Sarah Cowell up close(Image by Hannah Kelly of Hannah Kelly Creative)


1. Sarah, for those that don’t know you, could you describe what you do for a living?

I’m a tea specialist and tea teacher so my work involves consulting on tea, plus creating tea-learning experiences. So, I might advise a café on their tea menu & service, brewing & tea-ware – or train corporate staff in Chinese tea etiquette for their dealings with clients in China.

Initially my classes were focused on the different teas; origin, production, brewing & tasting, but I’ve recently ventured into Tea & Chocolate pairing and holding a wacky global Iced Teas experience. I’ve also been running Tea & Mindfulness workshops in businesses to help staff – or their clients – better cope with stress. To see how tea can not only be intriguing and delicious but also positively impact people’s lives is pretty rewarding.

Sarah Cowell the art of sharing tea(Image by Hannah Kelly of Hannah Kelly Creative)


2. What was the turning point for you in your career/what do you think lead you to where you are today?

Until a few years ago I had a nice government job, but also a niggling feeling; ‘Surely there must be more to life than being good at Admin..?’ ‘What’s my passion, my unique offering for the world?’ The quote came into my head ‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work another day’. ‘Tea!’ jumped into my head, so I knew that was it. Excited, I planned to study to become a tea sommelier.. only to find that everyone said there are no jobs & nowhere to study tea in Australia.

I decided to take leave & go to Taiwan to learn in the tea fields & spent 3 glorious months steeped in tea learning. While I was over there, I heard my government position had been cut & I knew it was a sign from the Universe that I was to get on with this tea calling of mine.

When I arrived back in Adelaide I got a call from Vue de Monde, who invited me to be their Tea Sommelier. It was a tough decision but a great opportunity, so I moved to Melbourne. It was intense, but an invaluable experience. I worked at Vue for a year, then Storm in a Teacup the following year but realised my passion really lay in teaching. From my annual trips to the tea fields I had all this tea, knowledge and experiences I really wanted to share! So in 2013 I began my tea education business Teasense and haven’t looked back.

Sarah Cowell tea ingredients close up(Image by Hannah Kelly of Hannah Kelly Creative)

3. What are your thoughts on tea bags and flavoured teas? Good/bad, Love/Hate?

They have their place. If you are too doggone tired to wash the leaves out of the teapot, then teabags can do the trick. You can even get some good quality leaves in the pyramid tea-bags these days.

I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to flavoured tea. Would you want your Cab Sav with strawberry flavouring added, or would you want to taste the actual flavour of the wine? Same with tea; it has its own incredibly subtle nuances and character & shouldn’t be merely used as a vehicle to carry added flavouring. Flavoured teas use lower quality leaf too.

My exception would be the traditionally scented teas such as with real jasmine or osmanthus flowers or authentic smoked Lapsang Souchong  in China.

But hey – if you enjoy strawberries & cream flavoured tea, then you’ve every right to drink what you like! The most important thing is that you explore and find what you enjoy.

Sarah Cowell straining tea (Image by Hannah Kelly of Hannah Kelly Creative)

4. What in your opinion is the perfect cup of tea? (Any tips you could provide would be great)

The bare basics are: good water and good tea and getting the ratio, temperature and timing right. What does this mean?

  • Water: soft, pure or filtered water won’t taint the infusion or mask the tea’s subtleties
  • Tea: buy the best you can afford from a specialist shop whose owner cares about tea. Life’s too short to save a few bucks in drinking mediocre tea.
  • Ratio: the infusion is a marriage between leaf & water – there needs to be balance. A general rule is 1 teaspoon of tea per cup of water. If the leaf is really big, add another ½ teaspoon per cup.
  • Temperature: that horrible bitter green tea you’ve had was probably scalded with boiling water. Cover green or delicate white tea leaves with a little cool water to protect it before adding the boiling water to the teapot. Or get one of those temperature controlled kettles.
  • Time: tea needs time to extract its flavor – too short and it’ll be insipid, too long & it’ll over-extract. Your tea supplier should guide you in this, but pay attention to the tea as it brews, tasting at 2 minutes or so to see how much stronger you want it. You’ll become familiar with how the tea extracts and how to make it just how you like it.

Tea is special. Get yourself a nice cup & small teapot and make a little quiet space when you brew to really appreciate it more.

Sarah Cowell Tea Workshop up close(Image by Hannah Kelly of Hannah Kelly Creative)


5.  Where is your favourite place to enjoy a tea outside of the home?

In nature. There’s a niche art overseas in creating beautiful tea-settings in some gorgeous outdoor places. To be in nature, drinking nature, is sublime.

In terms of Melbourne tea-houses, I’m a big fan of Storm in a Teacup & Travelling Samovar. The Quali-tea teahouse next to South Yarra train station is a really authentic Chinese tea experience too.


Twitter: @teasense

Facebook: Teasense

Notes: Don’t miss Sarah’s upcoming class 0n February 20th; bookings via

  • Feb 20  Tea 101: Exploring Tea. An excellent introduction & good foundation in the main styles of tea; where they’re from, how they’re made, best ways to brew and how to taste the teas properly. Students come away with confidence and excitement to continue exploring & brewing up the world of tea!

Sarah Cowell pouring tea(Image by Hannah Kelly of Hannah Kelly Creative)

Recipe: Cold Brew Iced Tea

It’s hot, you’re feeling lazy but want a healthy, refreshing iced tea…grab a teaspoon of good tea leaves or a good quality pyramid tea-bag (e.g: Madame Flavour, available in supermarkets) and pop it in a clean glass or jar.

Top with cool water, cover and whack in the fridge for a few hours/ overnight.

If you used leaves, strain off into another glass, or remove the teabag. Voila! Simple, healthy iced tea.