World Tea Academy (WTA) – the leading online tea education and certification program from the organizers of the World Tea Expo Conference + Expo and the World Tea Virtual Summit – reached a major milestone of officially educating more than 1,000 students.
Lisa Richardson, director of World Tea Academy, part of Questex, said, “The growth of World Tea Academy has been fantastic over the years… It is not only exciting that we have now educated over 1,000 students, but what is also thrilling is how far the reach is for our students. We have students from all over the world, including 61 countries and six continents.”
According to Richardson, World Tea Academy started offering classes in 2013, beginning with just Core classes and the lower-level Certified Tea Specialist certification, which was comprised of six Core classes and one Advance class. Since then, the program has evolved into 16 Advanced classes and five higher-level certifications, including: Certified Tea Sommelier, Certified Tea Health Expert, Certified Tea Professional, Certified Tea Blender and their newest Certified Tea Aroma Expert.
Why is World Tea Academy such a successful program? Richardson said there are many places where people can find out the basics about tea – such as books, blogs and even online videos. However, that type of education is not structured.
“World Tea Academy is a structured way of learning so that the concepts build on one another,” explained Richardson. “What makes our program standout from all the rest is the Advanced classes we offer that are not available anywhere else. The classes were written by industry experts in their area of expertise. These luminaries have years of experience in the tea industry and have made an investment in the industry by supporting and sharing their expertise with us. They collectively wanted to raise the bar for the tea industry overall, by writing the curriculum to support future tea professionals. We are grateful for their contribution to our written program and grateful for all of our Strategic Technical Advisors that we can reach out to when needed.”
Learning to Experience Teas & Tisanes in a More Meaningful Way
Beth Burgess, director of personali(teas) at Swallowtail Tea, a Red Rooster Coffee Company in Floyd, Va., believes that World Tea Academy is one of the best things that happened to her in 2020. “I’m an avid learner, new to tea, and I’m actually our company's Human Resources director,” said Burgess. “Right before we knew that we would find ourselves in a global pandemic, our company's tea director departed for other opportunities, and I was interested in helping keep our brand alive. So, I enrolled in World Tea Academy just to try out the first class… and I loved it. Not only was I challenged by the course academically, but I also found excitement in what I was learning about myself and Camellia sinensis – and other botanicals – through somatic experiences of taste and smell. Just as with Alice going down the proverbial rabbit hole and exploring wonderland, I feel my experience with progressing through the certification was equally an adventure of unlearning things I thought I knew.”
Burgess noted that at the end of World Tea Academy she felt like she learned a tremendous amount, but she also learned how much she didn’t know about the plant, cultures and ceremonies surrounding tea preparation and tea drinking. “The World Tea Academy and its courses outlined for the Tea Specialist certification gave me something positive to focus on that wasn't centered around COVID-19 – a nice departure from the other half of my job – and it gave me a creative way to reach out and connect with my science-minded and foodie-type friends,” she said. “I also feel more secure in my newfound role in keeping Swallowtail Tea going, and I love helping people who are new to tea – like me – explore their palates, find their flavors, and experience teas and tisanes in a more meaningful way.”
From Academy to Farm to Blending Tea
For Joan Atchison, a retired registered nurse in Minneapolis, Minn. and a soon-to-be farmer and tea blender in Berryton, Kan., the academy benefited her in an important way – a new career. “I had a career in healthcare, but I have been a fan of tea and all of its rituals and accoutrements since I was a young girl,” she shared. “I am too young to be retired, at least in my mind, so I decided that I wanted to focus on a second career, in tea this time, but I was not exactly sure what that was going to entail. So, typical for me, I hit the books and, in this case, that included the online program of WTA.”
Atchison said World Tea Academy is a wonderful blend of didactic and hands-on courses with guidance and feedback from the expert WTA instructors. “Every course builds on its previous courses, and every course encouraged me to find my direction,” she said. “The courses were timely, as I needed to dive further into the history and nuances of teas, as well as to set my course for my new quest in life. Courses that focused on formulating blends, tea and health, advanced botanicals, aromas of tea, and especially quality systems for product management, have helped me focus on my plan. I recently purchased land in Kansas, and plan to grow elderberries, herbs and flowers to blend my own teas. So, with the assistance of the WTA, I have decided to grow up to be a farmer and tea blender, and I cannot wait for the snow to melt so that I can experience the terroir, and begin my new journey.”
Using Academy Knowledge to Get Through the Pandemic
Emily Cassady – who lives in Dallas, Texas and is a co-owner at Societea Bakery – finished the Tea Sommelier program and learned many valuable lessons that were applicable to her business. “Before World Tea Academy, I enjoyed a cup of tea,” she said, “but I didn't really know much about that cup of tea. I had no idea where the tea originated from or even the differences between which teas I was tasting.”
Cassady explained that she originally took her first class at the academy to learn how to make the perfect cup of tea. “I quickly learned that that quest is really more of a life-long ideal, and it really depends on so many factors,” she revealed. “So, that class led to another class... and I'm sure you can guess the pattern that continued for a good long time.”
While Cassady found a lot of enjoyment in her quest for knowledge with the academy, it’s that tea knowledge that helped her bakery business during the pandemic. “Right before the pandemic hit hard last February, I partnered with a local bakery to start an afternoon tea service and we started our own company,” said Cassady. “My partner brought her special recipes, and I brought my tea knowledge. As you know, things took a turn and we had to pivot. We decided to take our idea and package our afternoon tea to go.”
Cassady noted that as result of her World Tea Academy education, she feels confident in knowing which tea to match with which flavor profile, to know where to source that tea, and to be able to talk with people and customers about tea confidently.
The Wonderful, Flavorful World of Tea
Panagiotis (Panos) Bagatzounis, co-owner and vice president of Bagatzounis Spices and Beverages SA, recently completed World Tea Academy’s Certified Tea Specialist program. Based in Kozani, West Macedonia, a highland region in Greece in the shadow of Mount Olympus, Bagatzounis oversees his company’s purchase department, as well as the R&D department for the company’s own label of teas, El Greco Natural Herbs & Teas.
“Each year our company is participating in food exhibitions, both domestic and international, and exporting our products across four continents,” explained Bagatzounis. “Since the early years, our company has been researching and developing products, based on international tea assortments, as well as rare Greek aromatic herbs like Greek Mountain Tea. Based on this targeting, I took the chance to study and improve my knowledge on tea varieties, terroir and production methods. This path led me to the World Tea Academy courses and their comprehensive professional training programs.”
Bagatzounis said the academy was a chance for him to take a “holistic professional approach” to knowledge on all matters of tea. “Since I started acquiring my knowledge and education with World Tea Academy, my understanding and know-how regarding tea has bloomed. That benefited my workflow, research and our company’s final products. But the struggle for perfection doesn’t stop there. Just like there is no perfect tea, research and tasting is an eternal process for me. Each year, each batch, each product should better than the last. Each lesson takes us one step further to the wonderful, flavorful world of tea.”
According to Richardson, World Tea Academy director, it’s vital for students like Bagatzounis in Greece to gain tea knowledge. “Being an expert in tea is crucial to having a tea business in my opinion,” she said. “There is a lot of misinformation out in the marketplace, so being able to discern what is accurate and what is not is part of being an authority. The customer should not know more than the tea professional. This is where proper tea education comes into play.”
To learn more about World Tea Academy and its online classes, visit WorldTeaAcademy.com. The academy will also have an in-person graduation ceremony for students at the upcoming World Tea Conference + Expo in July 2021. In addition, the program is preparing an exciting to-be-announced program that they hope to launch around the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022.