There are five misconceptions Americans have about tea that have persisted through the years no matter what. Nevertheless, I will go ahead and present them here with my suggestions for how to counter them.
1 – Tea is that dust in a bag
To the majority of Americans, tea is that stuff you buy in the grocery store. It’s dust inside a little bag (some are that flo-thru design and others aren’t) that may or may not have a piece of string about 3 inches long glued to it and a paper tag glued to the other end of the string. Many of these teabags are then wrapped in a paper cover, giving the illusion of preserving freshness. Others are in foil covers that are more airtight. They offer convenience and portability. But is such dust really tea?
Well, it is and it isn’t. Sure, those teabags contain dust that started out as leaves from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis species). But by the time they are processed into that fine dust, they become akin to that instant coffee in a jar. Compared to steeping a full-leaf loose tea where you get rich flavor notes that vary from infusion to infusion, that dust is a pale and seemingly distant cousin. Try some loose leaf green tea side by side with a teabag green tea. The loose leaf will taste fresher and more varied. Of course, you can always use a sachet instead since they generally have larger tea leaf pieces in them.
2 – Tea is easy, no need to learn anything more about it
The shift to bagged teas caused a shift in thinking among tea drinkers. They began to see tea as the easy beverage – heat some water to a little above room temperature, dunk a bag up and down a few times in it, remove the bag and enjoy the tea…or not! Along with this “easy” approach to tea came a loss of real tea flavor. Life seems to be about trade-offs more often than not.
With tea, no trade-off is really necessary. With just a bit of upfront effort, you can enjoy your favorite loose leaf teas about as easily as you do those teabags – and get much better flavor in the bargain. Infusers are one option. I like the kind that fits inside my cup and can be lifted out and set on its lid which when turned upside down makes a great saucer to catch drips. Steeping mugs are another, although you need a tea that can be re-infused a number of times without the flavor totally degrading. The gongfu style of steeping isn’t nearly as complicated as you’d think, as you can see in our blog article here. And we’re here to help you make that transition away from teabags as easy as possible.
3 – Tea is too complicated
Just as the idea of tea being as simple as 1-2-3 (heat a mug of water, dunk in a teabag, drink) prevails, at the same time many think that anything other than a teabag is too complicated. All of that tea ceremony this and tea ceremony that, chanoyu-whatever, gonging the fu, and so on. As with anything, it doesn’t have to be that way. Your choice.
There is a saying that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Tea can be like that. You can take the time and effort to learn the formal ways of enjoying tea or you can put together your own simple routines. The end result of either will be greatly increased enjoyment of those teas. Of course, you need to start with premium teas. But don’t let that scare you. It’s easier than you’d think, and many tea vendors, including us, have lots of information on their store sites to help you through the process, or you can go to our social media sites and ask whatever you’d like to know about tea.
4 – Tea is just for when you’re sick or want some health benefit
The big culprit here is TV and movies. Time and again we see scenes of someone not feeling well (hung over, bad cold, almost run down by a passing car, etc.) and some well-meaning person offering them tea (sometimes it’s really an herbal infusion such as chamomile). It’s especially prevalent in British shows/movies. But we’ve picked up that attitude here. Many of us may also have had a parent, grandparent, or other relative who would offer us tea in our youth when we were sick. The growth in herbal medicine in the U.S. and Canada also means that tea is included in that aisle for stuff to infuse to “cure what ails ya.”
Let’s face it – lots of information is out there about how good tea can be for you. But don’t forget the flavors and aromas. Go ahead and have the hot cup of tea when you have a cold. It will more likely than not make you feel better just by having that hot liquid in your system, and for the most part it won’t hurt, assuming you can handle a small amount of caffeine. Also, take the time to try new teas. There is such an array out there that you could have a different tea every day of the year without repeating any. Trying various teas will help you identify the kinds of flavors that appeal to you, such as more floral oolongs, more richly flavored Assams and Keemuns, earthy and satisfying pu-erhs, and nutty white teas. Start thinking of tea as your morning wake-up beverage in place of that cup of java (see our article for some great teas for you coffee lovers).
5 – Tea is for special occasions or for that fancy tearoom
A tradition in the U.S. has grown over the years: celebrating special occasions with tea, especially at a fancy tearoom. In fact, the view of those tearooms as being for special events has been fostered by … ta-da! … the tearoom owners! Some events promoted: taking Mom to tea for Mother’s Day, bridal showers, baby showers, family reunions, taking Dad to tea for Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day (had to fit that in somewhere, considering that that date is quickly approaching).
This “special occasion” approach to tea ends up shortchanging you tea lovers. Tea is for any time, any day. Whether it’s a hot cup of Keemun with your ham and eggs for breakfast, some shu pu-erh for that mid-morning break, an oolong with that burger for lunch, or whatever else you prefer, tea is the perfect go-with beverage.
Don’t let misconceptions about tea keep you from enjoying this marvelous beverage!