RENE JOHNSTON/torstar news service

George Brown College is launching the country’s first tea appreciation class.

Only at George Brown College you say? Pity.

The country’s leading hospitality and tourism program announced recently it is launching the country’s first tea appreciation course.

Aimed at consumers and students, it’s the first step toward offering a full-fledged tea “sommelier” program, a designation not unlike a wine “sommelier,” the college said.

“It’s like a master chef or a master apprentice,” college spokesperson Suzanne Caskie explained. “It’s the most prestigious, most knowledgeable level. They can tell what kind of tea you would have with what kind of dessert at what time of day and in what season.”

The move comes amid growing demand in the hospitality industry for employees knowledgeable in the world’s second-most popular drink, after water, the college said.

Sales of tea in Canada are up 43 per cent in the past decade and now represent a $300 million a year market, according to the Tea Association of Canada, a partner in the program. Green tea in particular is in high demand among consumers of all ages, Caskie said.

“Tea has been with us for 5,000 years. It comes in 1,500 varieties. Yet, it has not got the reconciliation it deserves,” said Stephen Field, who will be teaching the course at the college. “Toronto is such a multicultural society. A great many cultures have tea as part of their cultural identity and the general public is also interested in tea because of the health benefits.”

“The fact that there’s now demand for a tea sommelier shows the growth in that market from a business perspective,” Caskie added.

The first class, which begins Sept. 27, is almost full but the college plans to add a second class if there is sufficient demand, she said.