Refuting Tea Misinformation, Politely

Shocking tea misinformation - What do you do?
Shocking tea misinformation – What do you do?

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!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 thoughts on “Refuting Tea Misinformation, Politely

  1. I am rather new to the tea world and the decaf-tea-30-second-steep-myth is definitely one I’ve heard again and again. I do try to double and often triple check facts before sharing with others, but I am sure I’ve done my share of posting misinformation. I deeply appreciate when people, much more knowledgeable than I am, correct me (in a nice way of course). I see this as a type of mentoring via social media. Since, I am so new to the tea world, I know I have a lot to learn. When tea experts share their knowledge and correct misconceptions I think it is a win-win for all.

  2. It is an even more delicate dance when you own a tea store….people come in for medical advice, weight loss – and if something was on Dr Oz – even it is an herb they call a tea… we get 20 calls asking why we do not carry this.

  3. Pingback: Refuting Tea Misinformation, Politely: My Latest on The English Tea Store Blog

  4. You’ve really got to know your “audience” when you make corrections on this or any topic. Some folks are appreciative, some folks are … well, not appreciative, no matter how gently the comment is framed nor how accurate the information you’re trying to impart. Yes, sometimes it is better to bite your tongue, although, as the author says, not when someone’s health may be at risk. (And you’re in good company about the “instant decaf” myth — it was passed along by a great many in the tea world, myself included, until it was finally disproved.) A well-done article.

  5. Thank you for your blog post Lainie. Mum always told me never to open my mouth unless I’m asked to, and so I often keep schtum but like you say, there are times when I do feel a bit of gentle interjection is required especially when people are worried about caffeine in tea, they tell me that there is more caffeine in tea then other beverages (to which I feel bound to explain this further), and that only green tea is good for you. And I nodded and smiled with you at the part you mentioned that you were prone to getting the facts wrong, too, at the start of your tea journey. Me too :o) but we’re both now in a privileged position to learn from our experience and can continue to re-educate when required and not to appear as a tea know-it-all. Thanks again for your post.

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