Victoria Bisogno of El Club del Te, lectures class of tea sommaliers.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina
With a burgeoning interest in specialty tea in Latin America, especially in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, new tea lovers are clamoring for training courses and tasting activities.
In Buenos Aires, Victoria Bisogno, founder and president of Charming Blends, is working hard to meet their demands and expectations. El Club del Te, the Argentinean organization established and run by Vicky and her husband Martin to promote tea culture, now has members in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and Spain as well as Argentina, and her regular Tea Sommelier training courses are well attended by people from all over South America and Spain.
When trainees and club members recently started asking for a course in Tea Blending, Vicky decided to put aside her fears of revealing all her trade secrets and ran her first blending course at Claridge Hotel in Buenos Aires in August this year. Participants attended four three-hour sessions to learn about every aspect of the skill of blending and flavoring teas with a range of ingredients including flowers, herbs, spices, fruits and flavoring oils.
By the end of the first three seminars, trainees had learned essential basic information about tea (camellia sinensis) and other ingredients used in blending, about grading, sensory evaluation, necessary equipment, health and safety regulations, legal requirements, the use of natural and artificial oils, and all about packaging, labeling and storing the finished product.
During the fourth session, participants were required to focus on the practical aspects of preparing ingredients and creating a blend. They learned how to select petals from flowers, how to balance the aroma and flavor profiles of the different ingredients and they each had to make an Earl Grey, a green tea, and a black tea blend. The choice of ingredients was left entirely up to each individual and the final products were tasted and evaluated by Vicky and the other trainees.
In November, Claridge Hotel will again be the chosen venue for a Blind Tasting Blend Contest to find the best new blend created by trainees since the course was completed. The panel of judges will include Vicky and other specialists chosen from the wine and food industries.
Vicky and Martin Bisogno are enthusing and inspiring a growing number of people and, as more and more tea lovers develop their interest in brewing, serving, blending and enjoying tea, Buenos Aires is perhaps set to become the Latin American centre of excellence for all aspects of training.