Why there is so much misinformation about tea and what you can do about it

As a beverage, tea probably has no equal in terms of depth and scope of knowledge. In fact many would argue that tea is not just a beverage but a way of life.

One of my favorite Chinese quotes on tea goes “人生活到老,香茗知多少” or even when you grow old, you won’t know all there is to know about tea.

Tea SetIndeed there’s a wealth of information about this little drink- from production technique, brewing methods, types of leaves, cultivars, geography, history and so much more.

It doesn’t help matters that there’s a lot of misinformation about tea and worst still it gets regularly circulated.

For example:

Claim: White tea has the least caffeine.

Fact: If anything, if you’re talking about authentic white tea- i.e. Fujian white tea, they have among the highest caffeine content due to among other things- early pickings and lack of high heat during production which melts caffeine

You can read about more common misconceptions regarding tea here

A lot of factors contribute to this- I thought of 7- but I will only highlight 3 more relevant ones:

Technical knowledge

Unfortunately the technical knowledge that has more weightage would be that of the intricacies of search engine algorithms as opposed to the effect of sunlight on the chemical composition of tea leaves.

Most of us don’t go beyond the first page of the search engine which more often than not is the almighty Google. In other words, our learning of tea is often more influenced by Larry Page and Sergey Brin than Wu Jue Nong, Zhang Tian Fu or even James Norwood Pratt.

Webmasters with knowledge of how to appease the search spiders have a leg up on genuine content providers and useful information (if any) are buried in wasteland otherwise known as page 3 and beyond of Google’s results.

Language and Linguistics Deficiencies

This statement has to be worded carefully- much of the information about tea is not written in English nor in the possession of native English speakers.

It’s not arrogance or ethnic pride (yes I am of Chinese- more specifically Hakka and Teochew- descent) but a statement of fact. Every single category of tea- green, white, yellow, oolong, black and dark (or post-fermented) tea was first produced in China and in fact China remains the only nation that produces all 6. In terms of diversity- green tea for example- it is unmatched.

This is not a statement of superiority again but is one echoed by many who deal in quality tea- even of non-Asian descent.

The problem is that much of this information is not translated in English and when it is- besides the obvious difficulty of translation from a language with a completely different grammar structure- it is often difficult to read because most native Chinese speakers aren’t entirely fluent in English and vice-versa.

The result is that some sites with pretty good information on tea such as Vicony Tea’s blog can be a tad clumsy. Case in point- its name is Tea Seek which sounds rather obtuse in English but my guess is, in Chinese the original text was cha xun <茶寻> (Tea & Seek) which sounds exactly the same as <查寻> (Investigate- a deeper search). A word play that is lost in translation.

Coupled with the short attention span of web readers and the proclivity to skim and bounce, these sites don’t get much attention or repeat readers.

Vested Interest

Tea blogs were originally a dime a dozen. You only need to look at the Association of Tea Bloggers to see how many have ceased updating the blogs. This trend is by no means restricted to tea as far as blogging goes but of those who remain, many are vendors. You would expect apart from a handful of long time seasoned tea drinkers, only vendors have the time and motivation to pursue the wealth of knowledge in tea.

Holding a gaiwanVery often you read about overblown health benefits or other generally inaccurate information. Some birthed out of commercial interest, some of plain ignorance, some because the vendor was fed inaccurate information.

There is a lack of perceived independence when a vendor writes about tea. Indeed, I too run an online tea shop and blog regularly about tea appreciation, brewing tea, background of tea, selection and other tips to enjoy tea.

Some of it- I am not ashamed to admit- has a commercial slant which needs not be a dirty word since I provide more fodder for potential customer to make an informed decision. Many more articles do not. As a friend commented that I wrote 3 articles on the merits of a gaiwan, why do I not sell a gaiwan (at least at point of writing- I might in half a year’s time if I find the right batch but I’m not actively searching now).

Do I have a vested interest?

Absolutely!

I want to help more people appreciate and select quality tea as well as store and brew it right. These people would be more likely to purchase teas from me than people who drink out of a tea bag, in a huge mug but they might just as well buy from some of the other serious stores out there.

*More on this in a later post- we are starting to digress*

So what can you do about it?

Fortunately with the Google updates, the average reader has more power to influence it. How you may ask?

Sharing.

Sharing helps boost search ranking. So if you see an article you like, it doesn’t need to be our tea blog, other good sites that you ought to share include the Tea Guardian and MarshalN despite the former selling tea as well 😀

Source of information- an ever growing library

Source of information- an ever growing library

Unless you’re really so moved (though we hope you are, we want to be a commercially viable enterprise :D), you don’t really have to share our articles with an outright commercial slant- such as our weekly specials– but with 165 articles (at point of writing) there is a good chance that there is something that you might find useful.

You can start by visiting the content page which organizes some but not all of the topics. We may not know all the answers, but we know where to search.

When you share, you let your friends know more about tea and boost the search placement of good information. You can help combat the misinformation on the web.

So, if this has been useful to you, like it, tweet it, +1 it……. You get the idea.

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This entry was posted in chinese tea, General Knowledge, tea and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why there is so much misinformation about tea and what you can do about it

  1. Steph W says:

    Thank you for this post! I hope to share what’s accurate and when I get it wrong, to humbly admist so!

  2. peonyts says:

    Thanks for the read 😉
    Looks like you didn’t login as the other ID this time. It took me a while to figure out what was happening “p

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