While some of us immerse ourselves in tea all day, every day, others merely dabble. So what do those who like tea but don’t love it (yes, this is apparently possible) think about the wonderful world of tea? This is by no means a comprehensive, or representative take on the views of those who only occasionally enjoy tea, but gives some interesting insights into the experiences of one tea dabbler.
How did you come across, or start to drink, tea?
I didn’t really drink tea until sometime in college when I got sick. It was just bagged tea, maybe the Yogi brand tea, and was supposed to help boost the immune system.
How did you come across, or start to drink, loose-leaf tea?
A girlfriend gave me some loose tea and a tea ball during college. I think the tea was some sort of chai… I didn’t really drink it and it just sat on the shelf. I didn’t start really drinking loose tea until later on.
I have identified you as a “loose-leaf tea dabbler”. Would you describe yourself this way?
I think dabbler is a fair term. I drink maybe 60% of my tea bagged and 40% loose.
How does loose-leaf tea fit into your tea drinking habits?
At home, loose leaf is fine. At work I have a teapot with an infuser, so I do drink some loose tea there. However, often teabags are much more convenient. Anytime I am not at home or at work, they definitely are more convenient.
Do you notice a difference in quality between loose and bagged tea? What makes you go for loose tea 40% of the time?
I think you get a better sense of the variety of teas with loose-leaf. You get so many more options that go beyond the tastes of the general consumer base in America. Like, for example, getting the choice of fifteen white teas rather than two (if you’re lucky) in the supermarket, or finding more exotic teas or infusions such as flavoured mates. If you want less standard options, you have to get them loose.
But a lot of the time, bagged tea is just more convenient. I drink pretty high quality bagged tea, and I find it perfectly adequate most of the time. But I do notice the difference; I have some loose Earl Grey that is definitely better and more flavourful than any bagged Earl Grey.
Do you have a favourite tea, or type of tea?
I am definitely a black tea drinker. I generally like strong black teas (white tea is often too mild for my palette, and I just don’t like the grassy taste of green teas). Even Darjeeling is too mild for me, so I go for the stronger tasting ones, such as Earl Grey, PG Tips, English or Irish Breakfast. I also really enjoy Russian Caravan, and that is something I drink loose—I don’t think I have ever come across bagged Russian Caravan.
I feel it is easier to find better quality bagged black tea than, say white, or oolong, since it is the tea Americans are most familiar with. Do you think this has something to do with your 60/40 split?
There are definitely more choices with black tea at a supermarket. So, yes, it’s definitely easier to find decent black tea in bagged form. But I think it also has something to do with the fact that my mom has always drunk bagged tea. So that’s what I was introduced to, and became used to. More nurture than nature, you might say.
How do you feel about loose-leaf tea culture? Do you find that loose-leaf tea drinkers can be a bit snobby?
I’m not much of a teashop customer, so I’m not particularly aware of, or involved in, loose-leaf tea culture. But I am definitely a bit of a snob about other food things, such as coffee and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a little snobby about something you are passionate about—as long as it’s in good spirit and you can make fun of yourself for it!
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