Tea can be just like any other interest that you pursue. It can be a sideline item in your life, a hobby, or an all-consuming passion. The timeline below will help you figure out which position tea is holding in your life and how far along you are.

A gift basket with good teas in it can get you started on a real tea journey! (ETS image)

A gift basket with good teas in it can get you started on a real tea journey! (ETS image)

Early Stage of Getting Serious About Tea

You know there is some beverage out there called “tea” and actually have a cup now and then, especially when you’re sick and someone says, “A nice cup of tea will make you feel all better.” You may even take it upon yourself to buy a box of those teabags from the grocery store and stick them in the back of a top cupboard in the kitchen so they’re on hand when you feel sick or a tea drinker drops by for a visit. (Every time I visit someone’s house and ask for tea, they need a step ladder to get the box of teabags out.)

Early Middle Stage of Getting Serious About Tea

Someone gives you a gift basket for Christmas, your birthday, the launch of your new yacht, or some other important occasion. The basket contains a box of teabags from a company such as Taylors of Harrogate or Twinings that are several steps up in quality from those grocery store bags. You try them, your tastebuds start to get excited. The grocery store teabags get relegated to the back of a cupboard in your bathroom so you can treat your puffy eyes with them some time. Then you go merrily back to the kitchen to steep some more of the good stuff.

Late Middle Stage of Getting Serious About Tea

Having run out of that gift tea, you go exploring shops in the area for more or cruising online at the various tea vendor sites. You see some tea on sale at the store or online shop or it might even be an offer to get a free sample or two. Your curiosity piqued by that gift tea and sensing that there was more to tea than you had imagined in your wildest dreams, you buy that on sale tea or accept that sample offer. You take them home and steep some. Your tastebuds are exposed to a whole new world of tea. You start having tea on a regular basis, a cup a week or even two or three.

Late, Late Middle Stage of Getting Serious About Tea

You decide to check out a local tea room and see what they have to offer your increasingly demanding tastebuds (don’t even think at this stage of subjecting them to a cup of that grocery store tea by now – they’ll revolt). You select something different from any tea you’ve had yet. By now, your need to expand your tea horizons is so strong that you want to start tasting all sorts of teas. Flavored teas with fruits, spices, flowers, and herbs added are catching your attention in a big way. You buy some, take them home, and savor the flavors. Then, you start blogging. Tea vendors see your blog and start offering to send you more samples. You accept and are in tea heaven for awhile until…

“You’re a Goner” Stage of Getting Serious About Tea

A sample of competition grade Tie Guan Yin arrives from a vendor. It’s an oolong. The steeping instructions say to use cooler water and steep a short time. You do. It’s magical. Your tastebuds have just been transported to that higher level. You detect natural flavors in the tea that the others have to fake by adding in those other ingredients. This is a true revelation. Is this tea unique? No, it’s not! You discover a huge array of such teas. There are white teas and green teas and oolong teas and black teas and yellow teas and purple teas and pu-erh teas. You get dizzy and feel a bit overwhelmed, trying all these teas, and then…

Making the Tough Tea Choices

You have to slow things down, simplify, make some tough choices. You are running out of space in your cupboards and/or pantry, despite having moved all of your dishes, pots, pans, and foods out of them and into cardboard boxes stacked around the kitchen. You now have a dozen teapots, some specifically for steeping certain teas. You have a kyusu, tetsubin, several Yixing clay teapots, a gaiwan, several strainers, teacups of all shapes and sizes, and more. Time to get a grip here. You start thinking, “Which of these teas do I turn to on a daily basis?” You choose those to keep and find good homes among your friends for the rest (your friends then begin their own journey toward this same stage of getting serious about tea). Ah, you can relax and enjoy those special teas. And then you get that email announcing: “It’s time to pre-order those first flush teas!” How can you resist?

Happy sipping!

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

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