Tea geeks, stand up and be proud. There is a lot to know about tea, and those of you who have achieved geek status must surely have spent a lot of time and effort scaling those heights of tea factdom. So, what is a geek?
One dictionary defines a geek as one of these:
- A person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy.
- A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.
- A carnival performer whose show consists of bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken.
The word “geek” supposedly comes from the Low German word geck or the Middle Low German word gek for “fool.” These days, we mostly associate the word “geek” with the middle definition above, that is, single-minded, accomplished, not socially adept.
Tea geeks, though, are a class of geeks apart. For one thing, they tend to be fairly social, throwing tea parties left and right. They seek out those who know little or nothing about tea and gleefully chatter on at them about the different varietals of the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis) and the wide range of flavored teas and tisanes to choose from.
Of course, the poor people they corner and wag their tongues at for hours about tea probably think they belong in the third category above, that is, performing bizarre acts. Tea geeks steep, brew, infuse, inhale aromas, dance each sip around their tongues to be sure every molecule of flavor is detected, examine the tea leaves both before and after steeping, compare notes with other tea geeks about how many steeps they got from this oolong or that pu-erh, and rabidly follow every tidbit of tea news out there.
Oh, yes, they’re geeks, alright. And how!
Some tea geeks have gone on to build decades-long careers being geeky about tea. They know the ins and outs of theanine, distinguish caffeine myths from realities, can tell a tannin from a turnip (okay, so that’s a no-brainer), and often can tell you which tea estate the Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, Taiwan, Japanese, or Chinese tea came from. They can also be your best friends, steering you clear of the pitfalls of tea drinking, the low-quality teas being palmed off as higher quality teas (pu-erh is commonly faked as are other pricey teas such as Silver Needle), the blends that don’t quite work as well as the ones that do, the flavorings and items such as rosebuds and hibiscus petals that work with which tea, which teas work best iced or chilled and which are best hot, and much more.
If you encounter a tea geek, be sure to thank him or her with an appropriate teatime treat such as freshly baked cookies or scones with jam and clotted cream. Beware, though. Like a stray puppy or kitty, the tea geek might follow you home and never leave. If you’re like me, though, that might be a very good thing. You’ll never have to guess about which tea to buy or serve ever again.
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