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.