What’s it like to be a tea sommelier?
Anna Grotenfelt-Paunonen of TeaHouse of Wehmais explains why tea is so special.
Tea – is it an everyday staple or an elegant extravagance? It depends on who you ask, says tea sommelier Anna Grotenfelt-Paunonen, who believes tea is a beverage for all occasions, summer or winter. It even makes for a great cocktail.
Grotenfelt-Paunonen grew up in a tea-drinking family, which is a rare thing in a country with the world’s heaviest per capita coffee consumption.
“I never really learned to drink coffee. I used to drink tea but wasn’t a big connoisseur,” she reflects.
It took time for her intimate relationship with tea to develop as deep as it is today. On her family’s manor in Juva in eastern Finland, she runs Finland’s only English-style tea house, the TeaHouse of Wehmais.
“My mum used to run a fashion shop and I thought that a tea house would go well with it. When I decided to go for tea, I wanted to do it right. That’s why I completed tea sommelier studies at the International Tea Masters’ Association.”
Refining her knowledge and palate hasn’t come easy. It has taken hours and hours of tasting teas of different temperatures and brewing times with various food pairings.
“Tea is like wine. The soil, climate, cultivation, and production methods affect the quality and taste,” says Grotenfelt-Paunonen.
The TeaHouse of Wehmais has more than 100 varieties of tea. Grotenfelt-Paunonen likes to advise her clients in choosing the right tea and is especially happy when she finds the perfect tea to win over a devoted coffee drinker. If a “tea conversion” is not on the cards, she’ll courteously serve a cup of coffee if you ask nicely.
Text Ninarose Maoz
Photos Robert Seger