Inside the Tea Industry with Sharyn Johnston: What is a Tea Sommelier?

inside the tea industry with sharyn johnston

Did you miss the first installment of our new monthly World Tea News column: Inside the Tea Industry with Sharyn Johnston? Read it here!


Like a wine sommelier, a tea sommelier is a trained professional with expertise in all facets of tea service. A tea sommelier has in-depth knowledge of all types of tea ranging from delicate whites to robust blacks but also excels in the art of brewing each different variety to bring out the best in flavor and aroma.

tea sommelier
Tea and food pairing.

For many, the journey into this field often starts with a simple passion for tea. However, being a tea sommelier entails more than enjoying tea; it involves delving into the historical intricacies surrounding tea.

It can be an enriching career choice for those fascinated by both history and culinary arts. It appeals to those who appreciate attention to detail and sensory experiences. With the evolving landscape of tea trends and blends, there is always something to learn, making it a rewarding and dynamic career path.

Engaging in creating experiences for customers through crafting tea menus or hosting workshops and tastings is particularly fulfilling for those who have a passion for teaching and sharing their love for tea with others.

The possibilities for employment as a tea sommelier are vast.

Many individuals secure positions at good restaurants and hotels enriching the dining experience by pairing teas with the menu or just creating a tea menu. Some opt to work in specialty tea stores where they can engage directly with customers and provide education.

Many luxury cruise ships, resorts, and even corporate events are increasingly incorporating tea services, creating job opportunities.

Apart from service roles, tea sommeliers can also thrive in positions such as purchasing teas for companies advising on tearoom start-ups or teaching at schools.

In a cafe setting, a tea sommelier plays a role in developing a menu that reflects the establishments’ identity and caters to customer preferences. This entails choosing an assortment of teas that encompass different types—from black and green teas to more unique selections like white and oolongs.

The process of selecting teas also considers factors like where the teas come from, their quality, price, and the flavors they offer.

Many specialty coffee roasters are realizing how important it is now to not just look after the coffee lover, but to also look after the tea lover with a specially selected tea menu. Tea sommeliers are a great asset to a bar as they can be very creative and the opportunities to use tea are endless.

Tea descriptions on the menu are crucial as they give insights into where the tea is from, even the tea farmer and the farm location. This not only educates customers, but also enhances the customer tea experience.

A skilled tea sommelier also considers changes in seasons when planning a tea menu by introducing teas that suit times of the year. For example, a spring menu might include light teas while a winter menu may have robust spiced options to warm up the taste buds.

tea cocktails
Tea sommeliers are a great asset to a bar as they can be very creative and the opportunities to use tea are endless.

Creating menus for holidays or local events can be exciting for customers and help celebrate community traditions by showing how adaptable and innovative the tea sommelier can be.

It doesn’t just stop at tea for a tea sommelier—botanicals and chais are also important, so this is another area which can be studied and the knowledge shared.

Lastly, an important aspect of developing a tea menu is training cafe staff members. A tea sommelier ensures that servers know about each kind of tea—their brewing times, temperatures required, and the stories associated with them.

The knowledge helps staff explain all the nuances of the menu to customers so that their tea experience is both genuine and enlightening.

The tea sommelier will also be able to share different alternate brewing methods for the selected teas.

World Tea Expo, which is an exciting event held once a year in Las Vegas, offers the chance for people to learn about tea, experience teas from all over the world, and meet tea professionals and other members of the global tea community. Self-paced tea sommelier courses are also available online at World Tea Academy


Sharyn Johnston is an international tea educator and the CEO/founder of Australian Tea Masters, a leading organization for global tea training and tea education. Johnston also launched the first tea expo in Australia, the Australian International Tea Expo. At the same time, the Golden Leaf Awards were launched, the only international tea competition in Australia. 
Australian Tea Masters has also partnered with Questex to expand the World Tea Academy education hub through operational management and the introduction of expanded choices of classes and educational opportunities for tea professionals.


Plan to Attend or Participate in World Tea Expo, March 24-26, 2025

To learn about other key developments, trends, issues, hot topics and products within the global tea community, plan to attend World Tea Expo, March 24-26, 2025 in Las Vegas, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit

To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at the World Tea Conference + Expo, or to inquire about advertising and sponsorship opportunities at World Tea News, contact:

Ellainy Karaboitis-Christopoulos, Business Development Manager, Questex

Phone: +1-212-895-8493; Email: [email protected]

Also, be sure to stay connected with World Tea Expo on social media for details and insights about the event. Follow us on XFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.