hamilton tea festival - what is tea blogging?

A tea blog about tea blogging.

Hello tea people, this is TJ Williamson and welcome to the World Tea Podcast.

First off I apologize for the absence for these last few weeks. I've been quite busy, being in university, midterms were cracking down my style. During my reading week, I just took off to the forest to recoup on a nice three-day camping trip. It was fantabulous. So today I bring to you a recent event, a recent podcast recording, a recent speech, all in one. That I recorded this past weekend November the fifth (remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder, treason, and plot) but also remember the Hamilton tea festival. Of which I had a booth and was invited to give a speech. Of which I did twice, once with a quite sizable crowd. I must say it was quite fun to be able to talk with them and see all their reactions. The last time I spoke, of course, was the last half hour before closing. A wonderful four people attended. So what can I say, I made some good friends. And so here for you, in the raw, is a recording of my first speech "All About Tea Blogging". 

So I'm TJ, host of the World Tea Podcast, do any of you.... is it odd if I ask if any of you know who I am? Do any of you listen to the podcast? Do any of you listen to tea podcasts? That's cool, awesome, all right, so a bunch of inexperienced podcast listeners. Do any of you listen to podcasts in general then? So you listen to a bunch then eh? Any of the big ones like 99% Invisible? No? It's a good one, you should go and check it out. So my name's TJ and I am host of the World Tea Podcast. And I'm going to give you a quick speech on why you should be listening to tea blogs.

How many you, by a show of hands, read tea blogs? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Can you shout out a couple names of those tea blogs? Throw them at me, any names. What tea blogs do you read? Ok, Teacup of Life yeah, yeah. The Tea Stylist yeah. Ok, cool, cool awesome! So there we go. There are a lot of tea blogs out there and today I hope to cover a few reasons why you should be listening to and reading tea blogs.

Some of the main reasons I just want you to keep remembering as I'm giving this speech are that tea blogs serve to educate. Tea blogs serve to give you an idea of what to purchase. And tea blogs serve.... here we go this little bottom screen here... tea blogs are a great tool for you the customer to help educate and advise on purchasing decisions and they open a window of opportunity for everyone. By everyone I mean tea blogs are great for you the consumer who is going to be purchasing or making a purchase of tea and they're for people such as tea vendors because a lot of the time to get rankings in Google search to make sure that when you type in "Tea Store Toronto" to make sure you're at the top of the list you need certain Google Analytics, certain ratings,  and a lot of that is derived from content and tea blogs are a form of content. But today I'm going to explain that they are not the only form of content. The written word is not the only form of content that we now have. 

So a lot of tea blogs out there, such as mine, are not written. But writing is surely one way that tea vendors can use to make sure that they are noticed, that more people come to their site, and that they make more purchases, and that they survive one to two years of business and not fold like me. I had a business a couple years ago that utterly and totally collapsed. I learned a lot. Opening a business is very expensive as it turns out. 

So yeah, so welcome to the World Tea Blog-Cast. That's what we're calling today. We will be discussing "what is a tea blog and will it hurt me?" No, it won't. Tea blogs are full of a great wealth and great information. But some are not. We will get into that a bit later. Some podcast, some blogs, some videos...not that I'm going to link to them because I don't want to bad mouth any companies or any people so not going to do that. I'm going to promote some. But I'm not going to badmouth any, but some are out there that serve to detract from the community as a whole. Some topics that are well contested within the industry and among blog writers and video producers (content producers) is ...for example how many types of tea are there? There's a lot discussion. Is there eight? Is there six? There is six by the way. But some blogs will write that there is eight. So blog and podcasts and videos.... we all serve to disseminate knowledge and information and so we are very helpful to the community in that regard. 

So what is tea blogging? I guess if we're talking about tea blogging we should know what tea blogging is. And yeah, like I've already said it's not just words. I'm up here giving a speech I'm not writing anything...well I guess I am writing somethings down but I'm elaborating on that. But we also have videos! Have any of you listened to or watched a YouTube video on tea? There are a couple content producers out there, China Tea Life is a vendor who produces some. There is a great website called TeaDB and they produce a wealth of information. I will link to them during this presentation. They are fantastic. 

