I have to say that Level 4 is not for tea wimps! A lot of work has gone into putting this level together from professionals all over the world. The first class I took was Advanced Cupping and Sensory Evaluation-Cupping for Defective Teas. It was a day full of cupping really bad teas and I was actually excited about it! After reading through the manual prior to the class, I was hoping that we were going to be able to taste "what went wrong" and we did! What amazed me during this class is how many things can go wrong in making tea. It really takes skill to take leaves and turn them into such a great tasting beverage.
Each step in the process of making tea is so important. The skill of the tea workers, estate manager, and tea master is incredible. From the time the leaf is plucked, the skill of the worker must be engaged to make tea. From withering, to oxidation, to firing, and all the way to packing the teas, special attention must be taken to ensure the tea is properly taken care of. I guess I am really a "tea geek" to be excited to taste defective teas but it is important to know what has gone wrong and to detect that with your palate.
The next Level 4 class I took in Charleston was The Technology of Tea. It was time to get down and dirty in tea study with this class. Basically it is the science of the tea leaf and what happens to it biologically and chemically while it is going through the process of becoming tea. For me, this class put together all that I have learned about tea. Although I found the class challenging to say the least, it was great to understand the process from that level. I started studying the manual in early July and kept studying a little at a time all summer long.
The class was jam-packed full of information. I was a Business Administration/Marketing major in college, so all of this science was a big stretch for me. I hadn't had a science class for over 25 years-yikes! However because I LOVE tea, it made the information very fascinating.
We learned the science of the stages of Processing:
- Withering-the chemical and physical process
- Cell disruption during leaf maceration
- All about Polyphenols
- Understanding different types of Browning
- Science of the Oxidation Process
- Applying Heat-Firing and Baking
- Sorting and Grading the Finished Leaf
Then it was exam time, we all had to pass the test with an 80% or greater in order to get credit for the class. I am very happy to report that I got a 100%!!!! Passing the class was very exciting to me, but the most exciting part truly was learning the material. This night ended with dinner out in Charleston with many of my tea friends. I am honored to be a part of such a wonderful group of tea professionals and to serve on the Education Committee.
What do you appreciate about tea? After taking these classes, my respect for tea workers all over the world has increased tremendously. I now have a new appreciation and love of the tea that I so enjoy everyday.
Happy Sipping and Learning, Lisa