At the beginning of 2020, Mona from Teawala offered her first online tea course about tea tasting. Since it is always a joy to learn about teas, I decided to take the opportunity to learn more!
The first course offered by the Teawala Academy is “Taste Tea like a Professional.” Despite all the years of running my blog, tasting is a topic that I will try to learn more about because there is always something new and it helps me taste better! I came across Mona awhile back and have been following her tea journey as she travelled to different tea producing regions! She kindly gifted me the teas (above) that she sourced during her trips.
Description: “We’re committed to tea education and want to help you appreciate your leaves on a deeper level.” — Taste Tea like a Professional
Review: When I originally purchased the course in February 2020, the course was still in production, and therefore I paid an early bird price. The individual chapters of the course were gradually released over the course of 2020. The course is now completed and being released again. There is an option to also purchase 6 tea samples (I reviewed 3 of them) and the book Tea is For Everyone along with the course. This recap will only cover the online course.
The self-paced course touts that the student will learn to “identify[,] distinguish [and] taste and evaluate. The course is broken down into 9 chapters for a total of approximately 2.5 hours of video content. Each chapter has additional PDFs relating to the chapter and optional quizzes and assignments. With some base information about the course out of the way let’s get into the course!
The chapters of the course are broken down into 3 main sections:
- An introduction to Camellia Sinensis;
- Brewing & Evaluating Tea; and,
- A Deeper Dive Into the Five.
After completing the course, the most efficient way to review the course is to provide a snapshot of course and then my overall thoughts. Due to my schedule, I was also unable to attend any of the live-streamed classes with Mona, which is part of the course.
1.0. An introduction to Camellia Sinensis
Since it is the first chapter of the course, the video was a primer on the basics of tea. It outlined the five major tea types: white, green, oolong, black and pu’er. Yellow tea was not covered in course because it is more rare. Mona showcased each tea type, highlighted the different flavour profiles, and touched upon tisanes. The chapter ends with a mini quiz that reviewed information from the course.
Being the first to be produced, there were some minor issues with the audio and video such as a slight echo or not being white balanced. However, these issues are improved for the remainder of the course. Additionally, it was slightly hard to see the teas as there was no zooming function on the camera, but the video was clear enough to identify each tea type. Despite that, the chapter was a nice overview of tea and provided the outline for the rest of the course.
2.0. Brewing & Evaluating Tea
The focus of these chapters is explaining how to taste, evaluate and brew tea. The overall quality of the video and audio is much improved. This section was comprise of three chapters:
- How Professional Taste Tea;
- Tea Evaluation Using a Cupping Set; and,
- Brewing for Optimal Taste.
In the “How Professional Taste Tea,” chapter Mona outlines the tasting process and what to look for when examining, smelling, brewing and tasting the teas. Mona demonstrated how to taste tea. The two accompanying PDFs were flavour bank and a sample tasting journal sheet which were both useful. This chapter was a nice overview on how to taste tea and there are a few new tips in my arsenal!
As the title of the chapter implies, “Tea Evaluation Using a Cupping Set” is exploring using standard cupping sets. Mona explains that this is for “fair testing” and provides a demonstration. While I own cupping sets, I find I tend to not use them very often. However, it is still important to understand why cupping sets are used in a professional setting as it provides controlled brewing perimeter and helps with revealing different characteristics of the teas!
The last chapter of the section is “Brewing for Optimal Taste” which moves away from the standard cupping sets and focuses on the common brewing methods, for example gongfu cha. Mona demonstrates three brewing methods and explains why each is most “optimal” to use for different types of teas. I wish I had found something like this earlier when I first started my tea journey as I could not make heads or tails of the different brewing methods and which one to use!
3.0. A Deeper Dive Into the Five
This section is the meat and the bones of the course as it is the deep dive into the five types of teas: white, green, oolong, black, and pu-er. As yellow tea is more rare, Mona did not dedicate a chapter to it. Depending on the course or resource, yellow tea is not always discussed, so it was not surprising here.
For each tea type, the dedicated chapter is broken down into 2 to 3 videos presenting the information in a digestible manner. What I really enjoyed about these chapters is the amount of time and attention Mona clearly spent to research each tea type. This is where the course really shines.
The first video of the chapters highlighted the history, cultivars, seasons, and processing of each tea type. The information was explained in a detailed but compact manner. I found myself rewinding the video repeatedly to make sure I wrote everything down.
The second video outlined 5 famous tea styles from different regions, and the history, cultivars, seasons, and processing of each. It was informative to see all the teas next to one another and hear Mona examine the teas. The format is slightly different in some chapters such as black tea where Mona had a blind tasting of the five famous black teas instead.
The last video for most chapters was evaluating and comparing two of the same tea types. In this section, Mona explained how the tea is produced, and provided a detailed examination to contrast how different the same tea type can be. This again was slightly different in some chapters such as for black tea where it focused on tea bags vs. loose leaf.
The PDFs provided for each tea type was a summary of the famous tea types, as well as a chart for evaluating the tea types (where applicable). The PDFs were very helpful! I do wish there was additional one-pager on the information outline in the first video as it was a lot of information. I enjoyed this section the most as I learned the most new information!
Overall, I really enjoyed the course. Mona as a presenter came off very genuine, passionate, nurturing, and excited to share her knowledge. The section I found myself learning the most in was the deep dive section on each tea type. The focus on cultivation and processing, was also very enjoyable, especially since Mona has visited many of the areas and has an understanding of the processing methods. She also did not make claims about “health and wellness,” which I found refreshing.
The video quality greatly improved after the first chapter. There were also overlays and graphics in which was a nice touch. The PDFs were also very useful, but noted earlier, an additional one-pager or notes for each tea type would have been very helpful! I am also glad there is a tea sample option as I found that aspect missing and what I really enjoyed about the Camellia Sinensis live session a few months back.
Additionally, I found the Teachable platform (where the course is hosted) a bit finicky. The video player does not have a rewind 10 seconds or forward 10 second button, so when I was trying to rewind a few seconds back, it always took some time. When I did, there was a slight lag in the visual. There is also no option to download videos for offline use, close captions, or transcripts as some other online course platforms have.
Lastly, it is important to note that I purchased this course with an “early-bird price” and the course was not completed at the time. Now having completed the course, I believe that this would be useful for someone from beginner level who wants to expand their knowledge to someone who is a tea lover and wants to get into the nitty gritty. This is not an “introduction to tea” course but a notch above that with a specific focus of identifying, tasting, and evaluating. I found myself learning a lot and I like that I have lifetime access to the course because I feel I will be watching some sections again in the future (4/5 rating)!
- Company: Teawala
The question of the post: Do you enjoy online courses?
Edit: Nicole from Tea For me Please kindly included my post in her weekly round-up! Make sure to check out all the other great posts from the same week!