My name is Nick and I’m a tea geek—self-proclaimed, perhaps, but self-identified for certain. Admittedly, I’m in no way sure of, nor particularly concerned with the origins of the term, though if it was you who coined it you should stand and take a bow—I’m all about it. Not because I find the G-word so immediately palatable as a card-carrying millennial or because it suggests a certain expertise, but because it draws a welcome distinction from another term that pervades the world of tea at large… tea snob.
Some of you are likely craving a nice cold stat right about now, so let’s wean off some lean numbers before we lean any further into opinion territory. A quick search of the term “tea geek” gives us about 29,000 results, the top-most of which relate to a branded blog, wiki, or social media channel. Likewise, a search of “tea snob” gives us about 500,000 results; the front page offers up a number of quizzes and slideshow articles to help you determine if you are, in fact, a tea snob, including this hilariously half-assed bit from Buzzfeed, and a handful of images of ‘tea snob’ branded apparel, like this lovely little enamel pin!
Let’s just take the obvious conclusion and run with it:
Snobbery has mass appeal, baby!
It’s an age-old tradition, a tempting mistress who beckons from the corner penthouse patio and dares you to spit over the railing because no one down there appreciates the view like you do, honey pie. And it can be all kinds of fun!
My favorite such example comes from World of Tea’s own Editor-in-Chief and tea geek guru, Jordan G. Hardin, who, while working the retail side of things in Beverly Hills, once fielded a query from an indignant tourist: “Why don’t you sell tea bags?” Earnestly, I swear to God, he replied, “Because tea bags are the hot dogs of tea. You don’t know what the hell’s in ‘em, and you really don’t want to.”
You can bet they never looked at a tea bag the same way again, and likely for better than worse. Snobbery is at its cheeky best when it’s playful and educational, but those qualities are sometimes elusive. Certainly, there’s enthusiasm at the foundation, if not outright passion, but sometimes that foundation is hidden or hindered by layers of pretension, elitism, and condescension.
Geekiness, though it may share some of those same qualities, is set apart by inherent joy; even, I would argue, by a degree of humility. I realize that the world has changed unbelievably fast in the last couple decades. Somewhere between Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” and a whole generation’s ironic appropriation of nostalgia and kitsch the world turned upside down and geekiness became cool, but it wasn’t so long ago that building DIY lightsabers and chasing Pokemon on a handheld device were decidedly UNCOOL things to do. I’m still mind-boggled that I live in a world where a hip young woman will utter the words, “This is embarrassing, but I haven’t seen all the Star Wars movies.” I just want to take her by the shoulders and shout, “No, no, it’s all wrong! I’m the one who’s embarrassed because I HAVE seen all the Star Wars movies! Don’t you remember?!”
But no matter how cool geekdom has or will become, its foundation is still laid of the purest stuff there is—capital-L-LOVE, baby. You know, the stuff that makes us grin like idiots when we pull our noses out of the divine and dewy morning greenery that is a bag of gyokuro; the reason we feel in our precise and learned modern rituals a connection to the bygone generations of tea lovers who spent basically ALL of ago perfecting what we enjoy, and to the people who still plant, grow, and hand-pick it with the kind of patience and respect that begs an elusive moment of reflection in our time.
And about those elusive moments—you know that one when you first wake up next to a gorgeous, handsome, or all around lovely so-and-so? Maybe they make a sleepy grumble as they open their eyes. Maybe some part of you brushes their shoulder. Maybe it’s the first and last time or the first of many or somewhere in the middle. You utter the wittiest thing you can manage—any coherent string of sounds will do, really—as you mentally creep out of a groggy cocoon. There’s a giggle, a smooch, a cuddle, and between you a palpable gratitude. It’s the kind of moment you never want to end, but you know the day will eventually force you out of bed like a broken, rusty catapult that no longer holds the necessary tension required to sling you but rather clinks its way upright and apathetically lets you drop out like a raw egg. But right now you’re just savoring the hell out of it, and there’s only that ONE thing that could make it better.
You know what I’m talking about… That big, beautiful, fresh pot of tea. If there was ever a noble reason to brave the world beyond the covers, it’s that. Cause then… THEN… you get the giggles, the smooches, the cuddles… and the sips. Oh, the sips… Man, that’s heaven. That’s love. There’s nothing snobby about it because it isn’t about how good it is, it’s about how good life is when you enjoy it… and when you share it.
Is there anything better about being a geek than sharing a love of something? Not in my opinion. And the more love, the better. That’s at least one reason to relish the wacky world we live in. Rejoice, I say! The Western zeitgeist no longer sees lightsabers as the stuff of losers and tea as the elixir of hippies, aristocrats, and overzealous collectors of Oriental trinkets! We can just love it all and it’s totally cool, man!
Assuming that we manage to stay humble and resist the lusty temptations of snobbery, we’ll have only a greater, more encompassing love to share with more and more tea geeks like ourselves as time goes on. Tea interest is ever growing, and we’re inevitably going to come across reasons and entry points for that interest that are peripheral to each other and to our own. But we’re going to have to fight the urge to pucker up with snobbish pride when someone hashtags the overpriced, low grade, relentlessly marketed green thing they’re passing off as #matcha this week. We’ve got to stay open. Be forthright with what you LOVE about tea and the world will be a better place, even if in some infinitesimal way, as a result.
Say—how about one more stat for the road? If we do a search of the term “tea lover”… we get back SEVEN AND A HALF MILLION RESULTS!
Raise your mugs, lovers!
And ’til next time, beware the dark side, lest we forget how Darth Jeeling was persuaded by Empu’erh Palpatea. All those ridiculous puns… poor millennial bastard didn’t stand a chance.
* Photo courtesy of trixedelicious. She makes super awesome (and awesomely offensive) kitchenware, check her out.