WTA Students Enhance Their Tea Knowledge, Build Their Careers
By Aaron Kiel
“The structure of World Tea Academy was excellently laid out, featured great educational content and informative teaching material,” shared Pillai, who has worked in the tea industry since 1984.
During Pillai’s career, he’s managed tea plantations in Sri Lanka and held roles in operations, marketing, consulting, manufacturing and processing. He’s also served on the management committee of The Spice Council of Sri Lanka for eight years and has a degree in plantation management. Today, he works on quality management for DAVIDsTEA, which operates a network of more than 125 boutiques in Canada and the United States.
“I believe World Tea Academy takes tea education to the next level; it’s an opportunity and experience the tea industry should not miss,” Pillai said.
World Tea Academy (WTA) is the leading online tea education and certification program, and Pillai is among the Academy’s first-ever class of certified professionals.
24 WTA Tea Specialists
A total of 24 students – from the United States, Canada, Australia, Chile and the Kingdom of Bahrain – recently completed World Tea Academy’s core program to become WTA Certified Tea Specialists.
“We are thrilled to congratulate our first-ever World Tea Academy class of graduates,” said Donna Fellman, a well-respected tea expert and program director of World Tea Academy. “WTA certification opens career opportunities, improves trust with clients and increases industry recognition. And the online program – the future of tea education – can benefit tea professionals of all kinds, as well as those in allied fields.”
World Tea Academy (#TeaAcademy) – from the organizers of World Tea Expo and the North American Tea Championship – is a digital-based learning platform that incorporates robust features and creates classroom-like environments for student-to-student interaction. And in addition to the core WTA Certified Tea Specialist program, WTA offers higher-level accreditation: WTA Certified Tea Professional, WTA Certified Tea Sommelier and WTA Certified Tea Health Expert.
The Academy receives support and oversight from its Strategic Technical Advisers, all recognizable luminaries. And since launching in 2013, the Academy has spanned 21 countries, six continents, six Canadian provinces and 29 states in America.
‘Hats off’ to the WTA Graduates
World Tea Academy’s inaugural WTA Certified Tea Specialists include:
- Stefanie Boadle, founder and CEO, MORE TEA – Mt. Martha, Australia
- Heather Byers, national foodservice sales director, Choice Organic Teas – Seattle, Wash.
- Lynn Colcernian, founder, Destination Fine Teas – South Lyon, Mich.
- Meghan Cosenzo, owner, TeaLife – Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
- Kevin Craig, tea reviewer and Consultant, Tea Journeyman – Warrendale, Pa.
- Anfal Fekri, business development director, Roya Café – Juffair, Manama, Bahrain
- Joanne Foster, owner, Fosters Tea Cafe, LLC – La Grange Park, Ill.
- Tracy Frickey, owner, MODesTEA – Denver, Colo.
- Terri Hamilton, certified public accountant, SourceOne CPA Group – Denver, Colo.
- Patti Harrison, founder and senior designer, Camera Essentials, Pasadena, Calif.
- Kristine Henderson, owner and founder, Infuse Tea Bar – West Sayville, N.Y.
- Kathleen Hippeli, owner, One Steep at a Thyme Tearoom – Spotswood, N.J.
- Holly Howes, owner, Tea & Gift Shoppe – Bemidji, Minn.
- Kevin Lahue, certified chef/raw chef, Whole Foods Market and Healing Cuisine – Burbank, Calif.
- Gina Lane, owner, Serendipi-TEA Etiquette & Consulting and director of the Virginia Tea Society – Virginia Beach, Va.
- Andre Lujan – Garden Grove, Calif.
- Rodrigo Marinetti, co-founder and CEO, teagroup – Santiago, Chile
- Eduardo Molina Anfossi, co-founder and tea sommelier, teagroup – Santiago, Chile
- Colleen Opitz, owner, Cuppa Love Tea – Gaithersburg, Md.
- Kathryn Paul, owner, The Tea Experience – Granada Hills, Calif.
- Susan Peters, owner, Steeped in Canadiana Fine Teas – Morrisburg, Ontario, Canada
- Ravi Jerome Pillai, tea quality manager, DAVIDsTEA – Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Carolyn Roberts, founder, Whimsy & Revelry – Hoboken, N.J.
- Alex Wilkens, store manager, TeaLula – Park Ridge, Ill.
