In Venice Gabriella Scarpa, a tea sommelier teaches a slow ceremony made of gestures 

4 October 2021

Venice, September 29th, 2021 – There are countries in which tea marks every moment of the day, countries in which it is a symbol of welcome, composure and calm. With sugar, milk, or lemon. Green, black, with spices or mint. Together with cup-cakes or sandwiches, tea is part of people’s lives and is the most popular drink after water. Not surprisingly, Venice– crossroad between East and West throughout its 1600 years of history - is the place in which the Accademia del tè Ar-Tea Academy was born, founded by tea sommelier Gabriella Scarpa. Born of an English mother and Venetian father, wheel- thrown pottery lover, particularly the Japanese technique raku, Gabriella has become a tea sommelier in London and opened in Italy her Academy. Here she opens the door of a culture which roots lies in China, where originally monks discovered its countless benefits and used these plants as a tonic able to keep them awake and relaxed throughout long meditative vigil.

With the Serenissima domain, where vineyards flourished, Gabriella teaches how to “choose, prepare and serve tea. Moreover, she teaches how to match every existing tea in the world with gestures and warmth. Slowness, precision, and elegance of movements. Offering a cup of tea – she explains – is something I do with every guest. It’s not just a cup of tea, but a gift, something precious given with love, and so I try to transmit this feeling by means of my country’s culture.” Codified rituals and cultures of the world are hidden behind a cup of tea. Gestures, slowness, tools, and silence. The tea ceremony is a harmony between man and nature which aims at triggering any sense to taste the drink fully. As for wine, that must be served at a specific temperature, also tea has a specific and correct temperature for its infusion. Moreover, the right pottery and the right pairs of pliers to pick the leaves up needs to be chosen correctly, because nothing is left to chance. The magic of tea, as Gabriella calls it, happens when the leaf is wet and so when it goes back to its original form, when different colours and shapes can be noticed: buds, flat leaves, and gems.

“Tea is perfect here in Venice. It is a moment of rest, meditation, cultural exchange, warmth and sharing. In a city as Venice – says – tea should have a key role, but instead it is barely known. In a city that recalls the East, tea, together with the romantic western tradition, fits perfectly. I choose to open the Academy in Venice as a hope to provide this city with something precious”.

If someone thinks that preparing tea means just sinking a tea bag in a cup full of water, Gabriella instead teaches how to retrace a story that got lost through time, thousands of years ago. Gabriella also teaches how to categorise six different types of tea according to the Chinese colour, universally used to classify tea according to their level of oxidation, hence the process through which Camellia Sinensis fresh leaves are subjected in order to become tea. We can taste white, yellow, green, light blue-green, red and black teas which represent the base upon which we can create any type of tea, by adding other ingredients or just perfumes such as flowers, according to different traditions such as the Chinese one. In her lessons, Gabriella explains anything about oxidation, fermentation, water, and terroir, comparing similar teas coming from different countries. By means of different infusion parameters, the preparation process, as well as the serving process are taught. Tea sommeliers as well as wine sommeliers must know how to choose suppliers, teas, and the accessories for the companies for which he or she works.  Knowing how to store precious teas correctly, having a deep knowledge about teas, and knowing how to tell their stories, match, suggest and prepare them, is indeed essential. A tea sommelier must be able to create a tea paper, with labels for the packages and  must also recognize price and quality of teas. Moreover, a tea sommelier must know each country’s tradition in order to transmit them.

“What China can teach us is very important and so I try to take this knowledge and bring it here in Italy, to the Italian culture, matching it with the Chinese way to conceive tea. I do that by dwelling over things, understanding them, considering them, and trying to do it in the best way – she concludes -. We have to stop and try to understand what we are doing, allowing ourselves some time to rest, to share and to enjoy beauty. This is what I really want to bring here in Italy through tea culture”.