Don’t judge a book by its cover. This is one piece of advice we have all received at some point in our lives and the same can be said about tea. Don’t judge a tea by its packaging is the best tea advice I received when I first started my tea journey. I almost always purchased tea that was stored in a gorgeous, reusable canister over tea that was wrapped in plastic, not realizing the packaging cost more than the actual tea. It probably helped that when I started to get more serious about the beverage I was drinking daily, I was also attending college for advertising, studying how to effectively promote or sell products through visual form. I used to think if the company can budget for such eye-catching packaging, surely their tea must be exquisite. Right?!
That’s not necessarily the case all the time.
There were some moments when the tea that came in the over priced packaging was worth it, but I often wondered (more than I would like to admit) how the tea in the cheap plastic wrapping would have tasted. Which brings me to my next best tea advice — find similar teas, from different companies, and compare them. If you can find one that is in pretty packaging and one that isn’t, even better. Steep them, sip them, and note what you like and don’t like about each tea. That’s the best way you’re going to know what teas you prefer and know if it just makes sense to buy a fun canister for tea separately next time.
If your tea journey is just beginning or if you’re in the midst of it but feeling intimidated, don’t worry, we were all beginners at some point. To help, I asked the following question to the online tea community who were eager to share their words of wisdom on how to strengthen your relationship with tea.
What is your best advice to give to any tea drinker looking to dive deeper in the world of tea?
“Look for sample sizes, and try to taste as many as possible. It’s a great way to learn what you like and also get to know tea types and terroir. Read blogs and books about tea if you want to dive even deeper.” – Sara Shacket, Tea Happiness
“Learn about how steeping times (and temperatures) vary. My first experience with oolong was over-steeped (unbeknownst to me) and put me off all oolong teas for years.” – Leslie Kay Stratton
“Get away from teabags as soon possible. Yes, even the sachets. You are doing your tongue a total disservice subjecting it to steeped…plastic. Tea leaves need room to breathe and thrive. Also…don’t drink tea for the health benefits. The only benefit you should worry about is how tea makes you feel. Expecting tea to cure your physical ails, too, is just expecting too much of the poor little leaf.” – Geoffrey F. Norman, Steep Stories
“Purchase samples from different tea vendors and companies. This is an affordable way to try many different teas. When you find ones you really enjoy, and you will, you can buy larger quantities. You can also get sample sizes of teas from local tea shops.” – Georgia, Notes on Tea
“Don’t be afraid to experiment! Even if you don’t have extensive knowledge about tea, you have nothing to lose from trying things like baking, cooking, flavor combinations etc. In fact, you have everything to gain. Be your own Tea Scientist ” – Nazanin Yousefnejad, Tea Thoughts
“Don’t drink tea from habit. Make everyday a tea discovery. Even if you happen to choose the tea you had yesterday, approach it with an innocent mind and heart. Discover something new about the tea, about life, about yourself.” – James Allen, Far West Tea
“Learning about tea is a process and it can be really intimidating when you’re just starting out. Keep in mind that it is all a part of the journey and drink everything that you can get your hands on. Whether a tea is good or bad, they all teach you something. Reading a lot of books and blogs can also help you to get multiple perspectives on things you might have questions about.” – Nicole Martin, Tea For Me Please
“At the beginning of my tea journey, a very respected San Francisco tea professional gave me the following advice:
‘My advice is to begin developing your palate and understanding of tea by simply drinking a whole lot of it. Both good and bad tea (you’ll soon begin to discern between what is good and what is bad.) Documenting your experiences – ask questions. Double check the answers you receive by what you’re able to find online. There isn’t really a crash course, for example, in understanding good food. One just needs to eat a lot – likewise with tea.’
Additionally, I find that comparing teas, their differences and similarities makes them more memorable. Also, don’t be afraid to try something out of your comfort zone. And finally, find a tea pal, tea mentor or group of tea enthusiasts to drink tea and talk about tea with, it’s even more fun!” – Anna Mariani, The Tea Squirrel
“Search for a tea with notes and flavours that you know you already love and branch out from there. If you love vanilla or chocolate or lemon, find a tea described with that characteristic.” – Chelsea, Taste the Tea
“Light fruity teas, or darker teas robust with flavour are a great way to ease your taste buds further into the world of tea. Want to love black tea but don’t like the classics? Try a chocolate mint flavour with a touch of sweetness and work your way up to a smokey earl grey or punchy masala chai. Iced, sweet, milk, plain, just have FUN!” – Miss Mary Lu
“Experimenting with your teas is the easiest and in my opinion the best way to learn more about tea. Make tea in different water types (a local spring water, hard, soft water). Or even try the tea at different temperatures instead of the recommended. Add something extra like a lemon or brew two teas in the same cup. There are tons of ways you can enjoy a cup of tea. Maybe you will find the perfect one.” – Sophia Mulvany, Shennong
“Taste, taste, taste! Tasting with friends can be even more fun. And read about tea, it’s a fascinating world.” – Francesco Guerrieri, Taste for Tea
“Just try everything. When I started out, I had only really had earl grey. I decided I’d just taste everything – if I went somewhere new, I’d ask what unique blends they had or for recommendations. I tried things I’d never heard of and things I wouldn’t normally like. Just dive in head first!” – Christina Orlando, Muse Monthly
“Always be prepared to try something different. That odd sounding tea may not be your thing – but then again it just may be! I think my most serious piece of advice is always get the best tea you can afford. There is nothing lovelier than a high quality tea.” – Laura Burley, Laura’s Tea Room
“Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t stop there. Experiment with tea in your everyday life. Tea is an amazing and versatile drink that can easily be adapted for cooking and creating with. Dive in and get crazy with tea. It’s a fun place with endless possibilities.” – Rachel Rachana Carter, iHeartTeas
Many thanks to those that shared their wisdom for this post! If you have your own best tea advice that you would like to share, please do so in the comments below!