A pre-trip documentation will be delivered to you via email after finalpayment received by August 17, 2018.


  • Non-refundable deposit of $500 per person required by July 1, 2018.
  • Final payment is required by August 17, 2018.
  • Please make checks payable to Global Education Elite; include participant’s full name in the check memo.
  • Mail your check to 533 2nd St., Suite 888, Encinitas, CA 92024.

 Register Today

Cancellation Policy

  • All cancellation must be received in writing and will become effective on the date of receipt with an acknowledgment by Global Education Elite.
Date of cancellation Cancellation fee
Cancellation received between July 1-August 1, 2018 Deposit to be forfeited
Cancellation received between August 2-September 2, 2018 50% of program cost to be charge.
Cancellation received between September 3, 2018-October 3, 2018 75% of program cost to be charge.
Cancellation received on/after October 4, 2018 100% of program cost to be charge.


The responsibility of Global Education Elite (GEE) is strictly limited.  GEE organizes, promotes, and market tour programs and vacations consisting of certain travel services, including, but not limited to, surface transportation, sightseeing excursion, cruise/hotel accommodations, and meals and entertainment that GEE purchases or reserves from various suppliers.  The suppliers providing travel service for GEE tour programs and vacations are independent contractors and are not agenights or employees of GEE.  To the extent that GEE is involved in the sale of air and/or cruise transportation to you, GEE acts as agent of the air carrier and/or the cruise line.  For all other purposes, GEE des not act as agent for any party whatsoever.  GEE is not responsible for the willful or negligent acts and /or omissions of such suppliers or of any air carrier and/or cruise line or their respective employees, agent’s servers the rights, or representatives, including, without limitation, their failure to deliver or their partial or inadequate delivery of services.  All Coupons, receipts, invoices and tickets are issued subject to the terms and conditions specified by the suppliers, air carriers, and/or cruise lines.  By utilizing the travel services of the suppliers, you agree that neither GEE nor any representative shall be liable for any accident, injury, property damage, or personal loss to you or to those traveling with you in connection with any accommodations, transportation, or other travel services, or resulting directly or indirectly from any occurrences or conditions beyond GEE’s control, including but not limited to, acts of terrorism war, defects in vehicles, breakdown in equipment, strikes, theft, or delay or cancellation of or changes in itinerary or schedules.  All pricing is subject to change.  GEE reserves the right to correct promotional or pricing errors at any time or increase the program price in the event of cost increases due to changes in airfare, cruise fares, currency fluctuations. park fee increases, taxes or fuel surcharges.  GEE reserves the right to decline to accept or retain any person as a member of any tour or vacation at its discretion.  GEE and/or its tour director retain the right to terminate the participating (without refund) of any group member at their discretion, if such person’s health, actions or general deportment impede the operation of the tour and or/causes any hardship to the tour director and/or other tour members.  In such case, there will be no refund to the tour member for the unused portion of the tour, and all additional expenses incurred, such as airline ticket change penalties, transfers to the airport etc., will be the sole responsibility of the tour member whose membership was terminated.  GEE reserves the right to cancel or alter at its discretion and without notice, any tour or vacation including, but not limited to, change of dates, routing, change of hotels, meals, shows and/or sightseeing services of any itinerary and/or tour and/or vacation outlined in this flyer and/or brochure.  If for any reason, GEE changes a hotel(s) to a lower category, you may either accept the alteration or elect to cancel, in which case you will be entitled to a full refund.  GEE reserves the right to cancel any tour or vacation up to three weeks before departure if the number of passengers has not reached the minimum required to operate.   GEE has a trust account. All paymentfor travel services not provided t the passengers shall be promptly refunded, in accordance with the agreed-to terms and conditions.

Register Today

Innovation is Changing the Tea Industry

Vahdam Teas does not transport in large shipping containers for months before being packaged and sold. All their teas are sourced within 24-72 hours at the tea estates.  Their teas have been door-delivered to consumers in 76 countries. Vahdam has eliminated all middlemen and created new innovations in the supply chain of tea.  By sourcing and delivering direct, they are creating a process which helps every farmer get a better price for their teas.

According to Tea Commerce, a web site focused on the financial growth of the tea industry, and its December 11th article, “India’s Vahdam Teas raises $1.4M to bring fresher tea to your door faster.”

“Vahdam Teas, an e-commerce that’s focused on selling the freshest brews on the planet, has closed a Series A funding round worth $1.4 million to grow its business.

“The funding was led by new backers: Fireside Venture, Mumbai Angels, Singapore Angel Network and undisclosed existing investors. Vahdam Teas, a two-year-old company, previously raised a $500,000 seed round from angels in January of this year.

