I’ll admit something; until a few years ago, I didn’t know what tea was.  When I was around three years old, I thought it was a type of coffee.  By the time I was five, I thought it was a powder you mix into water.  Sure, it can be, but that kind of instant-made tea doesn’t have the quality that real tea does.  To be honest, I didn’t even know that tea was a plant.  For some unfathomable reason, I thought tea could be made by dumping a bunch of leaves in boiling water – not even tea leaves.  I thought that if I plucked some leaves off the scrawny little tree in our backyard and put them in a pot on the stove, I would have tea.  Thank goodness it never occurred to me to try that.

I was in third grade when I first tried tea.  That is, tea besides that powdered kind that came in a jar with “Lipton” printed on it.  After I realized it came in a bag, the put-leaves-in-water-and-boil-that idea went out the window.  I also learned that it could be made without the bag, and instead brewed as a loose leaf.  But what I still didn’t know was what the little leafy things were inside the bag.

When I was in fifth grade, it eventually occurred to me to research what tea was.  I finally knew that tea was a plant.  Actually, most herbal teas are not technically “tea” because they are not made of the tea plant, but they have become so widely recognized as tea that no one questions it.

But something has occurred to me:  Most of my false beliefs about tea through the years have come from fantasy books that have incorrect descriptions of what tea is.  Sure, there are some books that get it right.  But many books reveal that the author did almost no research regarding tea and must never have actually drunk any.  I cannot recall the exact books (given that I’ve read many), but one actually had me convinced that I could make tea by grinding something like cinnamon into an extremely fine powder and then putting it into a coffee maker.  Or dumping lots of different things into a pot and calling it tea…

Happily, I now know what tea actually is and take pleasure in consuming it.  But I hope that other people who have been similarly misled also learn what tea is, and the true pleasure in it.

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