Sitting around with my cup of tea has given me some time to ruminate on a few recent tea conversations. When viewed as a whole, these voices brought forth a few worthwhile considerations.
First off, it is important to clarify a comment I recently made on this Tching article. I noted that “tea snobs” were necessary, and that they would likely need to shame much of the tea-consuming public. What did I mean by that?
It must be noted that fine tea involves much more than the conventional use of the word “taste”. Most times, “taste” is used to refer merely to the combination of aromas and initial taste bud data. This definition omits critical and pleasurable aspects of many full tasting experiences. Concepts like mouthfeel, texture, and awareness of sustained, evolving aftertastes are foreign or ignored.
To use the words of one of my tea friends, the “gestalt of the tea” has been lost or at least ignored. With that loss came the loss of a form of wisdom. “Savor” and “sapient” are related in origin. To be homo sapiens is to have deeper perception, to have keenness. It is the essence of the ability to savor.
The tea snob then, is the sapient one who has cultivated the ability to savor. Many have not developed their innate abilities to savor, and so do not seek the gestalt of tea and the full taste experience I described. For them, lower qualities of teas suit them, and they are oblivious to the worlds of experience available to them. There are several forms of tea that will never allow a drinker to develop the ability to savor. Tea sapiens can get labelled as “tea snobs” by those who limit themselves to poorer teas and possess underdeveloped abilities to savor. I grant that the pretentious and arrogant may also be labelled tea snobs, and recognize the groups can overlap.
Either way, the tea snob has the ability to “shame” the tea-drinking public. The arrogant and pretentious will do so-putting people off of tea, or making them feel unable to develop their ability to savor. The tea sapiens will shame people indirectly. They will remind people who have abandoned their natural abilities to savor. Hopefully, tea sapiens will also step in to guide people toward excellent teas that are worthy of savoring.
In the end, I note that we need at least 2 kinds of tea. One is common, and used for quick, simple refreshment. The other kind exercises our ability to savor, and hopefully makes us more wise in the process. A proper diet of the two will make both tea drinkers and the tea industry healthier.