It’s not easy being a tea drinker. Most people think that all we ever do is tilt pretty little cups over pretty little saucers, with our pinkies poised like little ballerinas over the impossibly tiny cup handles. There exists a reverse discrimination of sorts . . . tea drinkers are banal, mild creatures. Yawn.

What people do not know is that tea drinking has not only exploded in this country, but has given rise to a new category of self-help books. Behind all those miracle tea diets and beaucoup antioxidants lurks a real threat: the serious tea drinker. Each of us probably knows a serious tea drinker, and we need to reach out to these people, let them know they are not alone, and help them continue to accommodate their tea habit in a healthy way. This post will share some of the most common symptoms. Do not be surprised if you recognize yourself.

Drinking tea alone: This is one of the greatest pleasures of life. A gift to the self and the spirit.

Encouraging others to drink with them: This behavior goes back for centuries. During times of great joy or great sorrow, tea with friends makes it better, whatever it is. Nevertheless, all serious tea drinkers can be observed . . .

tea stash 2_15Hiding and hoarding special tea: You may know a tea drinker – not you, of course – who purchases very, very special tea and then hides it until special guests come over. Historically, this behaviour is well-documented, and led to one of the newest discoveries in the exotic world of tea. (It is only a matter of time before it is acknowledged that Pue’rh was unplanned. A poor tea drinker, not unlike your friend, spent the entire month’s rice budget on tea. In a fit of guilt, the special tea was hastily compacted into a heavy clay vessel and buried under the oxcart, only to be discovered by dam builders fifty years later.) Hiding and hoarding is closely related to:

Possession of many kinds of tea: Novices try one tea, get comfortable with the W+3T formula, and branch out. . . sometimes to the point of forgetting the law of diminishing returns. While one wag said that “Freedom is the absence of choice,” another noted that “Variety is the spice of life.” Suddenly, the simple morning Oolong is followed by a jasmine at lunch, a nice spicy black, like Margaret’s Hope or Golden Lion’s Paw before dinner, and a Morning Dew before bedtime. This variety causes:

Drinking Tea 24/7: and liking it. There is slight danger that the serious tea-drinker will become a monumental bore – not unlike some wine drinkers – if he/she loses sight of the fact that tea is a gift for, and of, the self.

Obsession with and purchase of accessories: Tea drinkers often get hooked on their first cup. It is a powerful realization that a good cup of tea is like a warm hug. Soon they want MORE. That plastic Ronald MacDonald mug works, but does it feel like a dear, warm friend in the hand? No. This obsession always starts the same way . . . just two beautiful cups. Then, it’s a beautiful cast iron or glass or clay pot. And then, it’s a travel tea set, and soon, they are talking just like every other tea accessory junkie out there. “I promise to quit right after I get one of those exquisite little wooden spoons and a gorgeous little vessel for the strainer. Gotta have those.” Indeed, at the rate you’re going, you will be forced to open a tearoom within five years so you can use all the tea toys you have purchased.

How many of the symptoms do you have?

This post first published on the blog on 14 February 2008 under the title “For the love of tea – are you a serious tea drinker?”