Tea taster

Tea tasting? Surely that’s a job anyone could do? If all you need is experience of drinking tea then my Gran with her 10 cups-a-day habit should be at the top of any employer’s list. Well it turns out there is a little more to it than that.

The role of a tea taster is now a rather corporate focused career working for one of the large multinationals that dominate the industry. You will work closely with buyers and brokers from around the world to secure the premium crops at the best possible prices. In addition to having a passion for tea with a strong discernible palate for flavours, a tea buyer needs to be a gifted negotiator who is happy to travel extensively. You should be numerate, possess excellent social skills and be independent enough to travel the world yet also adaptable to be a great team player. Languages are beneficial, or at least you must be willing to learn one, plus you should understand what ethical trading stands for.
Most tea plantations are located in Sri Lanka, India or China which is where many multinationals send their new recruits to learn the trade. However once qualified you may find yourself stationed in any one of the 40 tea producing countries from around the world. As well as tasting leaves from new plantations, a lot of the work will be focused on blending the different leaves to make the perfect cup of tea. For example, Lipton’s tea is a blend of 25 different leaves and the taster’s job will be to ensure its unique taste remains the same each year.
So how do you taste tea? Well there is actually a bit of an art to it; it’s not simply the case of putting the kettle on and adding a bit of milk and sugar to your favourite brew. The tea is drunk black using a special spoon; the aim is to slurp the tea through your teeth at high speed into the back of the palette in order to create a ‘mist’ of tea which helps you to identify the flavours. Tasters try around 400 different samples a day on average.
Numeracy skills are also vital in the role of a modern day tea taster as your work will often take you to one of the many auction houses around the world where crops are bought and sold. For example, you purchase 2,000 kilos of Ceylon tea at $1.70 a kilo and 3000 kilos of Assam at $2.00 a kilo. Without reaching for your calculator, how many kilos do you have in total and what’s your average price per kilo?
So are there any downsides to the job? Well, not many, in fact the job may help you to lead a healthier lifestyle as in order to protect your delicate palette, tasters must also abscond from smoking, drinking excessive alcohol and eating spicy food.
So if you’re looking for an interesting career in a niche industry where you get to travel and experience cultures from around the world then maybe you consider life as a tea taster.


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