Best Place to Become a Snobby Prick About Tea (2010)

Art of Tea

You’ll travel to many places during the Art of Tea’s tea sommelier lessons: Asia, Africa, India, the Middle East, the restroom. You’ll travel vicariously, however (except for that last one), through cup after cup of tea. Taught by the company’s elegant, mild-mannered CEO Steve Schwartz, who has a background in ayurvedic medicine, classes are a multisensory experience. People learn how to noisily slurp the tea for maximum flavor; how to distinguish between Japanese and Chinese green teas; how to sniff the tea, and describe the tea (in dry leaf and wet cup); and blend the tea with ingredients like rose petals, osmanthus flowers and mint. Students listen to the stories, the rich lore behind the oolongs, Assams and Darjeelings. As the only tea sommelier program in the United States, it is well-attended by chefs, oenophiles and foodies. A three-hour class costs $45. But, depending on how deep you want to go, a weeklong intensive can run into the thousands. Tastings are conducted in Art of Tea’s warehouse. “It’s like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” Schwartz says, “but with tea.” 748 Monterey Pass Rd., Monterey Park. (877) 268-8327, —Gendy Alimurung


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