Sommelier Exam Study: Some tips

  Studying for this type of exam is hard work. I work towards the day I would be finished my classes and have to be fully ready for it. Back in 2012 I participated in the “So You Want To Be A Tea Sommelier” event at the Coffee and Tea Show. Here I had my first chance to try to identify 10 teas with only the liquid present. It is not as easy as some may think. When brewing teas in class we always had the leaves to look at, both dry and then wet. This helped narrow down which tea it was and the taste sealed the deal. The part that you have to get around is that all of the teas are steeped with boiling water for 5 minute steep. It was a lot to take in for a first try but I am glad I did it.

The last day of my class we did this exercise with 15 teas and then last week again with 20. Repeating this with many more teas than there will be helps you recognize where you need to focus. 

Friday last week I had organized a tasting with those who had also finished the program. The turn out was small but we got great pointers from Tao.

  We did three sets of teas. The first was white and green. Second was Oolong and Pu-er. And last was blacks.

 In this manner we were able to focus on the slight differences between them.

For example: Japanese green teas have a bit of a bite to them with a distinct vegetalness while Chinese green teas still maintain their sweetness. Another note to taste for is smokiness as some styles of Chinese teas are pan fried by hand. 

For Our oolongs and Pu-er, we looked for the difference between a green and dark Ooong. Then tried to find the pu-er by colour alone, and checked it by taste and smell on the back of our spoon. 

Black teas were interesting, I personally mixed up Golden Yunnan and Golden Assam. When I asked Tao how to tell the difference he mentioned about the astringency of an Assam                                  and roundness of the Yunnan.

 Using this last study method helped me feel more at ease for the up coming exam.  I hope these points help anyone else who is going as I like to share information I learn. So if this helps you please share it with other students. This way we all benefit from these experiences.

 The Tea Association of Canada exam guide can be found here for download.

 Suggested books to read:  

   So good luck! I hope this helped out out a little. I would love to know how it goes for everyone. Please e-mail me or comment below!

                  Happy Steeping!


Three years and still going

It has been over three years now that I have been posting to this blog. I still feel like it was yesterday that I got hired by Teaopia to begin this Journey with tea. A lot has happened since then”

  • Joining the Tea Guild and the board
  • Japanese Lessons
  • Japanese Tea Ceremony Lessons
  • Teavana acquiring Teaopia
  • Starbucks buying Teavana
  • Toronto Tea Festival
  • Completing my certification as a Tea Sommelier
  • Starting my Career as a Tea Consultant
“Tea and Tales” Event by The Tea Guild of Canada.
 Image credit to Rita

    You may have noticed the last point. Part way through July I made the decision to peruse my path as a Tea Consultant. I have had this in my mind since I began my Tea Sommelier courses. The dream that I can help out all my tea friends with their shops at once.  When I was approached by Tiffany Picard a few years ago to help her write a piece on Tea Culture in Canada, I was inspired by her. She helps other tea lovers out through her services.    Over the years since I started this blog, I wanted to help every friend I met. I do not want to compete with them, I want to build up our relationship through this type of help. 

     When I left Teavana, I was welcomed by Tao at Tao Tea Leaf. It has been over a month now and I feel that I am part of the team. With Tao’s help I am learning how to be a Tea Consultant. This includes copy writing, social media, public relations, etc.  I feel I will learn much more in the months to come and am very excited that I have this opportunity. 

     I am very thankful of all my friends who have pushed me all these years.On my own I feel I would not have achieved what I have without them. Also having this blog has helped too. I feel I have made friends through all of you. Some of you I have met in person, others are far. I feel that we have overcome this distance and have enjoyed each others company through this wonderful piece of our lives, tea.

Thank you all of my dear friends, may we always enjoy a cup together.

What are you going to be? A Tea Sommelier!…Why?

