Education Committee

Sarah Stewart Martinelli

Sara Martinelli's fascination with plants began in her childhood garden where she learned about the magic of the common violet (Viola odorata). This humble little blossom inspired a lifetime of learning about plants and their medicinal, healing and magical properties. Sara graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Anthropology, with emphasis on ethnobotany, nutrition, and the culture of food around the world. Learning about how different foods become integral in the development of society, religion, and culture led Sara to explore the historic uses of herbs and their folkloric meanings. Thereafter Sara completed a two year Herbal Medicine program at The Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies in Boulder, Colorado. Sara, with her husband Lenny, owns a number of Boulder, Colorado-area restaurants including the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, Sara is the exclusive tea blender and tea specialist for the Teahouse, and has created and developed countless tea and herbal blends. The Martinelli's operate an organic farm on which they grow produce and herbs for their restaurants, as well as many medicinal herbs. In 2013 Three Leaf Farm was bestowed the designation of a Botanical Sanctuary (United Plant Savers) due to their efforts to cultivate at-risk and endangered medicinal plants, as well as offering education opportunities through workshops, internships, and events. Sara also founded the annual Rocky Mountain Tea Festival, one of America's oldest consumer tea events.


Tony Gebely

Throughout his 13 years in tea, Tony Gebely has worked for many leading tea companies, helping them navigate the burgeoning specialty sector of the industry. Tony is also the founder of the two-time World Tea Award winning website, World of Tea which has produced well-researched content on tea since 2009. He also founded Chicago Tea Garden, a tea importing business that he ran from 2010-2012. Having traveled extensively through tea producing regions during his life in tea, and having a degree in Computer Science, he developed a pragmatic approach to tea which led him to write his 2016 treatise, Tea: A User's Guide. Tony continues to be a student of the leaf and is currently working on his second book and is the Executive Director of the American Specialty Tea Alliance.


Shabnam Weber

Shabnam Weber has spent the last eighteen years in the tea business as an entrepreneur. As owner of a specialty tea company, a tea school and a Director on the Board of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada, she has a unique perspective on multiple angles of the tea business. She is the author of THAC's well known and recognized Tea Sommelier program and a big driver in both consumer and industry education. Shabnam values the diversity offered by all parts of the tea industry, both in Canada and beyond and focuses always on the bigger picture. Shabnam is a graduate of the University of Toronto with an Honours degree in Political Science and she also holds a post-graduate diploma in Psychology. She is currently the President of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada.


John Chaffey

John came into the coffee and tea trade in 1985, mentored by Jim and Bill Scandrett at venerable trading firm Hayter and Scandrett. Since joining Metropolitan Tea Company in 1992, he has provided guidance to young entrepreneurs in growing their business. His background in working with origin producers and connecting with international buyers provides a broad market view, whether dealing with small retailers or multinationals. Currently operating in over 50 countries, John keeps busy looking to cultivate clients and educate them with fresh ideas and new tea items to support the expanding trade.

Metropolitan Tea Company was honored with the Toronto Board of Trade Sustainability Award, as a result of its efforts to become a carbon negative company. Also, they were most recently the recipient of the Gold Medal Environmental Sustainability Award for Best Environmental Initiative at the 2016 North American Tea Conference in Niagara Falls.


Lisa Richardson

Lisa Richardson is the Online Assistant Education Manager for World Tea Academy. She has studied and traveled the globe researching and learning from masters about tea. Since forming Lisa Knows Tea in 2000, she has consulted with companies in product line development, worked with several Fortune 500s to help launch new tea lines, and trained employees in tea knowledge and service.

Lisa is a sought-out speaker, teaching to the industry and to the public. She has authored three tea books with her latest being Modern Tea: A Fresh Look at an Ancient Beverage (Chronicle Books, 2014).


Jason Walker

Jason Walker is the current Marketing Director of Firsd Tea North America. Prior to his work with Firsd Tea, Jason served in a variety of roles in tea and education capacities.

His 10 years of tea and beverage business experience includes business services for small tea companies, a top-ranked online destination for tea consumer education, and co-founding a coffee business. Additionally, Jason served in various roles in both public and private education, including college and private education instructor, and project manager for corporate training companies.

His insights draw upon his diverse range of experience in sales, operations, and management. They have enabled him to bring a broader range of solutions and learning to the tea world.


Nicole Martin

Nicole Martin is a New Jersey based tea writer and consultant. She started blogging about her journey with tea in 2008. Since then she has turned her passion into a career in tea retail as well as providing freelance social media and marketing services. Her work has also been featured on World Tea News, The Daily Tea and other media outlets. She loves combining her love for the leaf with a passion for all things social media. She was the winner of the 2015 World Tea Award for Best Social Media Reach.