Part of a series on How To Expand Your Tea Education.
Once you have perused (i.e. the older, original meaning) the many valuable books and pored over the internet resources for tea knowledge, you may be considering looking at an institute or educational service to teach you more about tea. There are several to choose from:
Three of the more familiar institutes in North America include:
Specialty Tea Institute. STI offers four levels of courses that include cupping, blending, and tea processing. These courses are often held in conjunction with tea industry trade shows and events in major U.S. cities. STI is the more recognized training organization within the North American tea industry. One of the advantages of attending STI courses is the ability to connect with faculty members who work in some of the more active tea businesses in the U.S.
American Tea Masters Association. Despite its name, ATMA offers courses across the globe. The courses often include a three day comprehensive followed by a fourteen-week portion of distance learning. Compared to STI courses, the American Tea Masters Association curriculum provides more coverage on tea service, including culinary pairings and tea service styles/etiquette, (e.g. Japanese and English tea services).
World Tea Academy. World Tea News recently launched World Tea Academy. Currently only two courses are being offered, but the intent is to build toward a set of advanced courses for specialization as a tea professional, a sommelier, or a tea health educator.
Is it worth it?
There are 3 key considerations:
Total costs for on-site education will depend on the tuition, travel, and lodging needed. Additionally, tuition rates differ depending on your membership status within the group. You can expect to pay several thousand dollars to complete a terminal degree from STI or ATMA.
This consideration often provides the most long-term value, and yet is most often overlooked. As some say, the alma mater itself is not the key benefit. It isn’t where you go, but who you know. In this case, you’ll want to look at the network you can potentially build. You’d want to consider the faculty and students you will interact with, and how well/easily you can interact with them. Also consider any resources the organization may have in helping you apply your education. This may mean finding a job, finding customers, or finding suppliers.
3. Knowledge vs. Skill.
As TeaGeek recently pointed out on his blog, you want to consider what ratio of book-learning to skill-building you expect. For example, if you want to become a skilled tea blender, will the courses provide sufficient application time and feedback from teachers to give you the proficiency level you want/need? If you are unsure, it may be good to ask tea professionals for an idea of the amount of hours and depth of hands-on skill needed to do their jobs. Do a comparison of on-the-job training vs. classroom training to consider how to best build mastery (or at least proficiency).
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