There are definitely some things I wish I knew when I first started pursuing tea as a hobby and career more than a decade ago. As the saying goes, Hindsight is 20/20. I hope that these tips will be helpful whether you are a seasoned tea head or just starting on your journey.
1. Don’t be intimidated.
The world of tea is massive, and I was definitely intimidated by that when I first started. It took me a few years to figure out that it’s all part of the journey. No one is born knowing everything there is to know about tea. You are on your own unique path, and the experiences along the way are all part of the fun.
2. Have fun with it.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in all of the little scientific details like weighing leaves and measuring milliliters of water. The truth is that tea doesn’t need to be so serious, especially when it’s not for a review. There is no such thing as a right or wrong way to make tea. Get messy, experiment, and have fun!
3. There’s so much out there!
When I first got started, I had no idea how endless the number of tea varieties really is. Would you believe that I’ve written over 900 tea reviews without repeats? Sometimes I wish that I had started digging deeper sooner for that reason, but it’s also exciting to know that there will always be something new to explore.
4. Don’t be afraid to try things outside of your comfort zone.
As a lifelong picky eater, I spent many years staying inside of my comfort zone. Some of the teas that I avoided at the beginning are now my favorites. Where has puerh been all of my life? If you try a tea that wasn’t your thing, make it a point to circle back and try it again in the future. Brewing it differently can make all the difference. Your tastes also will change over time.
5. Skip the sketchy bargain tea (and teaware).
We’ve all been there. I wasted a ton of money on terrible tea from grocery stores and cheap eBay teaware. Deals are great when you can find them, but sometimes you get what you pay for. This part can be challenging when you first get started because you don’t know where to find the good stuff yet. Forums like Reddit and TeaForum are all good places to get recommendations
6. Meet other people as nerdy about tea as you are.
I was already a few years into blogging before I met anyone in person who liked tea as much as I did. If it weren’t for the internet and social media, I would have been one lonely tea drinker. Thankfully the online tea community has grown tremendously since then. Joining forums, posting on Instagram, and attending online courses and events are great ways to meet and interact with fellow tea lovers worldwide.
7. Travel while you can.
Travel would have been a lot easier back when things were less complicated. I wouldn’t change my life for anything, but I definitely should have made it a priority to do some tea traveling. The coronavirus pandemic really highlighted this regret for me because travel isn’t possible at all right now. I am making it a point to save up and begin planning a trip to Japan ASAP. The Northwest Tea Festival is also on my wishlist.
8. A variable temperature tea kettle makes all the difference.
I relied on my mom’s stovetop kettle and a thermometer when I first got into tea. Variable temperature kettles were just coming onto the market at the time, and they didn’t seem necessary. I’m here to tell you that I could not have been more wrong. Electic kettles are faster, much more accurate, and they have made my life so much easier. The model you purchase does not have to be a fancy one but I definitely recommend investing in a variable temperature kettle. That being said, I do enjoy that my kettle has a secret video game.
9. Really good tea is > stuff.
Every new hobbyist goes through an accumulation stage. It’s an exciting time, and you want to buy all of the things! I wish that I had been much more thoughtful about the tea things that I purchased initially. I had no idea what I was doing, and those choices definitely reflected that. I’ve given away or sold many of my first tea acquisitions because they were impractical or no longer suit how I prefer to make my tea now. That money would have been so much better spent on some really good tea.
10. Don’t be afraid to share your passion, no matter what anyone else says.
There was a time when I was a bit embarrassed by my passion for tea. Part of that stemmed from the misguided criticism of negative people who are no longer in my life. Now I wear my tea geek badge loud and proud. My family and friends don’t quite understand it, but they are still super supportive and encouraging. My husband is so supportive that he lets me torture him with tea on YouTube!
Is there anything that you wish you knew when you started drinking tea? I’d love to hear about it the comments!
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This post was originally published on April 11th, 2016. It was updated on May 5th, 2021.
I agree with all 10 points!! Especially about not being intimidated – tea can seem so complex but when it comes down to it, it’s something you drink and the point of a personal tea journey is to find out which teas suit you (vs learning about tea as a job, which can be more stressful).
It can definitely be super overwhelming but learning is all a part of the journey.
Great points here! Crucial factors that I have kept rooted in my own tea journey have included prioritized learning directly from stakeholders and people who work directly in the tea gardens. Gaining procifiency in Mandarin was crucial for my experience in researching Chinese tea traditions; however, I’d most definitely suggest learning at least key terms in the tea lexicon per each region you’re extremely passionate about. One last note is to support direct sourcing, single origin, sustainable, natural, small scale tea gardens as much as possible.
Digging into tea is definitely a great way to learn more about the Chinese language and tea traditions.