No room in the tea world for taking rudeness too seriously. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

No room in the tea world for taking rudeness too seriously. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

The term “tea snobbery” makes me cringe. Yet it pops up online regularly, usually when someone has suffered what he/she perceives to be a slight from someone else. I have used the term “snobbery” tongue-in-cheek in several articles in the past, but as far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as “tea snobbery.”

The Tea Snobbery Claim

The latest “victim” of “tea snobbery” was someone posting in an online forum about their latest tea purchases, getting responses they found sarcastic or worse. Another example was a person offended by comments from people who were trying to point out, albeit not too nicely, which teas steeped best in a particular type of teapot. This seems to be a case of taking people’s rudely worded comments too seriously and not taking into account that it’s online. People hit the send/post button before they think comments through. Plus, they feel a sort of “safe distance” by being online versus saying things to you when you’re both standing face-to-face.

“Snobbery” Defined

The word “snobbery” is defined here as “Snobbish behavior or an instance of it.” Okay, so now we need to look up “snob” which the same site defines as:

1. One who tends to patronize, rebuff, or ignore people regarded as social inferiors and imitate, admire, or seek association with people regarded as social superiors.
2. One who affects an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste or intellect.

Trust me, the person who disses you for liking bagged tea doesn’t care what your social status is and is therefore not engaging in any kind of snobbery.

The Real Issues Online

The situations above have more to do with the following:

  • Naïvité — Not understanding this: online forums are brutal. (Think hornets’ nest.) People see them as impersonal and usually don’t even think about how others there will react to them. And being about tea doesn’t tend to make them any nicer overall. Unsuspecting users wander into these places not knowing their true nature.
  • Communication breakdown — Most people don’t know that what they write online is stripped of their special personality that turns a phrase meant to be helpful (“No, that’s the wrong tea for that style of teapot”) into an assault. One expert said that about 55% of our communication is body language. Verbal cues help, too. That is gone when you are online. You therefore need more words, yet the trend is toward fewer.

How to Survive the Online Slings and Arrows

First, shake off any notion of “tea snobbery.” No one is putting you down for your social status (they usually don’t even know enough about you to make such an assessment), nor for not knowing as much about tea as they do. We all have to start somewhere, and most tea folk want to help you learn. Dive in and don’t let the less tactful people deter you.

Brush off what you think is a rude, sarcastic, put-down comment, especially from people who do not speak English as their first language. We have subtleties that are difficult to master by non-native speakers, just as they have in their own languages. If you want to learn more about tea, hang in there. You can take it!

Their remarks aren’t personal against you. I say this as one who is very open in my opinions and has very definite likes and dislikes, not just in teas. It is also why I take pains to say “but you do whatever you want.”

There is no “should” in tea except this one: you should enjoy it. Cheers!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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