Those of you with tea industry careers: how did you get started?
I’m interested in learning from those of you who work in the tea industry, how did you get started?
I want to get my feet wet but I don’t know where to start, I’m fluent in oral and written Chinese so that helps, have lived (and currently live) in China, have a love for tea, etc. but I don’t have an MBA or a food-related undergrad degree. How would someone like me get a tea-related career? I’m especially interested in the sourcing side of things.
Spend some time traveling to the great tea areas during harvest and meet people.
I have a food sci undergrad, lab research experience using GCMS and some wet chemistry assays on Tea, extensive sensory sci background, 4 years with the Tea Institute at Penn State and its associated tea clubs, and multiple trips to tea producing areas for picking, processing, sourcing, etc…
Just make tea your life, the rest will follow.
I work for one of the biggest loose-leaf tea companies in the US as a quality assurance manufacturing specialist.
I think everyone else had really solid advice though, you don’t need certifications or a formal/educational background related to tea. Just put your all into it, find your niche, and make it work for you. Chinese fluency is a big bonus!
I saw the other day that one of the biggest companies in the world (Tetley) is looking for an ethical sourcing manager based here in mainland China. Sounds like an awesome job but I won’t be done with my program here until next year.
I think that you should start creating a network with tea producers, go meet the plantation, involve in all the process, now that you are in China this will help you a lot, try to read and make some research, there are also certifications on Tea :)
Write a book. Yes, you can. Write a blog, network all the time. It’s all about relationships plus your passion and skills. You’ll shine, just go for it.
It probably depends on what you want to do. Sell, grow, speak, teach?
You need different skills for different jobs. If you want to sell, you need contacts and business education. If you want to speak about tea, develop good speaking skills and research your subject. If you want to teach, kind of the same things as speaking. If you want to grow, you’d be well served with an education in botany as well as practical experience.
I am just starting to dip my toes into the industry. I started 2 years ago with only a love of tea and an obsessive desire to learn about it. I organized a yearly regional tea festival by self study into event organization skills, marketing, bookkeeping and business. I wrote a book. I expanded a network of contacts. I opened an online tea business last November to see how it works and to get experience on that area of the industry. I’m organizing and speaking at a panel discussion at World Tea Expo this year.
I have no degrees or certifications. I took a couple of free online courses about tea, but otherwise, all my instruction has been self-study. An willingness to reach out to people I don’t know and face potentially being told no has also helped immensely. :)
Thanks for your reply! Very helpful. I guess I’m most interested in sourcing and selling, but the speaking/teaching aspect is quite interesting as well. I have experience teaching and doing public speaking so both of those would be an easy fit. But I love living in China and would love to find some way to connect people in the states with good Chinese tea, though I know that area is already pretty well covered.
I think ideally I’d like to work with/for an existing outfit rather than trying to brutally carve my way into a small segment of an already small market.
I think there is room to connect folks in the states with good Chinese tea but there you will potentially run into import regulations and such. Working for an existing company would be a good way to learn how it all works. I have a good full time day job and a local tea job won’t replace that income so I really had no way to see how the selling side worked without starting my own that I could do on my own time.
Perhaps you could find a way to merge your experience teaching and speaking into educating people in the states about good Chinese tea. YouTube video series comes to mind…
Yeah the YouTube series would require the startup costs of buying good equipment, which I just don’t have at the moment.
I think working for an existing company for now would be ideal, but those aren’t easy to come by.
I think it’s pretty impressive you did ALL of that on your own Nicole without any formal study. I bet the internet helped a TON.
Which book did you write? That’s no easy feat. And organizing a tea festival? Super impressive. I so badly want to organize one here in Florida, specifically Orlando, but I don’t know if I have the free time considering I have a full time job.
Honestly, it’s called a book because it is bound, but the writing part is probably more long pamphlet length. :) There is a portion up front with a general overview of tea types, processing methods and preparation tips. But the bulk of it is a tasting log. Space for taking notes (though probably not enough for some of us) and a simplified tasting wheel for each tea tasted.
A festival does take a ton of time and a lot of investment. Luckily, while I have a full time job, I also do not have kids and do have a very understanding and patient spouse. :) I’ve thought about Florida for another festival. Not sure what the tea community is like down there. Perhaps you and I should talk in more detail. :)
Oh man I would TOTALLY help wherever I could when planning a festival. Do you have an e-mail I can shoot more details your way?
I worked in tea factory in chinese 7 years ago, this is my start, www.organicteaschina.com