In part 2 of our 5 part series on building a tea collection, we discussed why any tea collection should always be built around personal tastes and enjoyment, and not on the preferences and advice of others. In tea collecting, collecting only what you like to drink is extremely important. The entire point of building a satisfying tea collection is to construct a group of teas that provide you with the highest possible levels of satisfaction, and to make sure that the teas you enjoy are always on hand.
Collecting what you like to drink, while of vital importance, is not the only guideline that needs to be followed in order to build a successful tea collection. A tea collection in its ideal form should also be diversified; containing teas of various types, varieties, and flavour profiles. The degree to which a tea collection should be diversified will, as we mentioned in part 2, vary depending on the collector’s personal tastes and preferences. Each tea drinker will have a range of flavours and aromas that they enjoy. The size of these ranges of preferences will vary greatly from one tea drinker to the next, seeing as some people are more comfortable staying within a single family of teas, while others want to branch out more. That said, there are several reasons as to why every tea collection should have diversity at least to a certain degree. The first of these reasons is that as tea drinkers, it’s fairly easy for us to grow tired of of drinking the same tea day after day. Introducing variety into our tea drinking is a great way to keep us engaged and interested in the hobby. The second reason for diversification is that it helps us to gain a broader understanding and appreciation for tea and the different ways it is produced. The third and final reason for diversifying your tea collection is you will be able to better meet the preferences of your guests that drink tea with you.
When I first got started in tea drinking, I had invested in an oolong tea of particularly high quality. Not knowing any better at the time, I had bought almost a pound of the tea without having any other teas in my collection at the time. While the tea was very good and I enjoyed it, after a while I grew tired of the monotony of drinking the same tea over and over again. I knew that there were other teas out there and unless I branched out to drinking them, I would quickly grow tired of tea as a whole. As my collection grew, I began to appreciate the ability to switch between different teas and never having to drink the same tea twice in a row. Humans by nature tend to prefer variety when variety is an option. When someone drinks the same tea day after day, chances are they will grow tired of it relatively quickly. The same is true of food. Eating the same thing meal after meal can get tiring extremely quickly, making variety a necessity. We need variety in our lives not only to keep things interesting, but also to make sure that we never grow tired or bored and that tea remains a source of enjoyment for the long term. Tea drinking has been and should continue to be a way to relax from busy and chaotic everyday life. It should continue to remain a way to relax and enjoy ourselves in the present moment.
We need tea to remind us of the beauty of the world, especially when times seem to be at their worst. With that said, drinking the same tea over and over, day after day can make that beautiful experience become tedious and arbitrary. We need variety in order to sustain our enjoyment in tea drinking, just as it is needed to sustain out enjoyment in other areas of life. Our tea collections should reflect this fact. Building a tea collection that expresses diversity and variety gives us the much needed option to not have to drink the same tea twice in a row, and it allows us to drink the teas that fit our mood in the moment.
When I started drinking tea for the first time and researching all of the different varieties out there, I was completely overwhelmed by just how many flavours and aromas could be derived from one simple leaf. The world of tea is vast, complex, and highly interesting. It would be impossible to capture the true splendour and breadth of the tea world without a diverse collection of personal teas. A personal tea collection should be able to express, at least to a certain extent, the variety of tea available in order to learn about the beverage. All “true tea” is derived from the same plant species, the Camellia Sinensis. The only thing that makes black tea different from other families of tea like green tea, is the way that it is treated after harvesting. Different ways of processing teas can produce radically different results.
It’s almost impossible to truly appreciate the extent to which processing can alter a tea without first hand experience. The flavours, aromas, textures, and even appearances of teas vary so widely that it is difficult to grasp without actually spending time with different teas from different families.
How do different rolling techniques affect the develop of a tea’s flavour through multiple infusions? How do different levels of oxidation affect levels of bitterness? How do growing regions affect flavour? These are just some of the infinite questions that are impossible to fully answer without actually experiencing the teas themselves. Education is a key reason for keeping a diverse tea collection on hand. It allows tea drinkers to truly dig in and learn as much as possible about the endlessly rich world of tea.
While the information surrounding many teas is seemingly endless, this can be overwhelming to beginners and especially to guests in your home. Nonetheless, you can still please your guests using tea without scaring them away with all of your tea knowledge. A diverse tea collection allows you to give your guests a choice when it comes to what teas they drink. Rather than being limited to only black teas, guests would ideally be able to select from among multiple families of tea to find the one that best suits their taste. One great idea that is becoming more and more popular is that of hosting parties where the main event of the evening is tasting several teas in a “flight” similar to a wine tasting party. Put together a selection of teas that contrast and complement each other and have your guests taste and comment on each one. Tea tasting parties and hosting guests are a great reason to build up the diversity of your tea collection.
Building a tea collection can be hard work, but in the end it has the potential to be immensely rewarding. The journey of building a collection that ultimately expresses your true tastes and preferences in tea is similar to making a list of favourite songs or movies. A tea collection should be made up of those teas that you will come back to again and again. A diversified tea collection allows collectors to learn as much as possible about the tea process, serving as a broad overview of many types of growing and processing techniques. It allows collectors to make sure they never have to drink the same tea over and over again, providing themselves with a broad range of choice every time they decide to brew up a cup of their favorite beverage. And finally, collecting a variety of teas enables hosts to cater to the desires of every guest, and even allows them to host entertaining tea tasting parties with close friends and family. Tea collecting is exciting, frustrating, and deeply educational. Diversity in collecting is a key to building a world-class collection that ultimately enhances personal appreciation for tea.