For true tea enthusiasts, the thirst for knowledge of all things tea-related can never be quenched.

“The more you learn, the more you realize how much you have to learn.” Those words of wisdom were spoken by one attendee at Elizabeth Spehar’s class for UMD’s University for Seniors Program on July 13. Presenting for a third time to the dedicated group of lifelong learners, the Creative Director of The Snooty Fox Tea Shop covered a vast array of tea-related topics during the one hour session.

“It gets overwhelming sometimes, there’s so much information to share about tea,” Elizabeth said at one point during the lesson. Among other topics, she touched on the ancient origins of tea and demonstrated the many varieties in existence today with the help of bottled samples containing dried tea leaves. It came as a surprise to many that a single plant, Camellia sinensis, supplies the world with all its tea — black, green, white, oolong, puer, and everything in between.

More topics included the harvesting process, which turns the raw tea plant into a unique product, and proper tea preparation, which can make all the difference between an upset stomach and healthy digestion. The lesson was also sprinkled with historical insights, such as the British intrigue which sent spies to steal trades secrets out of China, leading to the proliferation of tea around the world. Then there was Earl Grey and his appalling well water, which he and his wife tried to enhance by adding bergamot. The resulting concoction became a fad in 1800s England and evolved into one of the most popular types of tea enjoyed worldwide — yes, Earl Grey tea!

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For one segment of the class, a growler of Peach Hibiscus Lavender Kombucha was passed around. Each attendee sampled a splash of the bubbly, pale pink-purple beverage, full of healthy probiotics and a delicate balance of energizing flavors. “So what’s the consensus, do you like it?” was the question Elizabeth posed to the seniors, which was met by a murmur of fervent approval between sips.

The engaged pupils tested Elizabeth’s tea expertise with many great questions ranging from, “Do other countries drink iced tea, or is that just a U.S. thing?” to, “So how do they make decaf tea decaffeinated?” Sign up for the Snooty Fox newsletter to find out the answers to these and more questions, including a Tea Quiz the seniors got to take home after their class. (Hint: you already know a few of the answers just after reading this post!)

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