World Tea Academy’s original director, Donna Fellman, plans to retire in December. Fellman leaves a legacy of top-notch online tea education that continues to grow in content and attendance. Lisa Boalt Richardson, who was brought on as the Online Assistant Manager in 2018, became the Director in July and is proud to continue to carry out the academy’s mission.
History of the WorldTea Academy
In the early 1990s, Fellman saw a need for comprehensive teaeducation, “Learning about tea was very challenging,” said Fellman. At thattime, there were two books that tea professionals and enthusiasts couldreference for information about tea: AllAbout Tea by William Ukers (originally published in 1935) and James NorwoodPratt’s book, The Tea Lover’s Treasury,(originally published in 1982). However, there were a lot of people interestedin learning about tea who turned to others in the industry for guidance.
In light of the lack of formal tea education, a lot of teaprofessionals had a vision for tea education—both for people who wanted to workin the industry and for the public at large. Such education would further developthe specialty tea industry as a whole, said Fellman. “World Tea Academy grewout of and was supported by so many people in the industry who saw the need fortea education, and that coincided with the information age revolution of onlineeducation,” said Fellman. Additionally, attendance in classroom-based teaeducation courses, which once drew large numbers, was dropping.
In 2012, George Jage, the former president and owner ofWorld Tea Media, approached Fellman to create the curriculum for an online teaacademy for educating tea professionals. In 2013, Fellman assembled an advisoryboard of tea industry leaders and with their input created the curriculum forWorld Tea Academy’s core classes, which are: Essentials of Camellia Sinensis,Tea Enhancements and Grading Systems, Tea Terroir Part 1 – China, Korea, Japan,Taiwan, Tea Terroir Part 2 – India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, The Infusion, and BeyondCamellia Sinensis. “I wanted to offer all of the classes that I wish I couldhave taken when I was learning about tea,” Fellman said. She could see thepotential of what tea education could be and what could be offered given theresources in the industry and based on her previous experiences as a tea housemanager.
Advanced classes have since been written by highly regardedtea industry professionals who shared their experiences. The most recent courseadditions have been added in response to public demand, such as the Art ofFlavoring, Blending, Scenting Tea.
“A lot of the information that we have in the advancedclasses is not available in other places,” said Fellman. “The breadth and depthof information is not easily available through online sources.” No otherinstitution offers the variety of tea industry-informed courses in theconvenience of an online platform.
World Tea Academy’s courses can be accessed from anywhere inthe world. To date, students from more than 50 countries have taken World TeaAcademy courses. “The international response has been tremendous,” Fellmansaid. She and Boalt Richardson look forward to continued international growth.
The World Tea Academy supports the tea industry andencourages its growth by educating tea industry professionals and consumers.Boalt Richardson said, “If people have no background in tea, then tea coursesare essential,” and added in some cases consumers could know more thanproprietors, which is not a good position for a proprietor. Furthermore, consumershave access to information that is not necessarily factual, so it is importantfor tea professionals to know how to discern fact from fiction and pass oncorrect information to customers.
Passing the Torch tothe New Director
Fellman was happy to appoint Boalt Richardson as the newWorld Tea Academy Director. Fellman chose Boalt Richardson because of herknowledge, her background as an author and consultant to fortune 500 companiesin product development, and her experience as a World Tea Academy substituteteacher. “I knew she was a good instructor, I had taught classes with herbefore,” said Fellman, adding that Boalt Richardson is the perfect person togrow the academy.
“I’m honored to be the Director and I hope that myleadership will carry forward the legacy that visionaries created,” said BoaltRichardson.