I often hear or read that tea people are a bit snobbish, asking for loose leaf teas, for specific blends, for specific water quality or temperature.
But what do people mean by that? And is it true?
According to the dictionary, snob is :
1. a maker of shoe,
2. one who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those regarded as social superiors,
a : one who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior;
b : one who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste.
The first option is rather interesting and funny (from a tea point of view) but obviously out of place.
What about the other definitions?
The imitation of upper social classes might have been true sooner in certain parts of Europe or in areas under European influence with nice bone China sets and trying to stick with what the aristocracy does like drinking tea only at 5 o’clock
But first, people drank and drink tea outside of this area (otherwise, tea wouldn’t be the second most consumed beverage in the world) and second, this might have been true but when I look around nowadays, I see people drinking at different times, trying different blends or pure leaf teas, having tea to go, sitting with friends, drinking alone…
Tea is still sometimes part of a social ritual like the famous 5 o’clock tea that could be the English answer to the French salons (the gathering of people under the roof of someone more prominent or inspiring to discuss about literature and other cultural things (or let’s face it, gossips)), but I don’t feel drinking tea is only that.
Do tea drinkers rebuff, avoid or ignore those regarded as inferior?
I have two problems with this definition. First, it describes something that almost everyone does. Human beings tend to stick together and for doing this, define “us” and “them”. This has been going on since the beginning (just look at a history book to see it).
Second, who would be the inferior ones? People drinking other drinks, people with different drink habits? This seems to me completely ridiculous as I know a lot of people who drink several drinks along the day and I can’t think of them in any way as being superior or inferior to me.
This point goes along the last definition.
I mean we are humans and even if I just wrote that I can’t think of people not drinking tea or not like I do as being superior or inferior to me, we are prone to think of ourselves as right as opposed to the others being wrong. Doesn’t this ring a bell in you?
Yes we do this all the time. Sometimes we are not even aware of judging the others but we do it all the time (just look for those driving, how we all think we are the best drivers around and how other people are just bad drivers).
However, even if we think we are doing it right or are very specific about what kind of tea leaves should be used in our drinks, why should we be offensive to those that think in a different way? Beauty comes of diversity and tea drinking is in no way a religion with a strict dogma.
We might want to have our tea made in a certain way because it is better (for us) this way and we, the so-called “tea experts” might shiver hearing someone saying “tea is always bitter” simply because he or she let it for too long in a water that was too hot but having a sense of superiority will not change anything. We should try to explain things (like not so long and not so hot) and let people make their own choices.
And for those curious about it, the title of this post is a part of a quote by Jerry Greenfield (the Jerry of Ben&Jerry): “I eat many different ice creams. I’m not an ice cream snob, although I do think Ben & Jerry’s is the best. But I’m happy to eat anybody’s ice cream, really. As long as it’s good.”
And guess what? I think it can be applied to teas, so avoid being a snob and let people drink tea how they want, as long as they find their tea a good one.