Thoughts on tea blogging, 2012 edition

The last time I explicitly wrote about blogging about tea, it was more than four and half years (!!!) ago. The post, which is still on the hibernating Cha Dao blog, talked with enthusiasm about how tea blogging is like a “constant tea meeting” which enables us to share our experiences, exchange views, and in general meet like-minded people who are interested in the same thing you are. It was a pretty optimistic post, and the youthful exuberance is obvious.

The whole blogging scene has changed much since then. I think among all the blogs from the time when that post was written, and not counting blogs associated with vendors that try to sell things (either physical goods, or advertisements) only the ever diligent Hobbes remains. Lew’s Babelcarp is still an essential resource for those who haven’t fully mastered the mysteries of the Chinese language. Of course, Bearsblog is around, but it wasn’t there in that form when I last wrote about blogging. BBB’s previous project, the Puerh Community, has basically died, due in no small part, I think, to the fact that livejournal is not the most friendly place to conduct such business anymore. Mike Petro’s Puerh.net has been dormant for many years, and I think we have lost hope for its return. There have also been many personal blogs have were around at the time, or about to spring up. Many, in the intervening years, have died. Others, too numerous to name, have sprung up, although even some newcomers are already showing signs of slowing down, often the first hints of death for any blog. It’s not really a surprise that they come and go – tea blogging takes time, effort, and money. It’s no wonder that after a while, people give it up. Heck, even this blog was relatively dormant for stretches of time, especially when I was trying to finish my dissertation. Of course, many, if not all, of these people are probably still drinking tea. Some blogs, after all, do show signs of life once in a while.

Of course, the overall sum of things on the internet about tea has grown, not shrunk. Among blogs, of the few surviving ones from when I first wrote about this topic, most have turned into vendors of some sort. Stephane was already around back then, and is still selling tea and teaware from Taiwan today. Toki now has his own online store, and a physical presence as well in New York City. Gongfugirl is, from what I understand, a co-owner of Phoenix Tea. Imen still runs her TeaHabitat from the web. There are others, of course, but then we start to veer off from Chinese tea, and the universe gets bigger all of a sudden.

Then there are vendor blogs, which are too numerous to name. Those without a blog or something similar back then have often now included one, in order to provide better, in depth information for the customers. Teachat still exists as a good beginner type forum for all sorts of things, and it’s to Adagio‘s credit that they run it at arm’s length, so that people can talk about other vendors, teas, and what not on there freely (the software, however, can really use an update). Twitter, of course, is a great leap forward in this regard, and enables many to send out timely information and updates to thousands of people directly. I also discovered that it’s a good way to let people know about new postings on this blog, and increasingly traffic comes from Twitter feeds, not more traditional channels.

There are also social networks of sorts that have sprung up that are specific to tea, although personally I have not found them to be most interesting or rewarding. I know of Steepster and Ratetea, but neither seem particularly suited to the task of categorizing loose tea and even then, meaningful reviews are rarely shorter than an average posting on the Half Dipper, haikus notwithstanding. The “constant tea meeting”, I think, needs to be conducted in the long form, and a short, snippet view of tea just doesn’t work that well when describing the nuances of the fourth steep of a Menghai 2005 7542.

On some level, this reflects a general trend in the online world – blogs are now very specialized things, generally speaking. Those who used to use blogs for personal reasons have migrated to twitter, or to places like Tumblr. In fact, I think Tumblr might work very well as a kind of continuation of the tea exchanges that I originally thought we’re doing online.

Of course, in real life, groups like the LATA and others are still thriving, and without all these online communities of one sort or another, I don’t think many of these groups would ever have been possible. I, for one, have met dozens of tea friends entirely because they read my blog, and we happen to be in the same place. Some of these exchanges are very enlightening, and I have learned much from them. It’s worth it, in the end, to keep this up, both in treasure and time. If others reading it feel it’s worth something to them, well, I suppose that’s why they keep reading.


Comments

Thoughts on tea blogging, 2012 edition — 22 Comments

  1. 4.5 years! We’re old men now!
    So many of those tea exchanges have become in person instead of online, for me. Until recently, anyway: we are still seeking drinkers of Chinese tea in Georgia.
    My blogging slows and restarts, usually when I find I’ve neglected a batch of samples, have acquired some new teaware, or made new tea friends.