Graduates Share WTA Experiences
Chef Kevin Lahue of Whole Foods Markets, Burbank, Calif., has been in the culinary world for nearly 30 years. In addition to being a certified chef, he’s a Chinese dietary therapist and culinary educator with Healing Cuisine, also in Burbank. “I wanted to expand my knowledge and interest in tea, to benefit my career and enhance my love of the leaf. Overall, I think World Tea Academy really opened my eyes and taught me a lot about all aspects of tea. Being WTA certified will certainly enrich my career in the culinary field, as I incorporate tea into my menus and impart my tea knowledge upon others. On the whole, I really enjoyed the World Tea Academy program, especially the videos and the cuppings, and I hope to become a WTA Certified Tea Health Expert in the future, to complement my gastronomic endeavors.”
Stefanie Boadle, founder and CEO of MORE TEA, Mt. Martha, Australia, has over a decade of experience in business management and marketing, working on some of Australia’s most loved brands. Today, her company is an innovator of premium teawares and a purveyor of some of the best teas around the world. “WTA has given me the confidence in my cupping skills and tea knowledge to have more fulfilling relationships with farmers and industry professionals. The major benefit is the knowledge that can be passed onto customers; they love learning more about the humble tea leaf.”
Colleen Opitz, owner of Gaithersburg, Md.-based Cuppa Love Tea, which offers tea tastings, catered tea parties and retail teas and accessories, explained, “There were aspects of every World Tea Academy educational course that I really enjoyed and benefitted from. However, my favorite course was ‘Tea Terroir: China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea.’ I’m fascinated with Asian history, particularly as it relates to tea. And I’m also partial to Japanese green teas, so the Terroir class was a treat. I look forward to pursuing an advanced-level certification through World Tea Academy, specifically the WTA Certified Tea Sommelier and WTA Certified Tea Health Expert programs.”
Focused Tea Curriculum
Kevin Craig, tea reviewer and consultant, Tea Journeyman, who’s hoping to further his career in the tea industry, shared: “Aside from the useful content, the web-based format and ability to pay per course were the two things that set the World Tea Academy apart from the other course providers.”
Craig advised future students to take the cupping exercises seriously. “Any experienced tea enthusiast will tell a new tea enthusiast that the best method to learn about tea is to ‘Cup tea, cup tea, cup tea.’”
According to Program Director Fellman, World Tea Academy classes are filled with not only cuppings, but rich content, videos, key learning points, group discussions and downloadable course materials. The curriculum covers a variety of educational topics, including: Essentials of Camellia Sinensis; Tea Enhancements and Grading Systems; Tea Terroir; Tea Cupping; Quality Systems for Product Management; Presentation and Advanced Brewing Techniques; Tea Sommelier Essentials; Advanced Herbal Teas; Health Benefits of Tea; and Blending, Flavoring & Scenting, among others.
Each week, new educational content is unlocked for enrolled students with Weeks One and Week Two providing key learning materials and content, and Week Three focusing on professionally cupping teas. Students are shipped teas and a Cupping Lab Starter Kit that includes cupping sets, digital scale, thermometer and timer. Teas frequently sent to students for cupping exercises contain North American Tea Championship winning teas. Higher level class formats vary within each three-week session.
WTA Insights & Perspective
“There were many great things about the program, said Meghan Cosenzo, owner of TeaLife in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. “The best part is I could learn about tea from anywhere in the world and complete the program online and within my own schedule. It was also nice interacting somewhat with other people from different parts of the globe. This is the best course I have taken so far.” Cosenzo plans to pursue advanced WTA certification.
Boadle added, “Being online made no difference to learning capabilities. It was very easy to communicate directly with the lecturer and other students.”
Kathleen Hippeli, owner of One Steep at a Thyme Tearoom in Spotswood, N.J., revealed that of the six courses she took, “’Beyond Camellia Sinensis’ was her favorite. “This program focused on botanical infusions that have not been included in any other tea related programs. I truly enjoyed exploring the ‘other’ hot beverages,” she said.
Gina Lane, owner, Serendipi-TEA Etiquette & Consulting and director of the Virginia Tea Society, Virginia Beach, Va., agreed. “’Beyond Camellia Sinensis’ was my favorite class of the six ‘Core’ classes. Camellia Sinensis is obviously the core topic of education for this field, as it should be, but touching on the other botanicals is also important as they do play a large part in this arena, and their role is only increasing.”