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Master of Sake qualifications announced

The Sake Sommelier Association has launched two new Masters sake qualifications which it describes as “the most exhaustive, comprehensive and hands-on sake courses ever created”.

The Master of Sake qualification includes a trip to Japan to learn about rice cultivation and harvesting (Photo: The Sake Sommelier Association)

The Master Sake Sommelier and Master of Sake courses will be the “industry-leading” qualifications, with the Master Sake Sommelier (MSS) designed to be completed in a two-year period and the Master of Sake (MOS) requiring an additional year, the Sake Sommelier Association said.

“I see the two course flows as comparable to the difference between Master Sommelier (MS) and Master of Wine (MW),” Xavier Chapelou, founder of the Sake Sommelier Association, said.

“Our MSS course, which is much more service-focused, will be fantastic for students looking to progress further in the restaurant and hospitality settings, whilst the added production and dissertation elements of the MOS makes it a little closer to the MW.

“We also hope graduates would feel inspired to pursue their ultimate sake goals – be it becoming a tōji [master sake brewer] or the next sake ambassador.”

The courses will be taught in London employing leading international expertise and will afford students advanced practical experience in sake service and retail sales.

The MOS course will include a study tour in Japan, where students will work alongside a tōji in a sake brewery as well as learning the origins of sake through agriculture.

The courses represent the first time such in-depth sake education will be available outside of Japan, the Sake Sommelier Association said.

Sake Sommelier Association co-founder Kumiko Ohta said the reason for introducing the two new courses to the association’s education programme was to provide qualifications “instantly holding credence within the industry, furthering graduates careers and opening new doors for them”.

The two-year MSS qualification costs £18,000 (£9,000 per year) and offers candidates “the opportunity to experience sake service in a host of different environments”. This includes two months working at a Japanese restaurant in London, one month working in a fine wine and sake shop and classes held in London.

The three-year MOS qualification costs £30,000 and incorporates one month working at a Japanese restaurant in London, one month working in a fine wine and sake shop, one month working at a sake brewery in Japan and another month in Japan learning about the cultivation and harvesting of rice, along with classroom teaching.

Founded in 2000, the Sake Sommelier Association has a global network of more than 500 sake educators and professionals. It provides Introductory, Certified, and Advanced Sake Sommelier courses.

Candidates for the MOS and MSS qualifications must have first completed the Sake Sommelier Association’s Certified Sake Sommelier and Advance Sake Sommelier courses.

Sake is growing in popularity in the UK, with three sake breweries opening and aiming to start distribution in 2016 – Arran in Scotland, Dojima in Newmarket and Goodness Sake in Brighton.

Japan exported ¥5 billion (£62.5m) worth of sake in 2014 – up 9.3% on the previous year. The UK accounted for 2% (£1.25m) of this.

The UK is now the fifth-biggest importer of sake in the world, behind the US, Taiwan, Korea and China.

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