Things in the world of tea can be very turbulent, with bad weather, labor strikes, low prices at auction, factory fires, and a host of other ills befalling those who work hard to bring those tea leaves to market. But the ones who suffer most are the tea leaves themselves. Yes, I said the tea leaves. So what if they’re not sentient? It’s time for tea drinkers to S.E.T.T.LE.
What is S.E.T.T.LE? Glad you asked. It’s the Society for the Ethical Treatment of Tea Leaves. The society is dedicated to the following principles:
- Assure that tea leaves are labeled with their proper pedigree. A quality, hand-crafted Baozhong does not appreciate being called a mere oolong or a “Chinese tea.” A fine orthodox Assam SFTGFOP (Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) is humiliated by being labeled as “black tea.” And Japanese Gyokuro should never be lumped in with any old “green tea.”
- Encourage tea vendors to label packages with proper water temperature and steeping times for the newbies out there who may never have tried this type of tea before (they’ll probably do some experimenting later as they get used to the tea but need somewhere to start). Tea that is steeped in water that is too hot or cool or for too short or too long a time gets blamed for not tasting right.
- Mate the tea with the proper teaware. Some teas need a good old English-style ceramic teapot. Others do better in a glass teapot, or a gaiwan, a kyusu, or even a Yixing teapot. Yet the tea gets blamed for not tasting right which is hardly ethical treatment.
- Store the tea in the appropriate containers so that they can retain their intended flavor, keeping in mind that some teas are best stored only one to six months while others can be stored several years and pu-erhs are stored often for decades, getting better and better. Again, do this to be ethical with your tea leaves so they do not get blamed for bad flavor.
Take the pledge today to S.E.T.T.LE and stop blaming the tea for the taste going awry. It’s good for those tea leaves. It’s good for the tea garden workers. And it’s good for you, since you will be assured of tastier tea. Enjoy!
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