The world of tea is vast and fascinating. You’re interested to start the tea journey, but you feel a bit intimidated. Don’t worry, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Everyone was a beginner at some point.
To help you along your journey, I asked the following question to some seasoned tea practitioners. They were eager to share their words of wisdom on how to start your tea journey and strengthen your relationship with tea.
“What is your best advice on how to start the tea journey?”
Before forking out big $$ for tea courses, buy the 3 books (see Note below) I recommend and join local tea clubs, which highlight tea events and gatherings. The books will give you a insight to the massive world of tea and the tea events will provide you with the palate experience.
Tania Stacey, Owner, Cuppa Cha
Note: The 3 books recommended by Tania are listed below, and are available for purchase from our bookshop. Just click on the title or the picture of the book.
My advice to new comers would be find what you enjoy in tea and which style. Once your inquisitive nature takes hold, you will want to discover other styles, flavours and cultures.
Tea is a beautiful journey and we all do it differently.
Don’t spend your hard earned money too early on in your journey. Later you will discover teas, books and events that will be worthy of your money.
David Lyons, Owner, 18ThirtyFour
I recommend people interested in starting on tea beyond tea bags to pick a couple of basic types and take it organically from there. Issues come up right away: which type or types, bought from where, how to brew it, about devices, and so on. It could seem like trying to drink the ocean, just to get started.
A local tea shop can help on the source side. Just brewing Western style at first works, but that doesn’t work as well for some types, like sheng pu’er.
I’d recommend trying a light rolled oolong and Chinese black tea first (maybe Dian Hong), both easy to brew, both ok at a range of quality levels, representing different directions.
Everyone’s path would be different but it’s not so bad to go step by step. For people into reading and online discussion it’s easier, since both can fill in background, but only a little is necessary for a start anyway. It’s just putting dry leaves in hot water.
John Bickel, Blogger, Tea in the Ancient World
I would recommend starting with the most famous or common teas from different regions to introduce oneself to the different flavours that tea can produce. Take your own notes and trust your own taste.
Kristy Moorcroft, Owner, The London Drum
Always use loose leaf where possible and the best quality you can afford. Don’t brew longer than 5 minutes, it makes the brew bitter.
Ask questions of tea practitioners. Not every person who owns a tea business actually knows about tea and certainly not all types of tea or all aspects of tea. Don’t be afraid to double-check and cross-reference with other practitioners, books and papers.
Adeline Teoh, Tea Writer, Teashirts
Beginning your tea journey can take you on a sensory experience like no other. I recommend finding a community in which you can connect with over a shared love for tea. Visiting local tea houses and tea stores together is a great way to start. Find places that offer a variety of tea samples to try and tea experts available so you can learn, touch and taste the tea.
Julia Torkos, Owner, Allegra & Grace
The best way for you to get involved is to find a group of tea friends with whom you can explore tea with, online or even local groups. Even finding a trusted tea supplier who can direct you to certain tea that you can taste and enjoy will help you on your tea journey.
Tania Nepe, Owner, Moose Teas
Follow your heart, be that a spicy chai, a fruity earl grey, or a traditional gongfucha. Just start with whatever sparks your interest, start brewing, and share it with friends!
Kaishan Wu, Owner, Libertea
My personal tip
Don’t judge a tea by its packaging.
Growing up, my family used to buy our tea from an established but no-fuss tea merchant in my hometown. If you were to take a look at the packaging, you will be totally turned off. I kid you not – it came in an unadorned, transparent plastic bag (we put it in an airtight container once purchased).
Did we mind that the packaging was so plain? Not really, as the tea was good. And that was all that matters.
Don’t be misled into thinking that if a tea company can budget for eye-catching packaging, surely its tea must be exquisite, right?
That’s not always the case all the time.
A lot of tea producers buy their packaging from generic tea packaging companies. This means that the packaging is not always specific to the tea. So, do not be misled by fancy tins. The best way to judge tea quality is by taste.
Summary: How to start your tea journey
Here is the essence of how to start your tea journey:
- Read about tea to learn some fundamentals.
- There is no substitute to actual tea tasting.
- Find a knowledgeable tea supplier you can trust.
- Taste tea widely and variedly to establish your preference.
- Join tea events, communities, meet-ups, courses etc to establish connection and deepen your knowledge.
Hopefully, these tips are helpful for you as you embark on your new tea adventure. I wish you a pleasant and beautiful tea journey!
Many thanks to those that shared their tea wisdom for this blog. If you have your own advice on how to start the tea journey that you would like to share, please do so in the comments below.
Wishing you a great day,
Suk-yi is a caffeine lover, blogger, entrepreneur, air quality consultant, environmentalist, world citizen, wife and mother. She explores various topics related to coffee, tea, chocolate and everything in between on her blog. Make sure to follow her on her Facebook Page, Instagram Page and Pinterest Page.