September 16, 2014
These are really great news for everybody thinking about taking tea courses on any level: the renowned and highly reputed International Tea Masters Association has set the stage for the opening of Thailand’s first Tea Mastery School at – guess where – Doi Mae Salong, of course. Could there be a better place for taking tea courses? Most probably not! Not only does Doi Mae Salong, a Chinese enclave in the northern Thai mountains founded during the 1950s by remnants of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang army, with the hills around town all covered with tea gardens and the town itself crowed with tea factories and tea shops, offer a fully authentic setting of Chinese-style tea production and trade, making it the ideal venue for tea mastery courses, the location also adds all the benefits of a holiday in the “Land of Smiles”, featuring an all year round warm and soothing climate enriched by the fresh air of the northern Thai mountains, their stunning landscapes and panoramic views, the friendliest and heartiest people possibly imaginable, and one of the world’s richest Buddhist cultures.
When I was first told about this by J. T. Hunter of Wild Tea Qi, who is the initiator, founder and training leader of the new tea school, I was so excited that I immediately thought of publishing an article announcing the great news in Siam Tea Blog. After all, it had been me who had first told Jay about tea and the emerging tea scene in north Thailand, had sent him some of our wild Shan Pu Erh tea to try, and finally had introduced him to Doi Mae Salong, when he finally came over to see for himself. So, when Jay told me the news about his new Doi Mae Salong Tea Mastery School, I asked him right away, whether he would be available to answer a short questionnaire comprising of my most urgent questions, which I suppose would be about the same questions everybody would have when considering whether to take courses. Without hesitation, Jay readily agreed to answer my questions, so in the following, I am now able to proudly present you with my interview with J. T. Hunter regarding the opening of north Thailand’s new and first Tea Mastery School:
1. Jay, you and I know this first question isn’t completely free of ulterior motives, but … how did you first get acquainted with teas from north Thailand and the evolving tea production hotspot of Doi Mae Salong?
“My friend Thomas brought me there to introduce me to a new world of tea in Thailand. After much discussion I realized it was a good idea to check this place out and I am certainly glad I did. Thomas introduced me to some good people operating tea factories and tea plantations there. I am grateful for that.”
2. What was it then that made you think of opening a Tea Mastery School right there?
“After spending some days there I met a young woman whose family owns some tea plantations and a tea factory at her restaurant. She lit up when I introduced myself in Chinese and began conversation. She asked me what I was doing in Doi Mae Salong and I told her I came looking for good tea and was interested in hunting down some wild tea. As we got to know each other more I explained I was looking to possibly start a tea and Qigong school. That is when she showed me the beautiful buildings her family had started. It was very synchronous. The buildings were in the process of being built, but still had some time to go. Time went by, but we stayed in touch. The one-day she called me and told me the buildings were completed and she was ready to start the tea school.”
I know that tea lovers can have the most diverse motifs for taking tea courses, resulting in various levels of ambition and scopes of demand. E.g., while some people might just have a basic interest and seek to incorporate a rather elementary tea course and experience into their Thailand holiday schedule, others will pursue improvement on a more professional and tea career-oriented level. How will your new Tea Mastery School at Doi Mae Salong cater to those different scopes of demand, or, in other words, which types of courses (duration, certification-levels) are offered?
“The course we are offering in November is open to anyone at any level in the tea world, from a newbie to a tea connoisseur to people running their own tea businesses. This particular course offers a certification from the International Tea Masters Association based in the United States. This on-site course is 4 days and we will also go to visit a wild tea tree area and sip Puers from Northern Thailand that are 25-30 years old.”
3. Which topics will be covered in the course?
“Participants will taste-test three selected teas in each of the categories below, as well as learn the history and background of each tea, preparation instructions, and a recommended tasting protocol.
