Why Tea Is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

Harney and Sons Holiday Tea, a part of the flavored tea section of the puzzle! (ETS image)
Harney and Sons Holiday Tea, a part of the flavored tea section of the puzzle! (ETS image)

Over the past few years I have discovered that tea is like a jigsaw puzzle. “Why is that?” you ask. Well, read on to find out!

When you start delving into tea, you may start out in a simple manner. Most folks new to tea start with cheap black tea in those string-and-tag bags. Or they may start with one of the popular flavored teas, such as Earl Grey or what in the U.S. is called “chai” (actually a spiced tea). The picture they form of tea is very incomplete — like a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle selected at random. And just like with a jigsaw puzzle, you need to start out with a few pieces so you can build from there.

With tea, the more you know, the clearer image you have of tea overall — like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces give a better image each time you put another one in place. Start simply, by learning about the basic types of tea (there is some disagreement about what these are, but for now let us say white, green, oolong, and black — set aside pu-erh for now since it can take a lifetime to get to know that tea type really well). Part of this education is learning about the tea plant and distinguishing it from other plant infusions being called “tea.” That gives you a bigger view of the overall picture to be revealed when your studies are more advanced (the picture may never be complete since the subject is a pretty complex one).

Each tea you try in these categories will flesh out that part of the jigsaw puzzle. You will find that green tea is much more varied than you would suppose. There are green teas from Japan, Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar, China, Kenya, and a number of other countries. There are also green teas from growers in the U.S., including several from Hawaii. Each one you try expands that part of the tea puzzle and helps you see the whole “green tea” type in more detail. It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle that has some animal in it. Seeing the pieces that make up the face or a part of that face such as the eye can be tricky until those pieces are put together.

As you continue on, you will sooner or later venture into that part of the puzzle called “flavored teas” and be able to distinguish those where the flavors work with the tea and those that simply make poor quality tea. You may find yourself getting to these teas early on due to their taste appeal but find that moving on to higher quality teas free of such additives as fruits, spices, and flower petals helps you see the subtleties of these finer teas. Like that face emerging as puzzle pieces are snapped in place.

Time to put a few more pieces of that jigsaw puzzle in place by exploring some teas new to you. Enjoy!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© 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.

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