When you hold the title of "Chief Leaf," it's pretty safe to say you know your teas.
Elise E. Scott, owner of the online tea merchant Pearl Fine Teas, recently completed the Specialty Tea Institute's two-year program and is now the first certified tea professional in the Washington area.
Scott now finds herself in rare company, being one of only eight people who completed the certification during the 2009 World Tea Expo, which was held in Las Vegas last month.
Chief Leaf, indeed. To date, the Institute has certified only 23 tea professionals worldwide.
The three-level, eight-course certification process included classes that covered sensory evaluation, white, green, oolong and pu'erh teas, and culminated with the black teas of China, India and Sri Lanka.
"It was a long, two-year journey filled with a lot of travel; sipping and study time -- basically a total immersion into the world of tea," she said. "I loved every minute. More importantly, this training adds to my credibility as a tea professional and I take that very seriously."
Scott has studied under many notable tea industry professionals, including Bill Waddington, owner of the Tea Source; Donna Fellman of the Tea Education Alliance; Phil Parda, owner of Zhong Guo Cha; and Richard Guzauskas of Tea Forte, QTrade, Shangri La and chair of STI's Advisory Board.
Scott opened Pearl Fine Teas in 2006. The company specializes in premium, limited edition and rare loose-leaf teas along with custom creative blends and tea ware to tea lovers worldwide.
Among the varieties of tea available for online purchase through Pearl Fine Teas are such perennial favorites as Earl Grey, available in several flavor permutations such as de la crème, which is infused with vanilla, and a lavendar infused one; some rare teas, such as one from Malawi in Africa called “Antlers” made entirely from the twigs of the camellia sinensis plant.
Scott also offers rooibos varieties, often blended with lemon or hibiscus. Pearl Fine Teas also sells several styles of oolong tea, a variety of tea that is commonly served in Chinese restaurants.
The company's blog, TeaLove, was launched last August and has received national attention for its posts on tea and politics.
Read more about Scott's tea obsession at Localkicks.com.