A female flight attendant with almost a decade of experience in the air turned what used to be her hobby into a second career by offering wine-tasting lessons to her peers and business tycoons.
Chang Tien (張恬) holds a bachelor’s degree from the National Taiwan University’s Department of Chinese Literature, is proficient in English and has served as a flight attendant with China Airlines for nearly 10 years.
Chang used to indulge in wine tasting with a few close acquaintances during her days off, but said she never imagined that her hobby would eventually become her job.
Flight attendants are required to take wine-tasting classes as part of their job training, but they are only taught the rudiments.
“In the first few years that I worked as part of a cabin crew, I knew which kinds of wines were considered ‘good,’ but did not know how to tell them apart or what differentiated them,” Chang said.
Two years ago, with the encouragement of a senior colleague, Chang decided to further her knowledge of wine and signed up to take courses at an institution.
She gave up part of her leisure time to attend the courses and managed to pass the first and second-level certification exams for wine tasting, and is set to take the exam for the third level soon.
With the certificates under her belt, Chang was designated by her airline as a wine-tasting instructor for flight attendants to share her expertise with her colleagues and with cabin crews from Xiamen Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.
Impressed with Chang’s eloquence in instructing her fellow flight attendants, China Airlines put her in charge of a wine-tasting course that it began offering to its business-class members for the first time last year.
The course drew a large number of businesspeople.
“Sharing my life experiences is the crux of my teaching approach, which infuses talking about wine with poetry and a sense of warmth,” Chang said. “Whether it is a bottle of high-priced red wine, a glass of strong liquor, or a can of fruit punch, every drink in a way captures one of the various flavors of life.”
Chang gave as an example Shaohsing rice wine, which she described as tasting of “the years gone by,” whereas brandy had a strong flavor, yet simultaneously had a more subtle aroma of mellowness.
“Red wine brings people joy, but it also makes a good companion when one is lonely,” Chang said.
As Chang continued to develop her knowledge of wine, she realized that the “good life” comes in a variety of forms and that she must embrace it with objectivity.
Although Chang now sacrifices two of her days off each month to give wine-tasting lessons for which she earns just a few hundred dollars to cover transportation costs, she still finds pleasure in wine culture and spends most of her free time designing teaching materials for her classes.
“I enjoy flying and it is my career as a flight attendant that has enabled me to cultivate a second specialty as a wine connoisseur,” Chang said. “I am truly grateful to my company for providing a platform through which I can fully realize my talent and passion for wine.”