Speakers Biographies

Raelene Gannon

Raelene Gannon

Speech topic: Tea Blending Basics

tea and all its splendour embodies Raelene Gannon’s knowledge, passion and ‘taste’ in tea. The limitless variety of types, blends, flavours and aromas offers ample opportunity for Raelene to develop unique tea combinations not available in the conventional tea bag market.

A certified Tea Sommelier, one of the first 15 in Canada, Raelene is truly an expert in all things tea, including countries of origin, ceremonies, manufacturing and in particular, tea menus, food pairings and merchandising.

Merging her professional background in the chocolate, gift and confection industries with the expertise in tea, Raelene brings her vast marketing, sourcing and retail operational experience along with her unique business acumen all together to inform, entertain and empower you to be the best you can in the tea business.

Tea, is Gannon’s terroir, the place from which she blooms subject to the influences of her passion, creativity and boundless energy. To taste her tea and to try her recipes, is to discover a flavourful, health-giving and modern take on tea.

Her cookbook, tea: from cup to plate was released Feb 1, 2015.


Kevin Gascoyne

Speech topic: Tea 101

British tea taster Kevin Gascoyne has been buying tea in Asia since 1989. He started his career as a tea writer for publications in the U.K., the U.S.A. and Japan. Over the years his passion for the black teas of India has spread to the plantations of many other countries.

In Canada he is one of the owners of the Camellia Sinensis Tea Houses and Tea Schools of Montréal and Québec City. Each year he and his fellow tasters travel to the tea gardens of Asia to select teas for their internationally renowned catalogue.

As well as regular public tastings, Kevin is also involved in a wide range of workshops, conferences, seminars, research and consulting activities in North America and Asia. He also co-authored of the prize-winning book ‘Tea, History, Terroirs, Varieties’.


Linda Gaylard

Speech topic: The Many Ways of Tea: Its path around the world

Linda Gaylard is a Tea Sommelier and the author of the newly published, The Tea Book, from DK Books (a division of Penguin Random House). In 2009 she left a career as an influential TV wardrobe stylist to launch the website The Tea Stylist, for which she is best known.

Linda also writes for international tea publications, appears in media interviews, consults in the food and beverage industry and hosts tea classes and tea events.



David & Sarah

David & Sarah

Speech Topic: Genuine Tea/Our Journey

David and Sarah moved to Taiwan in 2010 and fell in love with the culture, the language and the tea. Taiwan is widely regarded as having the best high mountain oolongs in the world and served as the ideal location for them to begin their journey with tea. They spent four years in Asia, undertook a masters degree in business administration and travelled to 14 countries. After graduation, they travelled extensively through the tea plantations of Taiwan, China, Sri Lanka and partnered with a nonprofit in India.

David and Sarah returned to Toronto in 2014 and began studying to become tea sommeliers under the Tea Association of Canada. In May 2015, they launched Genuine Tea with the vision of promoting transparency and quality within the tea industry.


Zhen Lu

Zhen Lu

Speech topic: Appreciation of the leaf – How to Appraise Chinese Tea

Zhen Lu was brought up in a tea family and has a deep understanding of different aspects of Chinese tea, from the plants and the processes to the brewing and tasting of all the different types of Chinese tea.

Moreover, Zhen has extensive knowledge of the culture behind Chinese tea and how art, history and literature as well as Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism have played vital roles in Chinese tea culture.




Michelle Pierce Hamilton

Michelle Pierce Hamilton

Michelle Pierce Hamilton is a Nutritionist, Certified Tea Sommelier, and Healing Arts Practitioner/Teacher. These combined philosophies and disciplines are the spirit behind Michelle’s Nutrition-based tea brand, beTeas and all new, The Tea Lounge, a beautiful place to buy and experience exceptional teas in London, Ontario.

An educator at heart, Michelle is a faculty instructor at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in London, in addition to incepting and instructing the Canadian Tea Sommelier Certification program offered at Fanshawe College. A long-time industry professional in project management, Michelle also continues to work part-time as a Project Management Consultant for London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

Passionate about tea and health, Michelle believes tea is the world’s healthiest beverage and that it provides doorway to healthier diet and lifestyle.



Amy Taylor

Amy Taylor

Amy has been an avid tea enthusiast and tea leaf reader for nearly 30 years and is currently enrolled in the TAC Tea Sommelier Certification Program. She has been teaching about all things tea and tea leaf reading for the past 16 years. She is also a traditional herbalist, horticulturalist, organic gardener and author. She is currently writing a book about the mystical aspects of Tea. Visit her website at www.taotat.ca