Tea blogging is also a lot of opinions. A lot of it is just simply opinion based. I know one tea blogger who loathes genmaicha. And when he's listening to this podcast he's going to crack a smile. But a lot of personal opinions work their way into what we spread. We hope that tea blogging can be unbiased but a lot of times it is pretty biased. For example, I don't do a lot to reviews, when I do tea reviews I'm very critical to the standards that I've learned traveling Japan, traveling Hong Kong, traveling Thailand learning about teas. I've had a lot of teas been sent to me and I've flat out had to call up the company and tell them, "I'm not reviewing your tea, this is utter garbage. I will not review it." And I'm not going to post it. Save you from my rather harsh words, but a lot of tea blogging comes down to opinions and a lot of opinions, the best opinions, of course, are derived from experience. Again a lot of preachers, a lot of people preaching. A lot of information is given as well but tea blogging I find is in the best sense is....it comes from forums, open discussion that can possibly start from a single blog and help you find answers. So if you have a question about tea. If you have a certain question about how to brew tea, the equipment to use, tea wares....if you want to know what Yixing is, if you want to know what temperature to brew white teas at, knowing that question is great. There are plenty of blogs about it. The best place to find it isn't necessarily individual blogs. it's by going to various forums on tea where open discussion happens and then finding blogs from there. That's the best kind. It's kinda like a backward search. That's the best way I found of finding answers to your questions through tea blogging.

Of course tea blogging and you the consumer. Well, how does tea blogging help you? Well, it gets you smart! You can now impress your friends! You can be that obnoxious person at Christmas parties who won't shut up about tea, like me...and then everyone avoids you and you don't get good Christmas presents. It helps to make decisions! You can click that "add to cart" up at that top button. That all those vendors want you to click. A number of times when I had my own tea business, that people would "add to cart" and then they would click on...they would go, "well this is in my cart. Here is what I want". And soon as I was at the checkout I would see tons of cart abandonments. And I started wondering why. Why, why is this happening? Why are people not buying my tea? Turns out shipping costs is a huge factor! As soon as people see shipping costs that are about equal to your price order you're not going to place the order. Very rarely do people actually move through with the full on purchases soon as they see shipping. And so I decided to some research. I talked to other bloggers and read some articles about it. That helped me to educate myself. Of course, there's always the "caveat emptor", you are not alone, buyer beware.

A lot of people are not aware of tea. And there's a lot of bloggers who strictly just do tea reviews. Myself, my focus is on tea's technology and culture. I don't often do like I said, tea reviews. A lot of people that's all they do. It's just tea reviews. If you want to know what a tea company down California sells, if they have a certain pu'erh, chances are there's review on that. And that helps you, again, educate yourself so that you can know "is this a worthy worthwhile investment"? If I'm paying four hundred dollars for a bing of pu'erh or a tou or tong of pu'erh (that's five cakes in a little basket). If you're paying four hundred dollars for that, you want to know that that is a solid investment. Unless you have four dollars to throw around, in which case throw it my way.

And so you're not alone. So lot tea bloggers, we talk to each other. We talk to each other all the time. There is this little secret community of tea bloggers who actually do Skype tastings like once a month. We'll get together and just rip on different teas. "Oh this tea is bah bah bah....and this tea is bah bah bah. Do you like this tea? No? Do you love this tea? No, I like this tea. Oh, I love this tea it's all good. And....there's a lot behind the scenes conversation between tea bloggers.  And articles get produced and articles get written, and blogs get said. And at the end of the day, for you the consumer who wants to go and make this purchase you have a lot of wealth of information. Of not just reading the Amazon or the YouTube comments. But of having these detailed blogs. I'm talking...one thousand, two thousand word blogs on these teas. And at the end of it, you're more informed on whether to make that purchase.

So blogging does a wealth of information for teaching you on what to buy. That does not go just for teas. That goes for tea wares as well. Teapots.....the rabbit hole goes down, down, down, down, down. And of course, you get hours of my bleeding entertainment if you stare fix on these computer screens which is always...if you have a lot of time to kill tea blogs are a great way to kill it.