    Back in October 2011 It had been about a year since I had finished at OCAD U and a year at Teaopia. All of my family over Thanksgiving dinner asked me what I wanted to do now that I had a years experience in the “real world”.
      There are so many movies on people my age trying to find out what they want to do. So, instead of finding something else I stuck with tea. That same fall I had joined The Tea Guild of Canada and felt I had a found a long-lost family. Ian from Majesteas urged me to join the board, and I am still with them today. At Teaopia I continued to meet great people at the store in the financial district here in Toronto. Two regulars even joined the Tea Guild the following year.
        February 2012, My co-worker joined The Tea Guild , she turned to me latter that month and proposed we take classes together. Not just any classes, but The Tea Sommelier Program. I had been advised to take them for over a year before but did not know how to go about it.  So I learned how to and began to strengthen my knowledge of tea.After the first class she found she had to move her focus on work and I kept on going with the classes. I even started taking Japanese Tea Ceremony classes during that year.  I let my family know my new focus was to become certified and keep working with tea. At the time it was with Teavana, where I learned how to manage and teach the great staff we had at our stores.
      Fast forwarding to now, I have finished my certification. I am still hearing these questions from family and friends.

What does it mean to “be a Tea Sommelier”?

             In response to this I created the video below to help  you out. Feel free to comment or e-mail me any questions you may have (ps. My website is now up, you can find my e-mail in the contact section at ). I absolutely love questions so at anytime you want a question answered, send it my way, Thank you all.

Shout out to Ian at Majesteas, Tao at Tao Tea Leaf, Carol Savage and the rest of the Tea Guild. I would not be who I am today without you. Thank you so much for supporting me and I hope we can continue to support each other in the future.

Toronto Tea Festival!

   My good friend Tao of Tao Tea Leaf, has been eagerly pursuing the creation of Toronto’s own Tea Festival.  After a lot of research its happening~
  All the information is at the website (click the logo above). It will  be February 2nd 2013 at the Toronto Reference Library’s Appel Salon (2nd floor). The day will consists of speakers, demos and of course all of the exhibitors. Shop for all your favourite teawares, teas, and related products – this is the perfect opportunity to shop for your Valentine (hint hint).
       Together with help of the team that consists of sponsors and members of the Tea Guild of Canada, this is sure to be an event you DON’T want to miss.  Best part is that if you sign up before the new year you save $5 off your ticket! Great Christmas gift to give to your love ones who also love tea. Get one for your self you know you deserve it, see you all there!

              Here are the speakers that we have so far!

Michelle Pierce Hamilton

Michelle Pierce Hamilton is a Nutritionist, Certified Tea Sommelier, and Healing Arts Practitioner/Teacher. These combined philosophies and disciplines are the spirit behind “beTeas”, Michelle’s unique online tea store where exceptional teas and tea experiences now come alive in London, Ontario.

Michelle also teaches the Canadian Tea Sommelier Certification program now offered at Fanshawe College in conjunction with the Tea Association of Canada. A long-time industry professional in project management, Michelle also continues to work part-time as a Project Management Consultant and Educator for London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

Passionate about tea and health, Michelle believes tea is the world’s healthiest beverage and that it provides doorway to healthier diet and lifestyle.

Gillian Niblett – As founder of “Tea At The White House”, a successful tea room and tea shop in Waterdown, Ontario and current owner of “Niblett and Wiggins – Purveyors of High Tea” in Oakville, Ontario, Gillian Niblett has an extensive background in the world of tea

Gillian is a qualified Tea Specialist, certified by the Specialty Tea Institute of the USA, and an accomplished speaker often called upon to share her expertise about tea at corporate events and educational seminars.

Gillian is looking forward to attending the Toronto Tea Festival where she will share her knowledge of tea gleaned through her education, her business experience, and her travels to the tea gardens of India and China.

Tao Wu – A Certified Canadian Tea Sommelier, is the creator and founder of the Toronto Tea Festival.Tao Wu is a second-generation tea exporter.Raised in the Wu Yi Shan area of Fujian, China, a region known for its oolong and black teas, Tao uses his background and experience to continue the rich history of Chinese tea culture.

