Tasting Knowledge is a Specialty for STI

LAS VEGAS, Nev.

There is so much to learn about tea.

Where can you get detailed information about tea? How to select? How to prepare? How to enjoy?
Once you step outside the comfortable tradition of tea found in bags, there is an incredible world to discover. Tea is grown in 43 different countries and the flavor and presentation of the teas are infinite in their variety.

I attended the Specialty Tea Institute’s (STI) Level One and Level Two courses in June 2012 in conjunction with World Tea Expo. My group of 30 consisted of tea enthusiasts from all over the United States and Canada and from as far afield as Berlin, Germany. Some were shop owners, some were tea business employees and others were there to learn the basics in preparation for a career in tea.
The group initially gathered in a large conference room for the all-day sessions with a half dozen volunteers who brought carefully heated water carafes and the selections of tea for tasting.
Our instructors were extraordinary.

Lynayn Miekle is a Level Three Professional Level graduate, owner of East West Tea Emporium in Arnold, Mary., and founder of www.lightenupteas.com. She captured our attention with her extensive travels and her animated presentation.

Peter F. Goggi, executive vice-president of the Tea Association and former Lipton Head Tea Buyer, taught us how to differentiate the different teas and how to express what it was like to taste them.
Terms like astringent, and descriptives such as baggy, bakey, toasty, brisk and bright help novices better understand the character of teas.

STI, a Division of the Tea Association of the USA Inc., offers certification classes at two levels: a foundation of tea series and a professional level. The Institute promotes awareness and consumption of Specialty and Premium teas by providing educational forums, resources and education about quality tea for members, the trade, the media and consumers.

Courses vary from one to two days and cost from $475 to $850. Members of the Tea Institute receive a substantial discount for each course.

The first two levels introduce five basic tea types, two traditional styles of orthodox tea production and exposure to the comparison cupping of teas. The professional series, starting at Level Three is spread over several courses and intensely looks at the different types of tea and the process of cupping and sensory evaluation. The program continues with three advanced upper level courses.

Level Two introduces CTC tea production and manufacture, blending, flavoring, and scenting, the techniques of sensory evaluation of teas, and the principals of grading and naming teas by country of origin. We learned that most bagged teas sold in the U.S. contain a mixture of tea from several regions with 20 or more origins to achieve the desired taste. Throughout the day, there are multiple opportunities to perform comparison cupping of the five tea types.

At the Professional Series Level Three, detailed seminars cover the topics including: Oolong Teas (one day) , Black Teas (two days) , Green, White, and Yellow Teas (two days), Professional Cupping and Sensory Evaluation (one day)  and Pu’erh teas (one day).

The final Professional Series, Level Four consists of three separate seminars covering the topics of Technology of Teas (two day), Cupping and Sensory Evaluation (one day), and Beyond Tradition (one day). 

By the conclusion of the two days, we had a glimpse of the fascinating world of tea and felt eager to share this knowledge with others.  It was an excellent course.

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