Over the years, I’ve written a number of articles about how to put together a great gift for that tea lover on your list (even if it’s yourself!). Now, I am pulling them together into this handy guide to creating that perfect tea gift. Please let me know if you find it helpful.
Sorting Out Your Holiday Shopping List
Your holiday shopping list can give you quite a headache and set your head spinning. Start with a pot of tea and then begin sorting out who gets what.
Why start with tea? Easy. Tea helps save your sanity while shopping — whether in actual physical stores or online — for whatever gifts are on your list. Woolen scarf for your cousin Mike. Latest Taylor Swift CD for your sister Cassie (she’s off to college now, so Mom and Dad won’t have to listen to it). Cheese-and-crackers-and-beef-sausage gift pack for Uncle Joe. Hand-dyed scarf for Aunt Beatrice. The list seems longer and more esoteric every year. And often your choices seem the same as they did the year before.
And then there’s the Secret Santa thing that many workplaces do. How do you buy something appropriate for that guy that sits five cubicles down from you but that you hardly know and yet you and everyone else are intimately familiar with his battle with adenoids? A toughie. Mull it over while enjoying a nice cup of your flavored tea (a nice spiced chai comes to mind here).
Once you have that list sorted, it’s time to consider some options for gifts for those tea lovers on the list.
Tea Books as a Gift Option
Books on tea are the first things that come to mind as a safe gift for tea lovers on your list. You may think that books are a boring gift, but tea books can be exciting — really! They can give the prospective tea drinker much needed information to navigate the murky waters of tea drinking (ooh, bad pun).
Some good options:
- Tea-Time at the Inn by Gail Greco, full of great menus and recipes for teatime
- The Story of Tea by Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss
- Tea (Aromas and Flavors Around the World) by Lydia Gautier, with lots of basic information about tea
- The New Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson
- Guide to Tea, from Harney & Sons
Tea Gift Baskets Provide Variety
A tea mug (it has an infuser basket inside) that comes with its own box makes gifting even easier.
There is a way to ease your dilemma over what to get those folks who are on your gift list every year but for whom selecting the right gift, one sure to please, gets to be more and more of a head scratcher: the tea gift basket!
I tend to think of them as a way to satisfy a variety of needs when gifting:
- Size can vary from the very small and simple, like a mug with its own gift box and a package of tea that can fit inside it, to a large and bountiful basket full of teawares and teas and treats and maybe even a cute little stuffed critter.
- Style and theme can vary to suit the occasion by your choice of container and decorations used. A ribbon or two (obviously red and green and gold for Christmas), a wicker basket or a painted tin bucket, and so on.
- Contents can vary, from the more “basic” teas and flavored mixes with fruits, spices, and flower petals to some premium straight teas or tea blends available in small quantities and at higher prices. Chocolates, cookies, crackers, cocoa mixes, and other goodies will add a more elaborate touch.
If you’re not sure that those giftees would appreciate such a gift, maybe because they’re not tea drinkers or their preferences run to things like cherry soda and Cheetos (something I used to have all the time before discovering the wonders of tea), by all means give them a gift to suit their tastes. Otherwise, you’d be wasting good tea. But tea can still aid your gift quest. Just steep yourself a nice mugful to sip on while you cruise store sites or fill up your travel mug and take it along as you elbow your way through the crowds at the mall.
As a Tea Lover You Can Give a Tea Gift That’s Tasty and Edifying
What better way to spread the joy of tea than through a tea gift? And what better time of year than now? Tea drinkers often receive gifts of “tea” from well-meaning friends and family, usually consisting of a box of teabags from a local market. Their intentions are good and much appreciated, but the tea is often stale and virtually tasteless. Sometimes, the “tea” is actually an herbal infusion, most frequently chamomile. Definitely, this is an opportunity to do a turn-about, that is, give these well-intentioned gift givers a gift of tea to help them learn and appreciate what you, the tea drinker, already know.
Something basic, like a tea sampler set, is a good accompaniment, so the fledgling tea drinker can try teas as he/she is reading about them in the tea book you include as part of the gift. A good sampler set might include a few ounces each of loose leaf teas (in airtight containers) from the various tea groups (black, green, oolong, white, and pu-er). As an alternative, you could stick to just one tea type. If so, make it something special such as a finer Darjeeling or Ceylon. Be sure to include brewing instructions. It’s not rocket science, but brewing techniques are essential to enjoying tea properly, especially one that is new to the preparer.
Don’t forget some tea “hardware,” such as a tea-for-one set, a decorative mug, and/or a tea strainer and stand (essential for loose leaf teas). Or go all out with tea party items, such as a porcelain or fine bone china tea set (teapot, 4 teacups and saucers, creamer, and sugar bowl).
Teatime is never complete without something to munch. Scone mix, gingerbread mix, etc., are good possibilities. There are also candies like peppermints and chocolates that go well with teas. You might want to throw in a honey pot or some honey sticks for the honey-lovers on your gift list.
Don’t forget a wonderful basket or other container to hold it all (not to mention being reusable — the gift that keeps on giving). Then, wrap it all up in pretty holiday paper and lots of shiny ribbons.
Whatever you select, I’m sure the receiver of this tea gift will be pleased on opening it. If you present it in person, this might be a good time to try one of the teas with them (and a treat or two, of course). Your gift becomes not only a teachable moment but also a great excuse for an impromptu tea party!
