How much do you know that you don’t even know you know? I’ll wait if you have to read that a few times. College degrees, professional licenses, certificates are the things that are hung on walls and listed on resumes. They are accomplishments and in many cases necessary. I know when I fly I prefer the pilot to be properly trained, tested, and licensed. But not every question needs to be answered by someone who clocked a lot of hours in class, or checked all the right boxes in tests. Communities are valuable because many of life’s problems can be solved by friends who have enough experience and insight to have your answers, even if neither they nor you realize it. The idea for this post started with tea.
I am Not a tea sommelier. I simply like tea. I’m writing a book about tea, but one that has more to do with the quirks of being a tea fan in a Starbucks world. I tweet about tea often enough that a friend inspired the hashtag #TomTea. It isn’t trending, yet. I am not an expert, but I am known for knowing enough about it that I get tea questions, occasionally. A simple question inspired a much longer answer than they asked for, but it made me think.
Question (paraphrased): What is the difference between black and breakfast tea?
Answer (edited because I’ve learned more since responding):
There’s stuff commonly called ‘tea’.
That breaks into ‘tea’ = usually hot water over dead leaves from a particular species of plant (camellia sinensis).
and infusions = herbal tea, basically any other dead leaves in hot water.
Tea breaks into:
black tea = same plant but different process than
green tea = same plant but different process and
white tea, pu-erhs, oolongs, etc.
(I’m saving you from my ignorance of the details and the deep dive that happens after this.)
Except for diving into:
breakfast teas which are blends of black teas grown in different regions on slightly different strains of the plant, primarily Assam (Indian) and Keemun (China).
I think English Breakfast is two parts Assam and one part Keemun. Irish and Scottish blends use different proportions.
Then there’s Chinese Breakfast but I lose the thread there. Early Grey is an example of flavored teas (Bergamot), and spiced teas which become a very wide set of choices.
I buy Assam and Keemun in bulk, then mix them by dumping a bit of each into the teapot depending on my mood that morning.
Ah, that more than answered their question.
A few days later I was talking about the details with a friend who understands teas far better than I do. (Visit Dandelion Botanical for that source.) I realized that I could’ve gone into more detail about other varieties, blends, flavorings (Earl Grey, hot) and preparations. I think tea bricks are fascinating, particularly because of their history as money.
My knowledge of tea is hardly exemplary or valuable. Some people follow tea careers like some follow wine careers to become sommeliers. I’m guessing the wine industry has more to spend on such expertise considering the cost of a bottle of wine versus the price of a pot of tea. Evidently tea sommeliers can make >$50,000/year, but there aren’t many jobs out there for such a skill. A friend who knows a bit about tea might suffice.
I had an electrical problem earlier today. I flipped switches, toggled things in the breaker box, tested various possibilities, but still had lost power to three outlets. Not an emergency, and I didn’t want to call an electrician for such a simple problem. So, I called a friend. Evidently, I’d done the right things, but I reset something in the opposite order. Problem fixed without much drama, or expense.
There are definitely times when certified and licensed professionals are necessary, but sometimes someone, like the person in the hardware store, can show how to fix a faucet by changing a washer, or fix a crack with just the right adhesive, etc. They know these things without requiring the same training, and without requiring the same fees.
Every time we ask a question we have the opportunity to learn something. Ask enough questions, learn from enough answers, and eventually begin giving back by helping others – with the caution that always know you might be wrong and that critical judgment is called ‘critical’ for good reasons. I’m willing to try fixing a drain because the drain may be limited to how much water is in the sink. I’m less willing to fix a faucet because the inlet is limited to how much water is in the water tower.
And, of course, as part of my profession as a real estate broker I advise everyone to use licensed and bonded professionals because any such situation is much more important: more people are involved, it is probably part of a contractual obligation, a record of the work may be required, lawsuits happen. (Required disclosure: I am a real estate broker with Dalton Realty, Inc. on Whidbey Island.)
This week I resigned as Site Steward after over 12 years of volunteering for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. It wasn’t about them. It was about me, but that story won’t be told for a while. There were no classes involved. Much of the training was verbal and sporadic. But spend twelve years working on something and something sinks in, besides dirt and scratches. I’m much more familiar the challenges of preserving and stewarding lands for this and following generations. I’m definitely much more aware of noxious and invasive weeds, how they’re supposed to be removed, how some pragmatism can be required, and how massive the problem is. I’m not a fan of blackberries, anymore; but I also know how gratifying it can be to uproot Engish Ivy. I even learned how to make baskets from the vines.
Emphasis is placed on college degrees, and for good reasons; though I think it has gone too far. Training and education are valuable, but some skills, even some advanced skills can be learned in less time by people with the right talents. I’m glad I finished my Masters in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering that helped me in my career in aerodynamics and flight controls at Boeing. That involves flight safety issues. I suspect some counselors can benefit from years of psychology and such, but their listening skills may be inherent and more important.
Communities are impressive when overlapping skills create a network of support that is unofficial, informal, and based on shared benefits instead of certificates and invoices.
You may not know how much you know that you don’t even know you know. That knowledge may seem trivial to you, but it may be crucial to someone else. Volunteer organizations exist because of that fact. One way to contribute is to respect yourself, your experience, and your energy. You may be far more valuable than you know.
For now, I know that I’m ready for another cup of tea. Lapsang Souchong is today’s choice. I don’t even know how to spell it properly or where it comes from or whether it a straight or blended tea, but I can find the answers. You see, I know a someone…