We all want to be good tea guests, right? Let’s consider why serious tea enthusiasts (and sometimes even intermediate tea lovers) can, despite our good intentions, be intimidating guests. And, let’s try to fix that. This post is Part Two in a two-part series. You may want to read Part One, What Kind of Tea Drinker Are You?, and take the handy quiz in that post, before reading on.
Tea Enthusiasts Can Intimidate Our Friends
As I moved from an intermediate to a serious tea enthusiast, I realized something that made me sad. Namely, several of my friends who had been excited to talk about tea and serve me tea at their house started sharing that they were worried that I would judge them or be disappointed in the tea they served. They were now uncomfortable with me as a guest because I hadn’t successfully communicated my love of tea in a way that made them look forward to connecting with me over a cuppa anymore. It became a stress for them.
How can we fix this disconnect and be less stressful guests? I definitely would like to! After all, I first began to look forward to and appreciate tea for the way it brought me together with my family and friends. Extended conversations at the kitchen table with warm Lipton tea served in my grandmothers’ Corelle teacups are some of my happiest memories from childhood. Connecting with others through tea is still a major part of what I love about it. I don’t want to intimidate my friends or discourage them from inviting me over. So, let’s get clear about what kind of tea guest we are…or can be.
Navigating Respect and Authenticity
Not knowing what to serve to please their guest can intimidate a host. So, in addition to reaffirming your desire to connect, you could share what kind of tea guest you are if your friend has given hints that they are seeking certainty. The closer the friend, the easier–and frankly, more important–it is to be honest. By contrast, for budding friendships where you may be extra concerned about conveying this kind of information without hurting someone’s feelings, you might consider whether you could focus on the new connection and let go of your tea rules and preferences (at least for a few hours).
What type of tea guest are you? Read the following descriptions to decide which of the following scenarios best fits you.
Types of Tea Guests
TYPE 1: COMPLETELY FLEXIBLE TEA-DRINKING GUEST
When having tea at a friend’s house, your motto is: If you steep it, I’ll drink it. You can socialize and sip basically any tea while basking in the company of your friends.
TYPE 2–MOSTLY FLEXIBLE TEA-DRINKING GUEST
When having tea at a friend’s house, you can be relatively flexible. You can enjoy most teas prepared most ways while bonding with your bestie. You may have a few lines you’d rather not cross–for example, no microwaved tea, no boiling water poured on tender green leaves, etc. But, you can mostly go with the flow and will only (gently) make suggestions if one of these few lines look like they are about to be crossed.
TYPE 3–TEA-LOVER WHO WANTS TO SIP SOMETHING ELSE
If you have gotten so into tea that you can only enjoy certain kinds of teas brewed certain ways, it’s best to be honest. Tell your friend that you have gone so far down the tea rabbit hole that you only drink tea at home or at teahouses. Tell them you would love to spend time with them. There’s no need, however, to drink tea while you enjoy their excellent company. Why not socialize over mocktails, cocktails, or other beverages? (You could chat over a Grapefruit Bee’s Knees Mocktail, for example.)
Which kind of tea guest am I? Although I am a Serious Tea Enthusiast as a tea drinker, I am pretty close to the first, most relaxed category as a tea guest at a friend’s home. My bigger problem is I can’t drink caffeine after 2 pm. So, if one of my friends is reading this: if I suggest an alternative to 3 o’clock tea, I’m being sincere, not judging selection of tea or how you steep it. Really!
I don’t think the type of tea drinker you are–according to the quiz in What Kind of Tea Drinker Are You?–necessarily dictates what kind of tea guest you are. But, I admit, it might be harder for Serious Tea Enthusiasts to be Completely Flexible Tea-Drinking Guests. Navigating being a kind and respectful guest while authentic to yourself and your tastes might be a challenge. (I’ve written about related challenges of authenticity here.) But, connecting with friends makes it so worth it.
One thing I hope to make very clear is even though I may have strong tea preferences, I don’t judge how people enjoy their tea. Everyone should drink the tea they love the way they enjoy it prepared. Like Nicole Wilson’s (AKA @teaformeplease) clever Instagram reel, I don’t judge that. I embrace that. Even when it’s not my cup of tea.