Tea tasting expert insures his buds for mouthwatering $1.6m

A professional tea taster has insured his tastebuds for $1.6m after five years of intensive training made him a “master blender”. There are more than 1,500 different varieties of tea and Sebastian Michaelis claims he can taste and grade any one of them in just 15 seconds. He found his vocation after studying philosophy at university and then getting accepted to a graduate training programme. Mr Michaelis works for UK tea manufacturers Tetley and uses a “slurp and spit” technique to “identify the finer notes” and judge the “zing, colour, sparkle and body”.

I’ve had to travel round the world, visit producers, understand everything about tea and we use a special language.

Sebastian Michaelis

He said the beverage now dominates his life, adding: “They spent a lot of money and time on me - that’s why they’ve insured my tongue.” Tetley says its experts can sometime taste anything up to 1,000 different teas in a day as they try to keep a consistent blend. Despite sampling cuppas day in day out, the tea connoisseur says he never gets tired of putting his palate to the test. “I’m just thinking about the exact quality and not how I enjoy the tea, so I’ll still go back to my desk and have a cup,” he said.

Tea, like wine, will change depending on the amount of sunshine and rain it gets - so it’s always changing taste. We know exactly how to blend it together so it tastes the same.

Sebastian Michaelis