Quite the time, we (International Tea Academy-ITA) represented the United States Tea Master Association (ITMA) to hold the ITMA Certification training for all students in Doi Maesalong, a quiet village nestled deep into the northern mountains of Thailand.
We had students from all over the world, including Hong Kong, Thailand, Sweden, and Holland. Everyone was serious about tea and got right into the course material.
The first day we had class inside a giant teapot classroom. Shana prepared an excellent presentation on the analyzation of the world of tea producing countries as well as the current state of tea exporting countries. We also discussed why we chose this special place in Thailand as the location for our tea school.
The second day we led a tea evaluations course. Each student got to really see inside the international standard evaluation process. Each student really got to see how to spot-check their teas before purchasing, how to spot fakes and more. The students were armed with the kind of knowledge that could save them thousands of dollars of purchasing tea the wrong way, now they know the right way to evaluate teas.
Afterwards we did a beautiful, one-of-a-kind tea blending course. After being taught the techniques the students got to have a hands on experience and blend their own teas. We taught them how tea blending is used in the tea business, tricks companies use and how to avoid being scammed by cheap teas in your blends.
After that the third day we went to visit Lao Er’s organic tea plantation to get a first hand perspective on how he made tasty teas like Ruanzi Oolong, black teas and more. Later in the afternoon we visited Tea Factory 101 to see how this modern tea factory operated. It was quite eye opening not only for the students but also Shana and I as we saw a different method of production than we have seen in China. They had much larger dehydrators than we have ever seen. These dehydrators are likely used in Taiwan though. The factory was clean and modern. Afterwards we had a nice tea tasting and even got to taste some fresh teas right out of the dryer. It was an amazing “fermented green tea” as they called it. Later we went back to the school to evaluate and study puer teas, oolong teas and more. Everyone seemed to love the tastings.
On the fourth day (my favorite) we went to the Wawee Wild and Ancient Tea Tree tea forest. It was incredible to see these beautiful tea trees growing large and tall in a biodiversity environment. I never knew Thailand had such exotic tea trees. The tea trees were very old and they told us there were trees up to 1000+ years old. Afterwards we took the students to a puer factory so they could feel what it was like to hand press their own puer in an artisan factory. We educated the students in correct processing methods that factories should use and how to tell if they are using the proper processing methods. Even our most experienced students were grateful for these new skills learned.
Check out these wild and ancient tea trees below (the whole mountainside was like this):
We even taught students how to check if the tea farmers are picking the leaves the right way. It came as a surprise even to the tea farmer as Shana pointed out how he could pick the tea leaves more efficiently and with more care so as not to damage the ancient tea trees.
We taught the students the deeper intricacies of the tea world and tea business. We led an active discussion on the current state of the tea industry and the future of the tea industry. It was an exciting topic for everyone. We had 5 students who have been doing the tea business for over 20 years, some of them dealing with very large tea companies and after completing this course they said they are much more clear on how to adapt their companies to the future of the tea business and build their tea business in a more sustainable way. One very interesting student of ours is starting her own tea plantation and we are proud because after taking our course she realized the importance of creating a sustainable tea plantation, one that is biodoverse and will reap her positive profits for generations to come while at the same time doing something positive for the earth and the future of tea!
ps. Check out this tantalizing Oolong stir fry (below) we had made with fresh tea leaves.
Right now, all in all it was the best tea course we have conducted yet and we are even more excited about the next one, which will include a special tea hunting trip to the ancient tea tree forests of Yunnan in China.
Don’t forget the next date of our ITA Certified Tea Sommelier Training.
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