Tea blogging is entertainment. That's one aspect of it. But a great deal of entertainment can be derived from tea blogs. If you ever read a blog called Steeped Stories of the Lazy Literatus.... he is hilarious. The way he breaks down his reviews. The way he talks about the teas and how it came to find them. It's very entertaining. Not all of them are just facts and numbers like a lot of my podcasts tend to be. I like to get on the very technical side of things. A lot of blogs tend to be very funny, very humorous, and so they're great way to entertain yourself but also gain some really good information.

Which moves me onto the next topic: tea blogs are education. They are a way to, like I've been saying this whole time, would educate yourself to find out what questions you have to get them answered to find out "what is yellow tea?" "what is pu'erh?" "what is the difference between sheng and shou pu'erh?". All these can be answered in tea blogs.

Tea blogs are also connecting. If you want you start your own tea blog and you get good enough and you can start posting a lot of content to get up there.....you can start expecting to get invites and people will start sending you teas. You start getting invited to the world tea expos...all the big places. You get to give speeches in front of crowds of people. So they is a benefit from tea blogging but also there is connecting through the forums. For example Steepster, Reddit, these are two great forums for learning about tea. You can connect with so many people around the world. You can connect with vendors directly. There are many pu'erh vendors, because the pu'erh community is very, very large and very dedicated. You don't get the bad side of the pu'erh crowd. But a lot of their vendors there, I'm talking about Crimson Lotus Tea, White2Tea, they have their own blogs but they will have no problem contacting and talking to you directly from a private messages. And so you get put in contact with people who are producing your tea. Those are the guys White2Tea, Crimson Lotus, source direct. They are right in the field at the time so there's no middleman and you talk to the person who is often at the factory overlooking your teas. So there is a wealth of information to be had by talking to them.

And tea media, tea blogging...it's multimedia. Tea blogging is no longer, like I said, just the written word. It's no longer just blogs of content you may have to read through. You got podcasts; you can listen to the word. Which is good because as a podcaster myself, I like it because of the flexibility that I can take things. I don't need to make sure my grammar is correct. I don't need to make sure my flow of my sentence structure is correct. But I can talk and I can engage. I can have guests on and we can talk and converse. Videos as well are becoming very large. I got my own videos on YouTube. Like I said TeaDB has well over three hundred episodes on teas. Of them sipping, reviewing, and discussing a different types of tea. Their thoughts, their opinions, again helping you make a decision. 

So who are these mysterious tea bloggers? These people behind the scenes. Well they're really, we're just your average Jane and Joe. I'm twenty seven years old. I go to university. I live in my parents' basement. I am the quintessential millennial and yeah, I have a tea blog and I talk to people online. Tea bloggers are also tea shop owners. And I'm going to talk about that soon. Because that is a touchy issue. And then we're also from all over the world. You get tea bloggers, a lot of blogs will be in English, but a lot of blogs, for example My Japanese Green Tea if you need to know information about Japanese green tea check out the blog. My Japanese Green Tea dot com. Ricardo Caicerdo out of Columbia blogs in English and Spanish. A wealth of information on Japanese tea, if you want to know anything about Japanese tea and talking down to the specific cultivar of your tea. Of what kind of tea is grown where and what this tea is processed into...he dissects it all. It's fantastic. 

A tea blogger brings something special. For example I am one of the few, the only dedicated podcast tea blogger that I'm aware of. Ricardo has a podcast, not as frequently. Nicole Martin from Tea For Me Please dot com, one of.... probably the biggest tea blogger out there, she just won the World Tea Expo's blogger award or best social media award. She has a podcast as well. But for me as a tea blogger, what do I bring? I bring content in the form of a podcast and as the form tea's culture and technology. Not simply just reviews.

And we also hope that tea bloggers are unbiased. Hopefully. But can you...can you be a tea blogger? Start voicing your thoughts? Yeah go for it! The more the merrier! But what will you do different? There's a lot of blogs out there that just review teas and many of them, as will see in a second, they die off within a month....six months....twelve months.

