October 8, 2013

Sommelier Exam Study: Some tips

  Studying for this type of exam is hard work. I work towards the day I would be finished my classes and have to be fully ready for it. Back in 2012 I participated in the "So You Want To Be A Tea Sommelier" event at the Coffee and Tea Show. Here I had my first chance to try to identify 10 teas with only the liquid present. It is not as easy as some may think. When brewing teas in class we always had the leaves to look at, both dry and then wet. This helped narrow down which tea it was and the taste sealed the deal. The part that you have to get around is that all of the teas are steeped with boiling water for 5 minute steep. It was a lot to take in for a first try but I am glad I did it.

The last day of my class we did this exercise with 15 teas and then last week again with 20. Repeating this with many more teas than there will be helps you recognize where you need to focus. 
Friday last week I had organized a tasting with those who had also finished the program. The turn out was small but we got great pointers from Tao.
  We did three sets of teas. The first was white and green. Second was Oolong and Pu-er. And last was blacks.

 In this manner we were able to focus on the slight differences between them.
For example: Japanese green teas have a bit of a bite to them with a distinct vegetalness while Chinese green teas still maintain their sweetness. Another note to taste for is smokiness as some styles of Chinese teas are pan fried by hand. 
For Our oolongs and Pu-er, we looked for the difference between a green and dark Ooong. Then tried to find the pu-er by colour alone, and checked it by taste and smell on the back of our spoon. 
Black teas were interesting, I personally mixed up Golden Yunnan and Golden Assam. When I asked Tao how to tell the difference he mentioned about the astringency of an Assam                                  and roundness of the Yunnan.

 Using this last study method helped me feel more at ease for the up coming exam.  I hope these points help anyone else who is going as I like to share information I learn. So if this helps you please share it with other students. This way we all benefit from these experiences.

 Suggested books to read:  
   So good luck! I hope this helped out out a little. I would love to know how it goes for everyone. Please e-mail me or comment below!
                  Happy Steeping!

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