Truly, most of my life I never thought much about tea. That is, until one evening when I happened to Google “tea master” and this amazing world came to light. Right then and there, I decided to make the pursuit of tea not only a career, but a lifestyle. I spent the last few years learning anything and everything I could about tea. I sought and met with specialists in the field, people who owned tea businesses and plantations, authors and teachers, and tea aficionados of varying degrees. I went to countless tastings, classes—group, private, and online—to learn about tea and its history. I traveled to shows, expos and eventually to China to experience their tea culture. Perhaps it was because of all this that I began to feel a growing restlessness. I was opening a tea company soon and although I had acquired a decent understanding of tea, something was missing.
At the Institute of Masters of Tea Arts I found the guidance and training I was searching for.
Tea is fluid in the sense that it continues its flow and ebb through history. Like waves, new trends and methodologies can come crashing through, changing the tea landscape; for those ready to be enlightened, just as an incoming tide can bring treasures from the deep, so can tea reveal its beautiful mysteries.
There is a plethora of tea information readily available out there; some very good and some, unfortunately, not quite accurate. I was at a point where I needed direction and a foundation from which everything I understood about tea would stem. I was looking for a mentor. I wanted to study with a master.
When the student is ready, the master will come…..
Bill Lee once told me, “When the student is ready, the master will come.”
At the Institute of Masters of Tea Arts I found the guidance and training I was searching for. Spending a few days under Bill’s tutelage was central in raising my consciousness and appreciation of tea.
Bill took me back to the beginning, when tea was first discovered, to explore China’s rich tea history, to understand the influence of Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism, and learn about traditions and rituals still practiced today. We prepared via gong fu cha, experienced, and discussed some of the finest teas and their methods of processing. This class helped me considerably in developing my tea palate, which is absolutely essential for owning a tea company.
Earning my certification has given me confidence and credibility, enriching my professional and personal life.
The tea master sets the tone and energy for the service, meeting or class. As a student, physically sitting across from Bill and clearly observing every nuance in movement was so helpful. My untrained ear could listen to the sound of the water boiling in the kettle, see the bubbles and note when it was time to use the water; I could sample the very infusion that Bill prepared and we would go over its properties knowing we were talking about and tasting the same cup of tea. In a reciprocal fashion, he could also observe how I was doing and provide immediate feedback. The simple act of reaching across the table to adjust my hold on an Yixing tea pot or to comment on the liquor in my cup was invaluable.
As the owner of Napoleona Tea Company, my mission is to seek and offer beautiful teas. With a tea master’s training, it heightens the journey. From tea selection, understanding my target market, teaching, and building relationships with my customers and contacts, earning my certification has given me confidence and credibility, enriching my professional and personal life.
After completing the Certified Tea Master program with IMTA, it amazed me how the bits and pieces of knowledge I had of tea all fell into place– like a timeline. I now had a solid foundation for moving forward. It taught me to value different teas and tea-drinking cultures; to understand and see opportunities in areas where tea may be appreciated but not necessarily as a connoisseur’s art. I do believe that while a tea master never stops learning it is paramount that he or she shares the knowledge, The Way… the art of tea.
Thresa Griffin is a Certified Tea Master of The Institute of Masters of Tea Arts and owner of Napoleona Tea Company, an online retailer of specialty teas, tea ware, and tea education.