I've been around for three years. There's some bloggers who have been around for eight. So you got to kind of find that niche. It's really just any typical business in a sense. But the possibilities are out there and I highly encourage you to blog about tea. If you feel up to it, go for it! Everyone has their own opinions.

So tea blogging and you. There are literally hundreds of tea blogs. I'm going to show you a few. Tea Guy Speaks, now this is what I'm talking about. June 15th, 2006, if I'm getting that right. That was the last time he was active. A lot of people who end up blogging don't blog each. They don't do it frequently. But as we scroll down. Yeah there's a lot of tea blogs out there.Plenty to see. Plenty to check out. Holy crap it's still scrolling. Maybe...ah, there is the comments and we won't get into those. I mean I'm not here because my podcast started a couple years ago. After 2006, well like I said plenty of tea blogs to talk and read about. Like I said, hit the forums: Steepster and Reddit. These are probably the best forums to begin your journey. Don't go right to a certain blog, like I said some blogs come with a certain bit of biased. It's best to get a very wide range of opinions. But r/tea on Reddit, you get a whole bunch, this is like the beginners' paradise for tea. So many people post pictures, people get feedback, a lot of the vendors have their own accounts here. And will respond to you. You get a lot of feedback from them on. Steepster dot com, if you want to know a specific type of tea and you're driving down Yonge St. Toronto or somewhere, I don't know the streets in Hamilton. If you're driving down the street and you see a tea shop and you want to know their best tea....their shop is probably on Steepster. And someone has probably reviewed their teas and that's given a ranking out of one hundred. So it's quite interesting to see what you can get. Theirs a lot of information to be had. So tea blogging, like I said, and not been continuing to say, provides a wealth of information. 

I don't have a lot of time left so I'll speed things up. Vendors offer some of the best and some of the worst. It's called advertorials. You got be careful when vendors do this. I'm not saying all vendors do this. I'm not naming names. It's the little big caution. Advertorials are advertisements disguised as content. A simple content of going over or when you see a vendor talk about a certain tea but then they're sneaking in little advertisements supporting their product. Are they biased? Probably. But some of the vendors offer amazing information! Hojo Tea, a guy out of Japan travels around and he has fantastic information. His articles are absolute shit. Because the English is horrible. But dear God I've found so many answers on his site. Especially with an interest in Japanese tea. He also has a lot of information about pu'erh and where he visits. This is the vendor talking directly about what they see and what they're doing. Ant they are on site so it's really nice to have them there. 

Like I said TeaDB, these guys especially because these guys are great They the focus on, mainly on wulong and pu'erh. But I like I said, tons of videos and they just go at it and they brew right in front of you. You learn so much from them. All the categories. You see raw pu'erh, 208 articles. Tea blogging can do so much especially, and I'll tie this back in, to the vendors. A lot of vendors don't have time to promote. So the hire bloggers to blog for them. That is a thing. Which is nice to take into account because it often does take out that advertorial, sales pitchy, propaganda-esque, and misleading information angle that can be used. I hope this ties things up trying to keep clean and simple. 

Yes so that is me, the World The Podcast, new episodes going up on iTunes and SoundCloud. I, again, don't do tea reviews. I'm more on the cultural aspect of tea. So I do things like visit the tea farms directly. I talk about processing standards. I talk about how things go about and happen. Last I was in Japan I live blogged daily on what I was doing in Japan and how that happens. I also talk about the history of the Japanese tea ceremony and how it came to be. So I go in depth on that. And that's.... yeah it deviates...a lot of people may not have the interest in that. The way I see it to put that content out there, to have a blog. That okay, you're getting into tea...you find out you like Japanese, well now you want to know when a certain Japanese tea starts being made. Actually not that long ago, and interesting enough, the Japanese, the first tea they were` making (for export) was actually black tea not green tea. It's that kind of information which is really interesting and that tea bloggers help you discover.

So I'm probably two minutes over. So thank you so much for sitting down and engaging me. I'm at booth 21 come over and get a free exfoliation. I'll rub your hands with salts. It's cool. Alright take care and enjoy the day!