Founded in 2009 by Tao Wu, Tao Tea Leaf (934 Yonge St.) is an award-winning, full-service tea store located in Toronto’s fashionable Yorkville area. Best known for it’s extensive loose Chinese tea selection, Tao Tea Leaf also offers a variety of loose teas from Japan, India, South America and Africa, as well as an extensive line of USDA-certified organic loose teas. Tao Tea Leaf hosts regular tea workshops for beginners and experienced tea drinkers, conduct traditional Chinese style tea ceremonies and offer an Annual Tea Tour to China.

Bill Kamula – Tea Sommelier professor, Created the tea appreciation certificate at George Brown College, Tea Guild Co-Chair/George Brown College Tea Sommelier program instructor.

   **Speaker information directly sourced from Festival website November 28th, 2012.**

How tea effects art for me – 2 Year Anniversary for Tea Journey!

For my TWO year anniversary post I decided to put together a little montage to visually show my growth with Tea since I began consuming tea regularly. To do this I used my own art work as they both grew together over these years. Please enjoy~

First step towards my ink style. 
ukiyo-e  with screen printing  ( Abe no Seimei 2008)
Drinking tea regularly and learning new styles around this time. Stopped drinking coffee due to a seizure around Thanksgiving
One of the few first works I have done in ink  at OCAD U  ( Dream or reality 2009)
Regularly looking for new teas in Toronto and regular customer for Davids Tea.
Began to learn other methods of painting with sumi-e ink.
Bought Matcha for the first time and used a fork. Soon after
purchased a chasen to prepare it right. (Fetus Fear 2009)

Purchased first Yixing from Tao Tea leaf. Bought first porcelain gong fu set and a glass gaiwan. Began to understand more about Oolongs and a little about Puerh. Finally moving FAR away from Japanese sencha and genmaicha! Utilized old watercolour skills with Sumi-e, encouraged by thesis professors to  be bolder and less controlling with future work.( Hold 2010, Thesis at OCAD U
Utilized tea in a work for the first time. Visited Majestes regularly for quality teas. And learned of
the Tea Guild of Canada. Joined Summer 2011!
Attained another Yixing from Majesteas. Working for Teaopia for
over a year! Attained more yixings from work. Began tea antique collection
and began to read The Way of Tea. My second tea book after a tea handbook!
Began to work slowly towards the direction I was told to go by professors. Been graduated for over a year.
Started to take Japanese lessons!
(Lace 2011)
Became a Public Relations rep for The Tea Guild of Canada.  Now has too many teas, extensive knowledge
byond what I need for work. Helps out with “World in Your Tea Cup” Event! Great fun.
Now has too much tea ware (no such thing!) and too much tea (blasphemy!).
Began to experiment more with “tea” as tone. (Hair 2011)
Brings tea where ever I go practically! Creating many entries on tea to Tea Journey!
Reviewed Do Matcha! Made more tea friends at the Guild, two I knew from work. Encouraged a co-worker to join Guild!
Began Tea Sommelier classes, been taking Chanoyu classes when able (I love to learn!). Working on promotional materials for the Guild!
Me working in the back in a Sumi-e workshop at the JCCC in March  2012
Tried some amazing teas at Majesteas and Tao Tea Leaf for Spring!
Learning more about processing of teas in the process outside of class. Been
 supporting The Global Tea Hut since February! Enjoying the large selection of spring teas
 and refined taste of my pickings~ My chop for new work, It says ” Guren” Crimson Lotus.
I will have it by next week! I picked these characters as my hair is red and the lotus symbolizes
 growth for me. Growing out of the mud and into the world as a flower.
Been with Teaopia for 2 years (June 10th 2012) and have had Tea Journey for
just as long. Now I work for Teavana, and hope to grow some more as a 
茶 人 (Tea person), Artist and as an individual in
general.  I truely hope to meet more wonderful tea people and have long lasting
 friendships (Tiffany, Grace, Kingkoh,
Brooke  etc <3 Love you all!) I will be meeting with the Guild
board this summer to plan out fall meetings. I can not wait to get things rolling~
  I am on my second tea class
and I am having one more before I start my super summer. After that third class I am
 about half way done the program.
Certification exam to follow there after and my N5 exam for Japanese Proficiency as well!
“Sheng Nong” in progress for 2012!