  2. Wow! It has been a long time. I remember all the help you gave me via your blog and emails when i lived in Ningxia. Yes, i am still drinking tea, but getting really into good, quality coffee since i am back in the USA.

    • And I still remember that too – and you thought about setting up a tea business too, IIRC. Are you roasting your own beans?

  3. All I can say is “Keep blogging!” Your writing is serious yet humorous, so intensive on tea and yet touches every interesting subject under the sun. Never a dull moment. Thank you!

  4. I recall the exuberant days of our collective youth, when we updated our pages every day. Oh, to have so much time available, these days! Surely that is the most obvious sign of our aging…

    Toodlepip,

    Hobbes

  5. I, for one, am very glad that you’re still blogging 🙂

    I think that I may actually revamp my blog at some point; I just need to get a better footing in my own perspective and exactly what I want to write about first; the last thing the community needs is another pedantic rant blog, and I don’t want to blog about what individual teas taste like, either.

  6. i started to get into high quality teas and pur-eh about 2001 after an accident left me slowed down. i got on line and started reading what blogs were available then, and began the trip. i learn early that some blogs were tring to sell their own teas. you and most of the above were true tea lovers and tried to steer listeners with your wisdom and time in researching good teas and vendors i for one would like to say thank you, to the few who did this for the right reasons. from those who only read.

  7. I’ve finally bit the bullet and became a member of the rank of tea bloggers… My focus is on flavor analysis, academic research (on tea), and brewing methodology. I also post rants and reviews other than tea.
    I’m also blogging for the Tea Institute, which is where most of the research comes from. Not much has been posted yet, but I’m updating from my backlog regularly.

    http://www.cultofquality.com

    – Jason M. Cohen
    Director of The Tea Institute at Penn State

  8. It’s not so much a blog (although there is a forum) but a relatively new source of information on mainland chinese tea that I would recommend is teaguardian.com. There is a lot of very good information regarding varieties, processing, brewing, etc.

  9. It truly has been quite a long while, and I guess things have changed quite a bit. I find I spend less time judiciously checking blogs and more on in the twitter sphere. Blogs will always play an important part, though it role will likely be relegated to the storage of larger chunks of content.

    Please keep on writing! The net and the tea community would surely be diminished should you stop.

  10. While I look back fondly on some of the tea blogs that have gone silent, if their authors don’t currently see their way to publishing new material, that’s OK by me; I sometimes feel I’m drowning in information the way it is. In any case, I’m glad you’re still on the “job”!

  11. I’ve started up my own blog too. Apart from the odd bing or tuocha, it’s not really a pu’er blog, though the few months I’ve been writing reviews has really helped me focus and refine my palate. I think just the action of sitting down, thinking critically about what you’re tasting, and then expressing it is a wonderfully clarifying thing.

    Here’s my blog: http://sagacitea.blogspot.com/

  12. Yes, I am still blogging, and am also half of the ownership of a tea company that has both an online store and a physical shop. I continue to absorb great tea-related experiences and interesting information, which results in the accumulation of quite a backlog of potential blog posts. I’ve drawn a very strict boundary of separation between uncompromising writing about tea, and marketing, so much so that I avoid writing about any teas if we sell them. For better or for worse, I want to make absolutely sure that my blog retains its identity as a source of information – and what I hope is considered decent writing – and never a marketing arm for my business.

    To your final paragraph, I probably wouldn’t have any contacts with other tea people at all if I had not started blogging about tea, and I wouldn’t have had the contacts and information that I have needed in sourcing teas and tea wares for the business. I think that the expansion of social media has enabled many people to connect with each other in valuable ways, which sometimes evolve into in-person meetings and opportunities for sharing tea. One of the most rewarding aspects of owning a tea shop is having the opportunity to create a space where people can come to experience aspects of tea culture that they might find engaging (and it has enabled me to move a whole lot of antique tea ware out of my living room).

  13. In amongst all the noise on the internet, I have just now discovered your blog which I find superbly written and very informative…written from the heart and soul of a tea drinker.
    I am the grandson of an Australian born tea merchant, starting out on my own journey, but without the wisdom and experience of my grandfather to guide me, since he passed away in 1973 when I was just a young lad with only an interest in drinking tea.
    Many thanks

    Hugh

    • Dear Hugh,

      Thanks for the kind words. My friend L in Beijing is, like you, a descendent of a tea merchant who is rediscovering the passion of the trade. Best of luck to you, and since you’re located in New York, make an acquaintance of the Mandarin.

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