Tea Etiquette

Do you think “tea etiquette” is a thing of the past?

22 Replies

That’s kind of vague… which sort of tea etiquette are we referring to here?

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Tea has long been associated with acting “proper,” pinkies up and that sort of thing. Do you think we have totally moved passed that?

As for “pinkies” and snobbery-by-way-of-ego-stroking.. sure, these things don’t go away. Some people think this is the only way to really enjoy things. They’d do it gladly to wine, cheese, cotton-candy, sandwich bread, nail clippers, etc…

Given enough time, any subject can open one to an entire universe. Whether that leads to snobbery or to re-discovery of beauty and connections? That’s up to each individual person.

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Then again, I think of “tea” etiquette as normal etiquette.

You drink the tea, while striving to make everyone around you as comfortable as possible. You listen to your friends and peers, and you listen to the tea. You talk about what you’re experiencing, and what you remember, and share openly with as much honesty as you can.

Tea etiquette for me is simply respect. If you respect your fellow drinkers, all other things will come as a matter of course.

If you respect the tea and respect those who made it, grew it, nurtured it, then you’ll understand that there’s a line of people stretching far back who each thought this tea was worth investing a part of their life into.
If they did that for you, you might as well invest a just few moments of your attention into finding out just what they saw in those simple little leaves. Because who knows what you might discover?

With respect, all of these things come easily and naturally.

And respect is definitely alive and well!!

SimplyJenW said

Love this!

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Well said Spoonvonstup!

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Along the lines of spoonvonstup, and like rumpus parable stated, it very much depends on what you have in mind by etiquette. The snobbery is often associated with British afternoon tea, tea for the royalty. Their is a lot of good that can come from that though.

Their are a plethora of Victorian tea houses and it seems that all little girls at one time or another have a dress up tea party. These can teach good manners, hospitality, proper social “etiquette” and other such traits. High tea was also very much a part of British life yet this was very much a common people’s custom as well.

Personally for me when I think of tea etiquette, I try to model myself after more of the Chinese customs. Which can tea humility, equality, hospitality and the like, not saying I’m good at humility but hey I try. :)

While I think that much of this is lost in the day to day consumption of tea for the general populace. I think much of it lives on, tea by its very nature forces that to a point. For example as tea is a hot drink, it forces people to slow down and not gulp it which means when someone offers you a cup of tea you can assume they are not going to shoo you off in a hurry, tea is also relaxing which puts people more as ease, perhaps reduces stress and and I think makes people friendlier. Also there is a process to making tea which usually means people are not inclined to consume something faster than it took to make it.

Its like tea is saying hey I know you think your to busy to slow down, smell the roses and have a pleasant conversation with a friend, but guess what sucka, your going to do it anyway! :)

While tea may not be what it once was for the masses, I believe it is still a powerful social construct and inspires many of the good qualities that were once a focus, perhaps just more subtly now.

Extremely well said. I was going to reply on this thread from the Chinese tea perspective, but you and Spoonvonstup pretty much sum up the essential respect and humility. I like your point that even the physical act of drinking tea enforces the Chinese tea values in a way.

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I’m not too sure about tea etiquette, but tea stereotypes are alive and well. I was talking about the finicky nature of green tea, and how it needs to be the proper temperature and steep time and my mom interrupted me to laugh at me.
“Oh, you just sound so Canadian!” (I recently moved to Toronto from Tennessee)
“Oh, you know, the proper brewing temperature of tea, steep time, pip pip, cheerio!”
“…tha-that’s British, Mom.”
“They’re similar enough.”
“But green tea isn’t even…you know what? Okay. Yes. I sound very Canadian when discussing the proper brewing temperature for green tea.”

My tea etiquette is respect as well. I do respect my tea and the time it takes to make a good cup of tea. I do prize my tea, so if you’re in my home and I offer to make you a cup, it means something. I don’t offer looseleaf to everyone who comes in my door, because not everyone who comes through my door is worth the time and the effort of making a proper cup of tea. It’s my way of saying “Hi, welcome! I like you! Let me share this thing with you that has become really important to me!”

Tea ritual is important too. There have been many times where the simple act of making and then drinking a cup of tea has cheered me up or calmed me down.

I find way too much joy in a cup of tea.

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If we’re speaking more of the British and similar tea etiquettes, I’d say that no, it’s not fading away.

Tea has sort of a dual personality here in the US. And specifically in my life, too.

There’s just-grab-a-mug-of-beverage like at Starbucks or casually getting a drink at home.

Then there’s the seen-as-snobby or rigid tea stereotype that is commonly thought of when you get into types, steep types, tea pot styles, steeping times, tea measurements, cup styles, foods with the tea -especially scones or similar, formal table manners, etc.

On personal opinion, I like both in my life and neither rules out the other. They each have their place and also even often overlap by those like most of us here who have developed a mix of casual-but-specific tea handling nature.

I think on the larger scale these two stereotypes of tea and drinkers are both alive and well in American culture. I don’t see western tea etiquette fading away, it’s just as always the case only one part of tea culture.

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Spot52 select said

Not in my house. I drink tea because I like tea, there is nothing “fancy” about it. People who try to enforce such archaic stereotypes make me sick. They should be allowed to do so, but do not hold me to your standard.

That’s the cool thing about tea, that people who really enjoy it, no matter how they are preparing it, are not out to judge. Even in China, some people just stuff leaves in a cup, pour boiling water on it and drink it on the go. This can be a great experience too. “Tea people,” whatever that might mean, are not going to enforce one right way, but encourage tea drinking in all its forms. (It’s a part of the etiquette in a way). Unfortunately, some people get carried away by their rituals and insist on everyone following their rules. It sounds like you have had bad experiences with these types, and for that I am sorry.

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A great discussion here, you guys are awesome for putting so much thought into your responses!

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Love all the responses and opinions…I’m pretty tea-crazy and a good cup of tea is pure nirvana for me, but I definitely don’t fall under the “snob” category. I don’t think a stopwatch is required to brew a good cup of tea, just some basic guidelines. And I really don’t give a darn how other people make their tea, as long as they’re enjoying it and not drinking a nasty soda, lol. (Okay, maybe that was a little snobby.)


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