The Noble Title of Tea Master™

By Claudia Zárate, ITMA Certified Tea Master™

A tea master is an individual with superior knowledge and expertise regarding the varieties of teas from various parts of the world. Their knowledge includes the area in which a particular tea was grown, its harvesting method, and the steps involved in its processing to a final stage. Often a tea master’s responsibilities will include new product development, tea buying, vendor negotiations, logistics, finance and project management.  The tea master also has sufficient knowledge of the characteristics of each tea, including the best way to prepare and serve it based on its qualities (taste, color, aroma, and texture).

A tea master is clearly passionate about tea, its taste and aroma, health benefits, and cultural significance to the area in which it was grown. The tea master has the obligation to share with others what has been learned.

A tea master is regarded as senior management in most organizations, while a tea sommelier is perceived as a sophisticated server.

Although tea mastery has many rewards, it is not a destination, but a perpetual life-long journey. Their dedication is a revered, time-honored tradition, which makes life flow with positive anticipation. It is this characteristic that is an essential quality for attracting people who come in contact with their elevated energetic frequency, a special trait many people can feel or sense intuitively. Mahatma Gandhi reinforced this when he stated:

  • Let your thoughts be positive for they will become your words.
  • Let your words be positive for they will become your actions.
  • Let your actions be positive for they will become your values.
  • Let your values be positive for they will become your destiny.

Perhaps most important, tea masters live according to their highest core values and an unwavering belief in the Source of the Universe, starting each day with gratitude for another day of life and for all its blessings and gifts.

What Does it Take to Become a Tea Master?

The title of Tea Master cannot be taken lightly despite the different training programs available. This is because the bar is set very high before one can call themselves a Tea Master. For example, for those aspiring to achieve the title of Tea Master, only a handful succeed each year. As of today, only 330 people in the world have earned the title of Tea Master.

So the question becomes, what does it take to become a Tea Master?

As a Tea Master, there is a responsibility that comes with the title, which comes down to experience, passion, and knowledge.

Without the experience of tasting a variety of different teas and having the conviction to learn more about them, it will be difficult to become a Tea Master. The number one way to enroll people into one’s vision of the magnificence of being a Tea Master is to be able to share the passion of their own personal knowledge and self-discovery.

Tea is available in most parts of the world and those that enjoy it are from all walks of life and age groups. This is what makes tea intriguing because the passion for tea can start from a young age unlike wine or sake.

One of the things that really makes tea such a fun, unique, and enjoyable experience is how universal it is. This is especially true regarding how it is produced and how tea is prepared and brewed in different countries.

Mastery Level Education, Training, and Certification

Recognized throughout the world, the International Tea Masters Association with its worldwide training locations is acknowledged as the Gold Standard in tea education.  It was founded in 2007 in San Diego, California, to provide mastery level education, training, and certification to aspiring tea sommeliers, tea blenders, and tea masters. Its superior faculty and outstanding curriculum are unmatched in the entire tea industry.

The association meets superior educational standards by offering its ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier Course™ for achieving the respected ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier™ designation.  The home page on its web site,, features a number of worldwide locations where the course is offered. Tuition for this training course ranges from $975 to $1,475.   It is a stepping stone for enrolling in the advanced ITMA Certified Tea Master Course™ for achieving the prestigious ITMA Certified Tea Master™ designation, the most prominent title in the tea industry.  Tuition for the tea master course is $2,975. The association also offers an advanced ITMA Certified Tea Blender Course™ for achieving the ITMA Certified Tea Blender™ designation, which is exemplary and unmatched. Tuition for this course is $1,975.

The organization was managed for 11 years by ITMA Certified Tea Master Chas Kroll, a former tea business owner and an astute, knowledgeable individual in the tea world.  He is held in high esteem by all of the men and women he personally trained and certified.

The association, originally founded by Kroll in September, 2007, to educate, train, and certify tea sommeliers, tea blenders, and tea masters, was acquired by Claudia Zárate, one of the association’s esteemed course trainers in March, 2018.

Zárate is both an ITMA Certified Tea Master and  ITMA Certified Tea Blender, and an expert on high-end sophisticated teas.  She is also a professional wine sommelier, an expert on sake, tequila, and vodka, and a gourmand of fine cuisine. Her expertise is vast in each of these arenas.

She graduated from the Universidad Anahuac in Mexico City and then attended the University of California, Davis Campus, where she studied wine and winemaking. To further her education, she traveled extensively to vineyards in France, Germany, Spain, and California.  Zárate is also a member of the Dallas Sommelier Society and Mexican Sommelier Association.

She represented Twinings of London as a Tea Master  in the celebration of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the British Embassy in Mexico City.

Zárate is just as passionate about tea as she is about wine. She had the good fortune of studying imperial tea and its preparation under the tutelage of ITMA Certified Grand Tea Master Roy Fong during a special training event in San Francisco.

