Tea snobbery

I just want tea to be enjoyed by everyone

46 Replies
K S said

I’m not sure I can take you seriously considering you dissed my beloved Earl Grey! ;) Kidding.

I wrote one a while back in a similar vein http://theeverdayteablog.blogspot.com/2013/08/yet-another-tea-bag-vs-loose-leaf.html

Earl grey really does not float my boat

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If you look at it from a historical perspective, the history of tea has long been one of snobbery. Even just looking at when the west started drinking tea in the 1500’s to the the late 1800’s that it really became more common place!

To me the beauty of tea is that it can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be.

I recognize that I’m a tea snob. :) But I’d rather be a tea snob than a coffee snob or a wine snob. Tea is cheaper! (and probably a little bit more healthy).

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**Though I will agree with you that Driftwood Teas is the epitome of snobbery. They just cancelled a tea tasting with a local tea group (that had been scheduled weeks ahead of time) because it wasn’t good enough for him.

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Jason select said

Tea drinkers, unite!

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Totally agree about the history, going from a luxurious commodity to one that allows you to buy 160 teabags for about £1.50!

I’d just like to see some of teas associations being ditched – when I bring loose tea to work and a strainer people look at me like I’m some snobby basrard

After reading that Driftwood post I ditched them off my favourites lisr – the whole thing came across as patronising and insulting.

Same with the marshaln post about steepster being useless, is this man some world authority on loose tea?

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Tea did start out in England as a snobbish upper class drink. And only changed due to politics and promoting English economy. Although it had been drunk in England since the seventeenth century, it was only by the classes that could afford it because duties were so high. It became a sort of socially high caste activity, especially for ladies. It was about polite sociability and entertaining your friends around the tea table, but they carefully locked up their tea in tea caddies.

Tea got “celebrity” endorsement first from Catherine of Braganza Charles II’s queen, and then again from Queen Anne. It came from China, it was expensive and it was refreshingly bitter, drunk in tiny cups without milk or sugar. People kept their tea in locked tea caddies as if it were a drug, and for those who could afford it, it often was.

It only began to filter out to the lower classes in the late eighteenth century when Pitt the Younger realized he could get as much duty by lowering the duty on tea so that more people would drink it. Gradually from the 1770s through to the 1830s the duties on tea came down.

Tea drinking took off in the nineteenth century. In Britain between 1840 and 1900 the consumption of tea and sugar quadrupled. Mass consumption required mass production on an industrial scale and huge tea plantations were developed by the British in India and Sri Lanka. New sources of sugar were also developed, reducing the role of the former slave plantations in the Caribbean. Tea drinking was regarded as patriotic as it supported British trade and empire, unlike wine and coffee, beverages of imperial rivals.

In addition, Temperance was important in Victorian England and the upper class Victorians desired to have a sober and industrious working class. It also tied in with Industrialism and Methodism. There was a lot of propaganda in favor of tea drinking. It was then that tea replaced beer as the national drink.

There’s a great history of tea in England in the BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects which talks about all of this.


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alice said

Maybe it depends on where you live but I find that in Australia tea is not even remotely intimidating to most people. Most people drink from tea bags but loose leaf tea is also gaining popularity.

I think it is easy to confuse tea enthusiasts with tea snobs. I’ve been accused of being a tea snob and while I’d never criticise anyone else’s tastes in tea, I’m also not in the habit of buying or drinking tea that I don’t enjoy.

I will complain when a cafe charges me $4 for an ordinary tea bag hanging over the side of a pot. If that makes me a snob so be it.

ifjuly said


$4 for a teabag and hot water – robbing bastards!

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I’m just interested in the general consensus on here – does loose tea put off the teabag user thru complexity and not knowing where to start

Lala said

That’s a hard question to answer and it is honestly going to depend on each person’s personality, or level of tea snobbery if you will. I think in general when starting with tea it is much easier to use a tea bag. The process to make tea is much easier, less complex, you don’t need too much equipment, and is pretty forgiving if mistakes are made. But myself, I drink both teabags and loose leaf depending on the blend, where I am, etc. There are some tea bags that I prefer to loose leaf.
I think, in North America for sure, tea culture has mostly been the tea bag. I think it is gradually moving in favour of loose tea. But I think the general population has only been exposed to the tea bag so that is what people think of when they think of tea.

Chizakura said

It can. I used teabags all the time because I was under the impression that tea leaves were a bit of a pain. Kinda like the difference between buying canned beans or buying them dry.

I found out I was entirely wrong about that when a friend brewed me up a cup :) Since then I only drink loose leaf. Not because I’m too good for teabags, but fine loose leaf just really tastes better.

Uniquity said

Canned vs dried beans works perfectly here. Even though my hubby and I brew loose leaf and cook from scratch, it took years for us to get around to cooking dried beans just because at first we weren’t sure how it all worked. Much like tea, even though it seemed as simple as “add water” we didn’t want to do it wrong and waste the ingredients and time.

Well…..I cook 90% of the time from dried beans, but not really due to taste. The benefit from starting with dried beans is not as great as from tea leaves vs. bags. Beans you do for the texture you want and no salt, and variety of getting beans that are hard to find canned, more than taste.

A better analogy would be coffee. Keurig vs. grinding your own freshly roasted and brewing by any decent method, French Press, Aeropress, Cone etc.

Peter said

Should change the topic to Bean snobbery :)

Chizakura said

For me the analogy works because that’s the reason I never buy dried beans, haha. I always buy canned and then just rinse them off to get rid of all the salt they feel the need to load onto them. I guess I’m just lazy, heh :D

Gene said

My family always used teabags as I was growing up. Good old Lipton brand, Orange Pekoe. I never liked it, except iced, with LOTS of sugar to mask the bad taste.

Last Fall a friends’ mother offered me tea, and I obligingly accepted the cup, and was transformed! It was wonderful. Malty, yeasty, with a slight flavor that reminded me of the scent of mowed grass. It was Assam.

I went out, bought a teapot, some loose tea, and never looked back. My tea cupboard is full, and not a teabag in sight.

I"m not a snob, I just drink what I like. we all should, whether it be loose or bagged.

alice said

Not very long ago most tea was sold loose and all tea drinkers were accustomed to brewing leaf. The rise of tea bags is about much more than simple convenience, the tea bag also created a market for lower quality tea dust and fragments that would otherwise potentially be waste because they can’t be brewed easily in a pot, while also making tea more accessible to the less wealthy. That isn’t to say that tea bags are rubbish but they are quite different to loose leaf, both have a place in the beverage market.

Tea traditionally has a lot of pomp and ceremony about it. Some of that can appear as snobbery yes, but it also rich in culture and history and all that can really add to the experience if you get into it. I don’t think the purpose of it is to exclude others at all but rather to make the experience more rewarding for the individual. Some people just want a tasty hot drink with a caffeine hit and others are looking for a more meditative experience, both are valid reasons to drink tea.

Of course getting into loose leaf tea is going to be daunting. There are thousands of varieties and price points and everyone has different tastes – where on earth do you start? With so many varieties though, there is really something for everyone if you keep exploring.

Most tea drinkers are happy to share their knowledge over a cup of tea with beginners :)

Angrboda said

Alice, well put!

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Too posh for teabags – I’m so having that T Shirt made!

Interesting debate, nice to hear different POVs too

CelebriTEA said

Hahaha…that is so cute.
Please choose a flattering cut of t-shirt for the ladies!
I Sooooo want one in Baby Pink with a tiara on the front ;-)

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I like that idea of sharing – and it helps me learn new teas too

Perhaps some of the snobbery extends from its past history then

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