Factors When Ordering Holiday Gift Baskets
Remember a few simple guidelines when ordering those gift baskets, which can be an opportunity to customize a very memorable gift that can linger in that special someone’s mind and heart for years to come.
- Perishables — Unless you have an extra refrigerator for storing items that won’t last long at room temperature (cheeses, some chocolates, fresh fruits, etc.), avoid such items as part of the gift basket.
- Include something lasting — Having something in the gift basket that won’t get eaten or wilt and be thrown away assures that a part of your basket arrangement will be “the gift that keeps on giving.” Teapots, mugs, artificial flowers (instead of real ones), and plush toys are a few options. The basket itself can be a lasting part of the gift; sometimes it’s not even a basket but a metal tub or other shape such as a watering can (great for the gardener on your list), or a wood chest, or a wicker or metal sleigh, and so on.
- Theme — You might be thinking “Duh! The theme is Christmas!” However, you can get a bit more refined than that. The theme can be one for children, young adults, or more mature folks, for people who are artists, writers, bankers, carpenters, plumbers, teachers, firemen, and a host of other professions. The theme can also be one that is more fun or more serious, more secular or more religious, etc. It could be a way to introduce someone you know to tea or give that tea aficionado a special treat of fine teas.
- Customize — Instead of a pre-assembled gift basket, you can select the items to include. This helps you address any dietary, religious, or other preferences. Gluten-free, vegan, diabetic-safe, Kosher, and so on. Customizing assures that there are no perishables, that something lasting is included, and that the right theme is portrayed — a way of tying together all of the above.
5 Essentials for That Tea Gift
1 Basket or Other Container
Your giftee will be keeping this item long after its contents are gone, so choose wisely. That “basket” could be woven straw or wood, or not a basket at all but a metal bucket, sleigh (both woven straw and metal ones), or a plethora of wood, ceramic, and other materials being used in an array of shapes.
You’d be amazed at how many gift baskets contain tea of a very inferior sort. Select some better quality teas, keeping in mind the preferences of your giftee or perhaps a way to treat them to an enhanced tea experience, kind of elevating their tea consciousness, as it were. Something special like Ti Kuan Yin Iron Goddess Oolong Tea, Golden Pu-erh Tea, or Jasmine Dragon Tears Green Tea. Or even something more ordinary but still special such as a nice Assam black tea.
3 Appropriate Treats
Mince pies, gingerbread, British style puddings, Christmas Crackers and Cakes, and special candies are but a few of the options facing you. Choose wisely based on what you know of the giftee. Beware of special dietary concerns (gluten allergy, diabetes, etc.).
4 A Special Teapot and/or Mug
If your giftee is new to tea, he or she won’t even own a teapot and may not have a mug that isn’t stained with coffee (having worked in a food service at university, I saw lots of such mugs and tried fruitlessly to de-stain them). Plus, that teapot or mug should have a holiday-themed design to add a bit of the proper “Ghost of Christmas Present” spirit that Dickens wrote about.
5 Lots of Love!
Bet you didn’t see that one coming! But it is truly the secret ingredient of a good tea gift basket … or of any gift, for that matter. Ribbons and bows are just one way to express this sentiment. They shine and even sparkle and convey a very uplifting spirit. Of course, giving that giftee an nice big hug when you present your tea gift basket says a lot, too.
Perfecting That Tea Gift Basket
Time to elevate that gift to the next level. Start by selecting a tea or two and be sure to consider the level of tea knowledge of the giftee:
- Newbie — stick to the basics such as a black tea blend, a common type of green tea like gunpowder, or a generic white blend.
- Mid-level tea drinker — ratchet up the tea choices a notch, swapping that black tea blend for Buckingham Palace Garden Party or Scottish Breakfast (Assam with a bit of Keemun) and the gunpowder green tea for a Japanese sencha.
- For the “Tea Princess” on your list — Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea, a Darjeeling 2nd or Autumnal Flush, Sencha Kyoto Cherry Rose Festival Green Tea, or even Peony White Needle White Tea.
- For your boss or someone else you want to impress — Silver Needle White Tea, Wuyi Oolong, Darjeeling White Tips White Tea, or Nine Bend Black Dragon.
Second, pick some treat or two that would go well with the teas selected according to the above list:
- Scone mix to go with that black tea blend, especially if it contains Assam tea.
- Lemon cookies to go with the gunpowder tea.
- Fruit tarts to go with the Yunnan.
- Carrot cake or cheesecake to go with the Sencha.
- Cookies with cinnamon, vanilla, and other such flavors to go with the Darjeeling.
- A package of chocolate covered McVitie’s Digestives to go with anything. (Hey, it’s chocolate!)
Third, an appropriate teaware will help your giftee enjoy the tea(s) in the basket:
- For loose teas, a nice little teapot, with an infuser basket or with a strainer, and a holiday design mug.
- For bagged teas, either a nice little teapot with a holiday design mug, or a tea-for-one or tea-for-two set.
Once you know what you want in the gift basket, you can select a basket that’s the right size. Baskets serve two purposes: first, to hold things, and second, to be an attractive part of the gift and possibly something the giftee will keep for years to come (I certainly have). So, choose well. Metal, wood, plastic, and woven baskets in a variety of shapes, including round, oval, rectangular, or such objects as sleighs, are available. Metal, wood, and plastic will last longer, but a woven sleigh basket will look so cute with a teddy bear in it when the tea is gone and the holidays are past.
UPDATE: Don’t forget a nice cozy for that teapot!
© 2009-2016 A.C. Cargill photos and text
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