The association is privileged to have Roy Fong as its Director of Education.  Fong, with his 30 years of tea experience, is regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on Chinese and Taiwanese teas.  Kroll and Fong headed the training faculty for the ITMA Certified Tea Master Course™ in the past.

International Tea Masters Association Tuition Costs

Formed in 2007, the association provides mastery level training, education, and professional certification to individuals desiring to become Tea Sommeliers, Tea Blenders, and Tea Masters.  It is respected as meeting superior educational standards by offering its Certified Tea Sommelier Course™, Certified Tea Blending Course™, and Certified Tea Master Course™ for achieving prestigious industry titles and professional designations, all highly respected in the tea industry.

The curriculum utilizes advanced learning techniques developed by the Foundation for Inspired Learning.  All of its courses are based on experiential, hands-on learning, instruction, and continuous positive reinforcement.

ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier™ – Designed for individuals directly involved in the tea trade including tea business owners.  Registrants will learn the correct way to evaluate the taste and aroma of numerous high quality teas.  The course consists of an initial 3-day in-person training held onsite at a hotel, followed by an 8-week home study course beginning a week later.

ITMA Certified Tea Blender™ – Registrants will learn to create professional blends, based on traditional formulas and current market demand, as they are trained in blending various types and grades of tea with other teas and with other ingredients.  The training is regarded as the finest, most complete tea blending courses in the tea industry.

ITMA Certified Tea Master™ – A two-part, three-month course, that contains all the educational requirements an individual needs for achieving the prestigious Tea Master (Tea Taster ) designation, the most prestigious title in the tea industry. The course holds the high level of focus needed to gain the competence to serve as a master tea taster or tea master at a distinguished restaurant, hotel, or tea business, or start one’s own successful enterprise.  The first 3-days is in-person at a training location at a luxury hotel, while the next 12 weeks involve home study tasting and evaluating exceptional high-grade teas from worldwide locations.

Testimonials from Recent Graduates

The most significant thing Sasha van Pallandt learned during the ITMA course was how much respect tea deserves. “The history, the nuances, the thousands of years of harvesting… this is an ancient art. I had been taking tea for granted my whole life, CTC all the way. I will not make the same mistake again. That knowledge has changed my life, because now I have a whole new experience, a meditative one, of experiencing tea. And I can’t imagine not having that space, that energy, in my life. It’s brought a whole new scope of depth and feeling… tea is like life: if you can settle in and experience the nuances of the flavors, colors, and aromas, life will always be a textured masterpiece – if you have the peace of mind to be present with it. I will never go back to the rush-rush of a little baggie in hot water and slurping my way through the day without even tasting the flavor.”

Steakhouse 55 is a lovely oasis of elegance at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California, with white linens and historic black-and-white photos of Hollywood greats from Walt Disney to Frank Sinatra and Shirley Temple decorating the walls.

The restaurant is now hosting an Afternoon Tea from noon to 3 p.m. bringing the rich tradition of a royal afternoon respite to Disneyland Hotel guests where they can enjoy sweets, savories and a grand selection of a dozen special teas and tisanes. After a fun morning in the parks, it is a relaxing way to enjoy time with family and friends as you indulge in a wonderful, relaxing experience.

The selection of loose-leaf teas, along with a variety of caffeine-free herbal tisanes, were selected by Pilar Hamil, the hotel’s general manager and an ITMA Certified Tea Master. Guests can pair their favorite cuppa with traditional scones, an assortment of tea sandwiches, desserts and more.

National Public Radio published an insightful article in the Tea Tuesday department of its online magazine. It featured one of our renowned students, Christopher Day, the dining room manager at Eleven Madison Park in New York City.

The article is about the emerging field of tea experts spreading knowledge and experiences by unlocking new tea flavors in fine cuisine by pairing with exceptional teas.

Giandomenico Scanu, Tea Master at The Ritz, London.  “Afternoon Tea at The Ritz is almost an institution by itself. It has become the quintessential British experience, and our job is to maintain this. As the deputy manager of the Palm Court [where afternoon tea is held] my role involves sourcing our teas, training our team and ensuring our guests have a memorable experience. Tea has become my passion. In my spare time I travel extensively in Asia to visit tea plantations and learn everything from picking and processing to grading different varieties of tea leaves. I also recently completed my Tea Master certification.”

The Future for Tea Masters

As the international tea industry continues to grow and expand, so too will the demand for competent, skilled tea masters.  The International Tea Masters Association is positioned to take full advantage of this growth by continuously expanding and improving its curriculum, services, and reach.  This is why the International Tea Masters Association, with its worldwide training locations, is acknowledged as the Gold Standard in tea education and why its superior faculty and outstanding curriculum are unmatched in the entire tea industry.

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