Scott Svihula is one of the judges for the Global Tea Championship. He brings his tea expertise and business acumen to the competition. Here he shares his thoughts about tea and the competition with World Tea News.
What sparked your interest in tea?
I was working for a coffee company that wanted to get involved with tea but didn’t know how. They asked me to look into tea and see if it would be a fit. I reached out to the American Premium Tea Institute (APTI), which at the time was the place to go for tea information. I attended the annual conference/meeting and met two people that would forever change my life—Ric Rhinehart and Richard Guzauskas. I instantly fell in love with tea. It was at that meeting that I started my tea journey now in its 21st year!
How did you learn about tea?
There are three people who I consider to be my tea mentors and teachers. They are Ric Rhinehart, Richard Guzauskas and Mike Spillane. When I started in tea, there was no formalized tea training like there is now with World Tea Academy and STI (to name a couple). Back then you learned from your supply partners and others in the industry. I was very fortunate to have three amazing tea professionals to guide me. Later in my career, STI started and I was at their first level 1 and level 2 classes. After taking these classes, I offered my services to help with operational and logistical support, which they accepted and for which I was given a special recognition award for in 2006. From there, I was asked to help write, edit and teach additional classes; and then, by nomination and subsequent election, served a two-year term on the STI Advisory Board.
What is your favorite tea memory?
There have been so many over the years it would be hard to pick one:
- The first Take Me 2 Tea (which later became World Tea Expo).
- When I won the World Beverage Championship and found out it was the first time a US company took first.
- When I started my first tea business, Tea Daddy, with my wife. We did in-home consumer tasting parties.
- When I was asked by a large Australian company to go to Australia to deliver a keynote speech/training to their general managers who flew in from all around the country.
For how many years have you been judging this competition?
I actually go back to the very first Take Me 2 Tea Iced Tea Shake Off when I worked with entrants to prepare their commercial iced teas of FETCO iced tea machines. I also supported the team with preparing the samples for the judges and emceeing the competition. As the Iced Tea Shake Off has morphed into other competitions like Tea Cocktail and North American Tea Championship and now Global Tea Championship, I have been on both sides of the equation. I have partaken in the championship as an entrant and won 16 different awards in both hot and iced tea categories; and have served as a judge for six years off and on since 2004.