“Vahdam’s biggest rival is Teabox, a five-year-old company that kickstarted the ‘tea-commerce’ model and has picked up $7 million in backing from venture  capitalists, including Accel.

“Business model-wise, Vahdam has a similar approach to Teabox. It aims to speed up the time it takes tea to go from being picked to being served in a customer’s home. To do that, it sources leaves direct from plantations after which 95 percent is vacuum packed and prepared to be shipped direct to customers.

“Tea is sold from Vahdam’s website and through a partnership with Amazon, the U.S. e-commerce giant that has vast ambitions in India. The company look part in Amazon’s India-based Launchpad program which includes a page on Amazon’s U.S. site.”

Gaoshan Qingxiang Lishan Oolong Tea
From Fong Mong Tea Shop

Today’s review will focus on the Gaoshan QingXiang Lishan Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea Shop. You can currently purchase 150 grams of this tea for USD $42.99 from Fong Mong Tea Shop.

The English translation for the name of this tea is “High Mountain (Gaoshan) Sweet Scent (QingXiang) Pear Mountain (Lishan) Oolong Tea”. If the aroma and taste of this tea lives up to the name and reputation of other Lishan oolong teas, then this is going to be a great tea session.

Lishan (Pear Mountain) is located in central Taiwan, in Taichung. A map showing the Lishan area is below.

The Qingxing cultivar bushes for this tea are grown at altitudes between 1,500 meters to 2,200 meters (4,900 feet to 7,200 feet) above sea level. At this altitude, the weather is rather cold and harsh on tea bushes. The results of growing tea in this environment are slow developing leaves, rare harvests (one to two per year, usually), and limited production. The limited supply of this product makes the necessity to slowly enjoy this experience even more of a priority.

Let’s get to the review…

Gaoshan Qingxiang Lishan Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in shades of green from forest green to dark forest green. The leaves are very tightly rolled and condensed into the standard Taiwanese oolong ball, making them quite dense. I expect most of the leaves to be unbroken and fully intact on the stem, with a pluck in the three to four leaves and no bud. The other leaves should be unbroken but detached from the stem. There appears to be no fragments, all unbroken leaves, which is impressive! There is one stem that is almost entirely bare. The leaves appear to be on the lighter side of the oxidation scale (under 25%), and perhaps given a very light roast. The aroma is excellent, with inviting scents of brown sugar, baked apples and pears, ceylon cinnamon, floral honey, and orchids.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an eight ounce (240 mL) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 1:00 minute. Each subsequent infusion had another 15 seconds of time added.

Gaoshan Qingxiang Lishan Oolong Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, light yellow color. The aroma has scents of stewed apples and pears, orchids, brown sugar, and touches of Ceylon cinnamon and floral honey. The body is light-medium, with a honey-like texture. There is no trace of bitterness, and just a touch of astringency. The taste has notes of stewed apples and pears, floral honey, orchids, and lighter notes of brown sugar and Ceylon cinnamon. The aftertaste is incredible, carrying the fruit and honey notes, then evolving into an excellent orchid essence left on the breath.

As infusions get past four, the fruity and honey flavors diminish, leaving the floral character front and center with a touch of vegetal notes. The orchid essence on the breath remains as potent and amazing from the first infusion through the last.

Gaoshan Qingxiang Lishan Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark forest green color. The leaves are all unbroken, some still attached to stems, and some detached. The stems show either a three leaves or four leaves pluck. There are no buds in the mix, and only one mostly bare stem. Some of the leaves display a light amount of oxidation, and there are signs of a light roast. There are also a few leaves showing signs of bug bites. The leaves are very smooth and soft, and rather long and narrow. It’s always a pleasure to play with and observe leaves from high quality Taiwanese oolongs like this. The aroma continues the scents of honey, stewed apples and pears, orchids, and a touch of brown sugar.

I am not sure if I could have picked a better tea to review before the long holiday weekend coming up. This Gaoshan QingXiang Lishan Oolong Tea was incredibly floral and sweet in the aroma and taste. I see some reviews using words like “vegetal”, and I just did not pick up any of that until maybe the fifth infusion. Even then, any vegetal character was very light, and the floral character dominated. The sweet aftertaste and lingering floral essence was the real highlight of this tea, in my opinion. To me, a tea that tastes this good for a minute after the liquid is consumed is an instant favorite. And to think, this tea is not even the best grade of this style from Fong Mong Tea Shop.

Many thanks to Fong Mong Tea Shop for providing this sample of Gaoshan QingXiang Lishan Oolong Tea! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

By ITMA Certified Tea Professional Kevin Craig