About Us

About The Sake Sommelier Academy

The Sake Sommelier Academy is ‘the’ authority for sake in Europe. We strive to promote global education, awareness and appreciation of Japanese sake, to increase opportunities for students to learn the rich cultural history of sake. Another aim is to advance demand and consumption on a global scale. We’re the only organisation offering the Sake Sommelier qualification in the UK, and we have a network worldwide of people who are passionate about sake.

Founders – A love Story with Japanese Sake –

Xavier Chapelou is recognised as one of the world’s leading non-Japanese Sake experts. He is referred to as the ‘Sake Doctor’ or ‘The Sakeman’ within the industry. Xavier was a pioneer in bringing Japanese premium sake onto the UK market. Through his experience in both retail and fine restaurant consultancy Xavier has built an encyclopaedic knowledge of fine wine and sake. He is also the co-founder of the Sake Sommelier Association (SSA).

After working in various breweries, Xavier in 2004 became the first European Kikisake-shi (Certified Sake Sommelier) with the Sake Service Institute in Japan. Since then he has set about creating ways of imparting his knowledge to others .

Xavier has been a panellist alongside Heston Blumenthal for the ‘Cheltenham New Frontiers of Taste’ and worked as an Umami specialist since 2005. He is also the first person to have brought Japanese Sake onto the table of a non-Japanese restaurant in the UK. The past five years have also seen Xavier working as a sommelier at China Tang in the Dorchester Hotel holding prime responsibility for Japanese sake and Chinese beverages. Xavier was also nominated for “Educator of the Year 2013” by the prestigious drinks magazine Imbibe.

Kumiko Ohta is an authorised lecturer in sake, holding the Higher Certificate in Sake Education. She is also a Kikisake-shi and the other founding member of the SSA.

Kumiko grew up in Japan surrounded by rice fields and sake-brewing culture. She has since relocated to England where she jointly set up the Sake Sommelier Association. She continues to put her palate to the test by judging in various regional and international sake competitions. She has appeared on a variety of TV and radio programmes both in Japan and Europe, speaking about sake and also produced a short film about sake brewing. She regularly holds sake-tasting events for private and corporate customers in an effort to increase understanding about sake in the UK.

In 2008, Kumiko received the prestigious “Woman of the Year” award from Nikkei for her outstanding contribution to raising awareness of sake.

Xavier and Kumiko have been organising the London Sake Challenge yearly since 2012. They believe that the competition will continue to provide brewers from Japan with a great opportunity to enter the European market while simultaneously increasing their recognition and reputations in Japan.

Continuing their quest to raise the profile of sake the inaugural the Sake Sommelier of the Year in was held in 2013. Always putting sake first, 2015 saw the launch of two new titles, the Young Sake Ambassador of the Year and the Sake Ambassador.