WTA Graduates 2021: ‘The Study of Tea Is Truly an All-encompassing Journey’

Lori McCalligan of Brookfield, Wis. is just one of 93 recent World Tea Academy (WTA) graduates who collectively earned a total of 148 certifications. 

McCalligan – who’s planning on opening up her own tea shop in the future – actually earned all six certifications that the academy offers, including Certified Tea Specialist, Certified Tea Professional, Certified Tea Sommelier, Certified Tea Health Expert, Certified Tea Blender and Certified Tea Aroma Expert.

Lori McCalligan World Tea Academy
(Photo: Courtesy of Lori McCalligan )

“I chose World Tea Academy for my tea education for a few reasons,” shares McCalligan. “I like the online aspect of it. No travel for any part of it. Some of the other [educational] options were interesting and even less expensive, but they seemed to be less comprehensive.”

Dreaming of Opening a Family-run Tea Shop

Growing up with six siblings, McCalligan has wonderful memories of pulling out her older sister’s tiny tea set to have “tea time” of sorts. “It was really just sugar water,” she recalls, “but we would be taught how to treat each other with respect and dignity. I loved the good social vibes of ‘tea time,’ even though it was very rare. Later, some years ago, I had a sudden dream of opening a teahouse with my family. I knew that it would be a nightmare because my family [sisters] and I really only get along together from afar. But the dream kept with me and I talked of it a lot. Friends and even family encouraged me. My hubby also encouraged me because he – unbeknownst to me – always wanted a restaurant. He is a great cook and baker. It was when our oldest granddaughter told me she wanted to be a part of the dream and signed up for a culinary arts degree that things got serious. We researched tea education opportunities.”

McCalligan says that buying and reading tea books was taking too long for her tea education, so she chose World Tea Academy to pursue her dreams. The academy is the leading online tea education and certification program from Questex, the organizers the World Tea Expo Conference + Expo and World Tea News.

“One of the unexpected benefits of World Tea Academy is the fact that many of the students are from around the world,” notes McCalligan. “The interactions in the classroom gave me greater insight into the variety of the ways tea is celebrated. The benefit of WTA over reading every book ever written on the subject of tea is that each class goes in depth on one aspect. The core classes give a very good overall education but left me hungry for more. In the advanced classes, I appreciated the many different teachers. Experts in their various fields. The videos are also something I couldn’t get from books, but perhaps from many many hours of searching YouTube. I know that I can trust the education I’ve received from WTA because of the many teachers working together.”

McCalligan says that when she tells people she’s certified, they’re impressed. “I chuckle inside because I know that I have so much more to learn. I think the learning will never stop. I know I’ve learned so much because when I am talking to friends and acquaintances about tea I am surprised at just how much I have learned and am able to share.”

McCalligan encourages others to consider World Tea Academy. She believes the teachers are great and the classes are very full of information. “There is so much to learn,” she says. “If you need any help, you can ask questions and the answers come very quickly. The comments on the homework assignments are always helpful, and the students coming from all over the globe makes it even more interesting – it expands the education. WTA is also comprehensive. Just want to know about what exactly you’re drinking? There’s a class for that. Want to start your own business? There are classes for that. History of tea? There are classes for that. Blending? Aromas? There are certifications for those!”

‘Certifications Give my Business Respectability… a Higher Degree of Visibility Than My Competitors’

Patricia Dennison, owner of Palmer Place Fine Teas in Ohio, pursued World Tea Academy certification because she wanted to be certain that the tea education she received came from reputable sources.

Patricia Dennison Palmer Place Fine Teas
(Photo: Courtesy of Patricia Dennison, Palmer Place Fine Teas)

“There is an incredible amount of information regarding tea on the Internet and even from other tea businesses that is inaccurate,” reveals Dennison. “I want to be sure that my customers can trust the information that they receive from me and my business as being truthful and accurate. Furthermore, I know if I cannot answer a customer's question, I have a plethora of sources available to me who will be able to give me educated answers.”

Dennison says she has happy childhood memories of drinking tea with her Scottish grandmother. “Every time I drink a bold Assam – with milk and sugar, of course – it takes me back to my childhood,” she shares. “And as I began to broaden my tea palate as I grew older, I realized that the study of tea is truly an all-encompassing journey – from cupping teas from all over the world, to learning about other cultures, traditions, history, geography, chemistry, biology and the influence that tea has had on entire societies.”

For Dennison, studying with World Tea Academy and becoming certified has been highly beneficial. “As a tea business owner, I can make educated purchasing decisions for my business,” she says. “I can market my business with confidence knowing that the tea education that I am sharing with my customers comes from reputable sources. I’m also able to market myself as a Certified Tea Sommelier and Certified Tea Blender. Those certifications give my business respectability and place my business at a higher degree of visibility than my competitors.”

Patricia Dennison Palmer Place Fine Teas Ohio
(Photo: Courtesy of Patricia Dennison, Palmer Place Fine Teas)

According to Dennison, her World Tea Academy education has not only been beneficial in sourcing and blending tea for her business, but it’s also led to her speaking about tea and hosting tea tastings to groups, including speaking at local libraries, book clubs, senior centers, tea rooms, schools, showers and more. “I also serve as a tea sommelier for a local tea room and was recently mentioned in the article about Sisters Tea Room in this Fall’s issue of TeaTime Magazine.”

If you’re considering enrolling in World Tea Academy and taking the path to certification, Dennison says, “Go For It!”

“When I first started taking classes with WTA, I only intended on completing the Tea Specialist level,” says Dennison. “I found that the more I studied, the more I wanted to learn.  The study of tea is a lifelong journey – there is always something new to learn.”

‘I Wanted to Learn More About the History and Roots of the Tea Leaf’

Anuhya Bhaskara – R&D manager at Florida Food Products (formerly known as Amelia Bay), headquartered in Eustis, Fla. – became a Certified Tea Specialist through World Tea Academy and graduated this year. She’s been working in the tea industry for about 10 years, focused on R&D and creating applications and tea brews, including RTD iced teas, functional blends, ice creams and flavored waters. She decided to enroll in World Tea Academy to deepen her understanding on the chemistry of the tea leaf and it's journey from farm to cup.

Anuhya Bhaskara Florida Food Products
(Photo: Courtesy of Anuhya Bhaskara, Florida Food Products)

“I wanted to learn more about the history and roots of the tea leaf, the culture of tea around the world, and the environmental markers that create nuances in multiple tea varieties,” says Bhaskara. “Being certified gives me confidence while communicating with tea leaf suppliers from various countries and with customers as a SME. Being certified gave me knowledge that I could tap into when communicating with the customers, as well as credibility.”

Bhaskara recommends World Tea Academy and says the program equips each student with the foundational elements of tea – history, tea processing, grade classifications, quality/safety, sensory signatures of each of the tea varietals, cultural heritage, and much more.

“If you have a passion for tea, [World Tea Academy] is the place for you,” says Bhaskara.

Patricia Dennison owner Palmer Place Fine Teas
(Photo: Courtesy of Patricia Dennison, Palmer Place Fine Teas )


World Tea News congratulates all of the 93 graduates from 2021 who earned a total of 148 certifications (23 of World Tea Academy’s students earned more than one certification).

Breakdown of Certifications:

-Certified Tea Specialist: 73

-Certified Tea Professional: 16

-Certified Tea Sommelier: 21

-Certified Tea Health Expert: 16

-Certified Tea Blender: 15

-Certified Tea Aroma Expert: 7

For more information on World Tea Academy, its certification programs and class schedule, visit WorldTeaAcademy.com.