I receive a lot of messages from budding tea drinkers who are looking for ways to learn about their new favorite beverage. When you’re first starting out the world of tea can be wonderfully overwhelming. There is so much information out there, some of it conflicting, that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Here are some tips that I’ve learned along the way.
Read Everything You Can
One of the best ways to learn is to read anything and everything about tea that you can get your hands on. I’m a big book worm so that was a huge part of my early education.
These are some of the ones that I recommend the most often:
- The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
- The Classic of Tea by Lu Yu
- Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne, Francois Marchand, and Jasmin Desharnais
- Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic by Jinghong Zhang
- Modern Tea by Lisa Boalt Richardson
- Free Kindle Books for Tea Lovers
- The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard
- The Art and Craft of Tea by Joseph Wesley Uhl
- Tea: A User’s Guide by Tony Gebely
Your reading doesn’t have to be limited to just books! Blogs are another great way to learn more about tea. If you need help finding blogs, The Tea Bloggers Round Table is the perfect place to start. I also follow a huge amount of blogs through Bloglovin’.
Drink All of the Tea
Nothing teaches you about tea more than drinking it! The first piece of advice I give anybody looking to get into tea is to drink everything that they can. Whether it’s a super high-quality 1st flush Darjeeling or terrible puerh from your local Asian market, every tea has a lesson to teach. Knowing what bad tea tastes like helps you to understand what it is that makes the good ones so good. It can also be helpful to do comparison tastings focusing on specific types or different growing regions. As a lifelong picky eater, this was something I struggled with at first. Don’t let preconceptions keep you from trying something new! Tea isn’t nearly as scary as you might think.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
At the end of the day, tea is nothing more leaves in water. Don’t take it too seriously! It is easy to get wrapped up in doing things the “right way”. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun. That is often the best way to learn. There are thousands of varieties and almost as many ways that you can prepare them. Every tea drinker has their own preferences. What works for me may not work well for you. Oversteeping your green tea might taste absolutely terrible but it will help you to make it better next time around.
Connect and Share with Others
One of the best ways to learn about any subject is to connect with others who are just as passionate as you are. For tea drinkers, this can be a bit difficult as we’re sometimes a bit geographically isolated. Lucky for us there is the internet! Social media can be a great place to find people who are talking about tea. Comparing notes and sharing information is one of the most effective ways of progressing on your journey.
Instagram is one of my favorite places for this because it is so visual. You don’t even have to speak the same language to connect with other tea lovers! The community there is really amazing. Facebook groups, Reddit, and forums are also worth exploring. TeaChat was the main one when I first started in tea but that seems to have been mostly replaced by TeaForum.
Know that You Will Never Know Everything, and That’s OK
I’ve been pursuing tea as a passion for over a decade. That might seem like a long time but there is not a day that goes by without learning something new. Anyone who tells you that they’ve learned everything they need to know about tea is someone that you should immediately stop listening to. Getting into tea is a bit like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. It just keeps getting deeper and deeper. In many ways, I think that’s why I haven’t lost interest over the years. Drinking tea is not a competitive sport. Explore what interests you and never stop learning!
Use Multiple Sources
No matter how much you trust where you got your information, I always recommend verifying everything with multiple sources. There is a ton of misinformation out there. Many things that were accepted as fact years ago were found out not to be true. Older resources, like Uker’s All About Tea, can be fun to read but it is important to keep in mind that the tea world is ever-changing.
Readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you agree with my points? Is there something that I missed? Let me know in the comments!