The Niagara region of Canada is a perfect place to run a course for those looking to expand their palate. We couldn’t be happier to have our Tea Sommelier® Certification Program offered at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute at Niagara College.
With the Fall Term nearly here we wanted to speak with Kristina Inman, who will be the instructor for the upcoming session of TEA 101: Introduction to Tea (register for the Sept 11- Oct 2 class here) and TEA 102: Regions of the World.
Why do you think it is important for the Canadian Food & Wine Institute to have the Tea Sommelier® Certification Program?
It’s a wonderful time to be expanding on all things sensory at the college. We already have well established wine and culinary programs and have an unrivalled beer program – tea is a natural progression for us.
You’re not just a Certified TAC Tea Sommelier® Professional, but a CAPS sommelier. How do the two fit together for you?
I’m a wine industry veteran. I became a CAPS sommelier in 2008 and worked with wine in restaurants, wineries and most recently in education at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College. But once you start talking terroir and tannins, the two worlds are not far apart.
What is your earliest memory of tea?
Growing up in a family of self-declared coffee aficionados, my mother introduced me to tea when I was sixteen while on a trip to London. She took me to department store, Liberty and said, “Kristina, if you’re going to try tea for the first time, this is the way to do it.” Boy was she ever right. I had an English Breakfast tea.
As a student, what was your favourite Tea Sommelier® course?
TEA 106: Preparation, Consumption & Health. I loved learning about different cultural practices for tea preparation and consumption. Sipping tea while having a spoonful of jam in your mouth (the Russian way)?! I mean, learning doesn’t get any better than this.
If you could only drink two teas for the rest of your life, what would they be
My daily go-to teas are Jasmine Green pearls and Earl Grey usually with lavender blended in. But, the purist in me always goes back to a lightly oxidized Oolong, such as Tung Ting or a Darjeeling First Flush could carry me through the ages.
Where in the world has tea played a role in your travels?
Send me back to Paris to Mariage Frères in Place de la Madeleine. Whenever I visit the store I get swept away. The choices are extraordinary and the staff is well educated so it’s a delight to shop there. Another memorable experience is visiting Gamla Stan (the “old town”) in Stockholm. The Swedes take their daily fika (the Swedish coffee break) where you can find tea blended with local Nordic berries and cardamom-scented buns.
In what capacity are you currently working in the tea industry?
I’ve worked with my colleagues at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute at Niagara College to launch the Tea Sommelier® Certification Program. We are weaving in the program through our new division, Expert Edge, all in the heart of Ontario’s food & beverage scene.
What role did the Tea Sommelier® certification play in your career at the college?
As I mentioned, it’s a natural progression for us here at the college when we’re already focusing on wine, beer, food, and soon, distillation. Now we are looking to offer tea experiences with our newest division, Expert Edge, in addition to offering the tea program. We also have our restaurant Benchmark, that has a loose leaf tea program and I work with them on staff training and further developing their tea experience.
What are some of the highlights and challenges presented with working in the tea industry today?
Most of us can probably relate to this, which is in my opinion, simply getting the word out there. Tea is on trend, certainly, but we are still the underdog to so many other beverages. It is going to take a lot more hard work and persistent attitudes to propel us forward. I really feel strongly that we need more education on tea, which is largely why I’m in the field that I’m in. I teach a wide range of students, from future brewmasters to hospitality majors and there is a huge opportunity for these students to look at tea in a new light and use it to their advantage. Most of them come out of my class saying, “Wow, I had no idea that tea was so interesting and so diverse!”.
What current trends in the tea industry excite you the most?
It’s exciting that tea itself is on trend! It’s no longer “your Granny’s drink”. I’m quite excited about using tea in other realms. Tea & mixology is something I think we’ll see more of, and tea & brewing has a lot of potential. One of my former brewmaster students made an Earl Grey Milk Stout for example, and that was fantastic. I bake a lot at home, and often incorporate tea into my baking. I’m even teaching my four year old the recipes, and that’s what’s inspiring as well. Tea can truly reach all ages, and that opens up its realm of possibility.