You’re seeing them pop up online already (and they have been since August and September, but they’re getting more numerous now). I’m talking about those promotions and ads for special gift sets for the tea lover on your list. This should be a great thing, but it can be more of a problem. It all depends on the teas in that pre-boxed gift. And a bit of thinking ahead on your part as the gifter.
Keep the Giftee’s Level of Tea Knowledge in Mind
It’s good to learn new things, but sometimes knowledge is best doled out in small portions. So if you want to introduce a friend or family member to teas a step or two above the bagged stuff at the store, go for something simple but definitely not that bagged stuff. A sampler set of some nice oolongs (like shown here) is one option. You might also choose to stay with black or green teas since oolongs can be a bit temperamental for novices to infuse properly, especially without a gaiwan.
If the giftee is a pu-erh devotee, you will want to find out if there are any particular ones he/she prefers. The variety is so broad that this information will be essential. Or again go with a sampler presented in a nice box that you can wrap and present. Tip: Don’t wrap up the pu-erh brick, bing, or tuo too far ahead; this avoids the possibility of mold building up in it due to a lack of air movement. If you want to introduce someone to pu-erh, you might opt for a loose version or some mini-tuos.
The Gift Is the Tea, Not the Packaging
The most beautiful box is still just a box, and when it holds something that is of a quality not worth the expectations such a box sets up in the mind of the receiver, it is even less than a box. So don’t be too focused on that when giving or receiving. The tea and/or teawares inside are the prize. The box protects them and prepares you for their discovery when it is opened.
That doesn’t mean the box can’t be beautiful and fancy, with a satin or silk interior lining, a brocade exterior, or be made of some fine wood, or have a nice design printed on it and a big, shiny bow. In fact, there is no reason not to present that gift of fine tea or a carefully crafted teapot or a tea set (gaiwan, chahai, sipper cups, and aroma cups) in such a box. All the better to say that the gift is special and chosen with care. And assure that everything arrives intact.
The Moment of Presentation
If you are going to present the gift in person, you might want to offer to provide information on the tea or join them in trying out the tea, depending on which one you are giving them. Of course, if you are the receiver, be a gracious one and say thanks, no matter what that gorgeous box contains!