Our blog exists to share our passion for premium teas with you. But, we are also here to help you learn about them and get to enjoy them to the fullest. During the many years we have been in the tea business, we have also learned some valuable things about how to help your friends (and possibly your customers) learn to more fully appreciate this complex subject. In an attempt to simplify, we have tried to condense our thoughts down to five points for your consideration. Everything else seems to be just variations of these points.
Point One: Small Chunks
Keep those tea “lessons” sized as small chunks. Just as most folks can’t stuff a whole pie in their mouths at once but instead have to take it in bites, so their brains absorb knowledge a chunk at a time. Learn a little, enjoy a little, learn a little more, enjoy a little more, and so on. The big question is what those chunks of knowledge in those lessons should be like. I saw one post about trying to compare oolong with sencha – a much bigger chunk than you might think. The vendor had the right idea of wanting to educate customers and show them important differences. The chunk was just wrong. So, you need to…
Point Two: The Right Chunks
Tea is a complicated subject. Just as you want to avoid overwhelming your customers, you also want to avoid oversimplifying or misconstruing. There are hundreds of oolongs and quite a few senchas (the term generally refers to green teas from Japan where the tea plants were not shaded for a few weeks before harvesting), so comparing these tea types is the wrong chunk for a tea lesson. You can compare the basic tea types, generally considered to be black tea (what Asians call “red tea”), green tea, white tea, yellow tea, oolongs, and pu-erh teas. (There is also a tea called “purple tea” from China and another from Africa.) You can clarify what is a true tea versus what is a “tea” made of other things (Rooibos, honeybush, chamomile, rosebuds, etc.). You can differentiate a tea blend from a flavored tea. Lots of the right chunks to put in those lessons. But you don’t need to stay at that basic level; as your customers learn, they will want to get into the complexities, so…
Point Three: More Complex Chunks
In the world of marketing, the pros talk about horizontal versus vertical approaches. As you get more complex in your chunks, they get more “vertical.” An example would be: as you get more detailed about a particular style of tea, such as the wide world of green teas. Pu-erh is a style in itself that can take many years or even a lifetime to really know well. Take your customers to the first level on that vertical chunk of knowledge. Their lessons may be more in-depth, but they still need to follow the guidelines of ‘Point One’ above (keep the content to a size that is digestible in one session).
Point Four: Meaningful Tasting Sessions
No matter what level of sophistication your friends or customers are at, they will get more from articles, lessons, and chunks of information when a tasting session is included. Make your sessions focused around a theme, such as “Taiwanese Oolong Tea Comparisons,” “Spring Teas from China” or “Differences Between Pu-erh Tea Factories.”
Some of us don’t have physical stores, so we hold private sessions with our friends and those who care to travel to meet with us. Those who have stores may want to designate a day that is best for customers to attend a tasting. Bottom line: be creative and make it fun for both yourself and your friends or customers.
Point Five: Enjoy Good Tea Books
While many tea books are “coffee table” style, and may appear to be focused on being eye candy with glossy, gorgeous photos, we sell a book on our site that is definitely an exception: The China Tea Book by Luo Jialin. There are also many other great books out there on tea history and how tea has affected different cultures and countries. Tea has been driving commerce around the world for centuries. It has been a predominant form of currency at different times in history. Tea is collected, traded, and held in controlled storage to age and gain value (both from a monetary and from a flavor profile perspective) around the world.
Enjoy in good health. Sometimes the best way to learn is to teach.