- Introduction to the World of Tea
- Growing regions, ideal climates, harvesting, production
- Preparation of Teapots and Utensils
- Steps for Serving Tea
— Japanese Tea Ceremony
— Chinese Tea Ceremony
— Daoist Tea Ceremony
- Taste-Testing Protocol
- Preparing Tea Samples
— Japanese Green Teas
— Chinese Green Teas
— Green Teas from Other Countries
— Oolong Teas
— English Black Teas
— Chinese Black Teas
— Chinese Black Teas
— Black Teas from Other Countries
— Pu-erh Teas
— White Teas
— South African Teas
— Flavored Teas
— Flavored Teas
— Herbal Teas/Tisanes
- Serving Protocol/Formalities
- Tea Evaluation
— International Standard Evaluation Methods
- Conclusions Defining Each Experience
- Pairing Cuisine with Tea
- Caffeine Consumption
- Health Benefits of Tea
- Guest Service
- Listening from Service
— Asking Key Questions
— Educating the Guest
- Tea Business
— How to properly source tea
— How to work with tea traders, tea factories and tea farmers
— How to spot check your teas for fakes, and quality control
— International Tea Business study
Participants are provided a copy of the ITMA Comprehensive Tea Mastery Training Manual™ on the first day of the in-person class, and a copy of the ITMA Tea Mastery Tasting Course Training Manual™ will be handed out on the last day of the in-person class in preparation of the start of the 14-week class.
Every evening registrants’ taste buds will be tantalized with a menu of exotic tea-cooked delicacies:
• • Oolong Fried Shrimp
• • Green Tea Wanton Soup
• • Oolong Fried Organic Black Chicken
• • Steamed Vegetables and Tea
• • Tea Fried Rice
• • Oolong Tea Ice Cream
• • Each meal paired with a special tea
The training contains all the educational requirements an individual needs for achieving the association’s prestigious ITMA Certified Tea Master™ designation once the program, blind tea tasting, and final examination are successfully completed.
4. If I were to take a full 14-weeks course at your Tea Mastery School, assuming I would pass the 2-part (theory and practice) exam and be awarded the ITMA Certified Tea Master certificate, apart from the knowledge gained, are there any further professional benefits/advantages that I could expect arising from this certification, and if so, then which ones?
Yes, absolutely, once you have certification you can get a job in the tea industry much more easily as you will already have had top-notch training. We also help connect you with potential job opportunities. You could also become a certified trainer with ITMA and run your own tea school in your local area. The possibilities are actually quite endless.”
5. How do I have to image the “daily course life”, i. e.
- Will people be privately accommodated?
“The price includes accommodation at the Wan Pu Tan Boutique Hotel, which is right on the tea plantations. It is a gorgeous place to stay.”
- How long will the daily courses be?
“The initial course will be 4 days, followed by a 14-weeks take home study course.”
- Will there be taken care of meals?
“Yes, meals will be taken care of and we will be eating tea infused cuisine, quite a treat!”
- What can participants do in their free time?
“The town itself is a beautiful village set in the mountains. There are plenty of great places to go to eat, hike or just take a stroll. There is a beautiful pagoda and temple. Although we will be pretty busy during the training.”
- What is the targeted group size, i. e. how many people will participate in a course at once?
“We will take up to 10 students.”
6. And, last but not least, the cost question… can you give us a cost figure?
“$2,595 for association members (US$2,895 for nonmember) with scholarships available. This price includes everything, hotel, food, transport and the 14 week course… and, of course, the ITMA Tea Master Certificate. If the student just wants the 4 day course and no certification we can offer $500 discount.”
Jay, thank you so much for this interview, I am proud to be able to share these great news and – thanks to your valuable input – all the details about north Thailand’s new Tea Mastery School with readers of Siam Tea Blog. Considering the great feature of that on-site classes in Doi Mae Salong, promising both lots of fun and insights, the comprehensive and obviously highly adequate list of topics covered in the course and the knowledge gain involved, I think this is quite a reasonably priced package providing tea people with a unique chance to either improve their tea skills on a private level or even launch or develop a tea-related career to a higher level.
For more information, inquiries or registration, please feel free to email us via this website’s contact form or directly to
subject “Doi Mae Salong Tea Mastery School”. For those, who are curious about trying Oolong and other teas from north Thailand, there`s a fine selection of such available at Siam Tea Shop by clicking the following link: