We give away a lot of tea. Whenever someone orders tea from us, we usually give them a handful of similar samples, just to try. Whenever someone purchases something in person, we usually ask them if any teas looked particularly interesting. If they did, we’ll give that person a sample of whatever that tea was. The samples which we hand out are enough loose tea for a single cup, in a small bag with our name on it. All of these samples are portioned into bags by hand, in a process which takes far too much time, for the love of tea.
We put an inordinate amount of effort into giving away our tea for several reasons. The first is that tea is meant to be given, and given freely. To offer someone a cup of tea is to extend them the offer of friendship. A cup of tea is an invitation to sit down, take off your coat, and stay a while. Given that we are several hundred miles away from some of our customers, and have no seating in our shop, we cannot necessarily offer them a place to sit and chat with us. However, a cup of tea still gets the sentiment across. Feel free to take a page from our book on that one. If you don’t have time to meet someone, leaving them a note with a carefully portioned out teaspoon of leaves is a pretty effective way of reminding them that you’re thinking of them.
We don’t just give away tea because we’re good people, who want to make you feel welcome. We also give away samples because we want to be sure that you’re finding exactly the tea that you like. Tea is a journey. You start somewhere, and perhaps you like it, and perhaps you don’t. Your tastes evolve as you develop a more nuanced appreciation of tea.
During some periods of your life, you may drink a certain kind of tea, almost exclusively. Then, you may switch to something else. But when you go back to that tea that you used to drink, it can bring you back to the time that you remember it from in a remarkably complete way.
A dear friend of mine accidentally bought two pounds of tea from Teavana once ( the accompanying rant can be found here). She spend the entire summer drinking several cups of this tea every day, for the duration of her summer internship. She still has a bit left, and every time she drinks some of it, she is immediately transported back to the lab which she was working in. One of our employees has a similar relationship with Hot Cinnamon Spice. She used to keep a cup of it on her desk at all times when she was working at an art gallery. Times change, tastes change, and people move into different careers, but the smell of Hot Cinnamon Spice always immediately transports her back to that gallery.
Tea is a journey. I began mine with Chocolate Mint, when I was in high school. I eventually decided to try pretending to be an adult, which is how I learned that I love Orange Blossom Oolong, a tea which I later bought a whole tin of for my boyfriend, only to drink the entire thing myself. My apparent taste for sweet things led me to Paris, which I drank every morning for an entire semester of college. For the duration of the summer before that semester, I drank White Peach almost exclusively. Later, I finally tried teas which aren’t sweet, and realized that Gyokuro will always help me find a sense of center when I’m stressed, like a phone call from some wise, older relative. If you’ve never tried Gyokuro, you cannot possibly understand how accurately that statement describes that tea. The realization that tea doesn’t have to taste like dessert led me to Yunnan Jig, which I tried for the first time as the second steep of the leaves from when a customer ordered it in the shop. Gradually, I have tried the majority of the teas in our shop, and started to carve out places and contexts for all of them.
Working in a tea shop has certainly sped up my tea journey, but nothing says that yours cannot work in much the same way. We offer folks samples of tea because we want them to keep exploring. We want to help them along their paths as their tastes evolve. We want them to find exactly the right tea to drink when they wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t fall back asleep, so instead stay up late watching the stars, and that is a different tea for different people. We want to help them find exactly the right tea to enjoy in the morning with their family before work, or immediately before bed, or in a moment of solitude snatched in the middle of the day. We offer samples of free tea because tea is something with which you will gradually develop a relationship over the course of your life, and we are always excited to nudge you along the path of your journey.
If there’s a particular tea which you would like to try a sample of, please tell us in the notes with your purchase. It will save us from guessing, more or less at random, what it is you might like.