It’s a conundrum: The world is rife with tea misinformation, and those of us who love this beverage often find ourselves wincing at one of the many tea misunderstandings that often come up in conversation or online. Nobody likes a know-it-all, of course, so I often just keep my mouth shut (or my fingers off the keyboard) and let the bad information slide (does it really matter if people think that monkeys picked their tea?). Still, there are some occasions on which I really feel that I ought to speak up. For example, when someone talks about how you can eliminate most of the caffeine in tea by steeping it for 30 seconds and then throwing out the first infusion before re-steeping, I feel like I need to say something: If a person shouldn’t be drinking caffeine, they need to know that a 30 second steep won’t do much to reduce the caffeine in their cup.
What I’ve learned is that there are three elements to politely refuting misunderstandings about tea:
- Gentle Interjection: If I think it is important to correct someone, I’m gentle about it. I might begin with saying something like “Actually, that’s a common misconception about tea, but the truth is…”
- Provide Facts: When possible, I quote a study or simply give a comprehensive explanation of why their information is untrue.
- Identifying with the Speaker/Writer: When I first got into tea, I got a lot of my facts wrong: I repeated the 30 second decaffeination myth and insisted that milk oolongs got their flavor from climate fluctuations. When someone repeats one of these old chestnuts, I always make a point of noting that I did the same thing at one time.
- Providing Additional, Interesting Information: While “monkey picked” isn’t really picked by our primate cousins, the term often does have significant meaning in the tea industry. After correcting the information, I immediately go on to explain that when a tea (particularly a Ti Kuan Yin oolong) is described as “monkey picked,” the retailer is noting that the tea is of high quality.
Editor’s Note: Your comments on this blog regarding any information you think is incorrect are always welcome. Lainie always gives us the straight scoop here and on her blog Lainie Sips!
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