Who We Are


Yokoso – welcome! The BSA is a not-for-profit organisation (est. in 2006) run by volunteers that provides opportunities for people to taste a wide range of sake, and to meet brewers (Toji/杜氏) and others in the sake world by:

  • promoting understanding and enjoyment of sake.
  • promoting correct storage, serving and drinking of sake.
  • widening the scope of sake-drinking by pairing it with non-Japanese food.
  • strengthening and preserving the tradition of sake-making in Japan.
  • acting as a conduit between Britain and Japan.
  • supporting sake education leading to professional qualifications.

The BSA team – both board and committee members – are volunteers who have kindly dedicated their spare time to take on individual responsibilities at the BSA alongside their full-time professional jobs.

The BSA Team

Shirley Booth

Co-founder and President

Shirley first went to Japan in 1977, and her passion for the country and its culture has lasted over four decades. Her documentary Japan: Food For The
was broadcast all over the world, and won a Jury Special Prize in Japan. Her book Food of Japan won a Japan Festival Prize in 2000 and was shortlisted for the prestigious Guild of Food Writers’ Jeremy Round Award. In 2006, Shirley was honoured by the Japanese government, becoming the first UK recipient of the Japanese Agriculture Minister’s Award for Overseas Promotion of Japanese Food.

Many a happy evening spent drinking sake in Tokyo bars got her thinking about the importance of sake in Japan. Not wanting to see the disappearance of such an ancient tradition, in 2008 Shirley founded the British Sake Association, as a way of showing her support for the sake brewers of Japan.  Shirley is a member of the Guild of Food Writers, Society of Authors, and holds a WSET Award in Sake Level 3.

Brian Smith

Company Secretary and Honorary Treasurer

Marie Cheong-Thong


Marie is a WSET Certified Educator and also the International Sake and Shōchū Educator for the Sake School of America. Member of Circle of Wine Writers, Guild of Food Writers and on the Council Of Association of Wine Educators. 2021 Recipient of Guild of Food Writers Futures Fund Bursary. Member IWSC Judging Committee and Judges sake, wines and spirits on the International Circuit. 

Sarah Stewart

Memberships and Events Officer

Sarah is the Membership and Events Officer at the British Sake Association, the sake tutor at West London Wine School and a sake judge for the IWC. She won the WSET Level 3 IWC sake prize in 2019, is a graduate of the JSS Sake & Shochu Academy and holds the JSA Sake Diploma International. Sarah also studies the Urasenke tradition of Japanese tea ceremony, and enjoys exploring the relationship between sake and tea.

Harriet Furze

Website and Social Media

Harriet is the manager of the website and social media at the British Sake Association. She is an International Sake Judge for the IWC and an SSA Sake Sommelier. Harriet works as a wine & spirits and project management consultant, and is also an educational publishing professional.

Henry Thorogood

Operations and Events Officer

Henry is the Operations and Events Officer at the BSA, and coordinates the Association’s study group programme. He works as a freelance consultant, with a focus on Japanese beverage culture, spanning translation, events, writing, and television media. He is the European Representative for Shimizu Seizburo Shoten, and judges sake with the IWC. Henry holds the WSET Level 3 in Sake with Distinction, and is pursuing the Level 4 Diploma in Wines.