Look at all this growth in tea communities! I am amazed.
From time to time, some people would ask where to find more online tea forums. As I remember, just a couple of years ago, the answer would be, not many. Now, there are more, and more. I've been keeping a list of online forums. In recent month, I had to update it for a few times. And the list doesn't even include forums that are not actively attended by North Americans. Well, there are only nine forums on my list, and not all of them are equally active. But I think this is really a lot more than a couple of years ago. A few of them are fairly new, growing rapidly and with neat forum features. I can't predict how many more will appear in the coming months!
In China, from late 1990s, Tie Guan Yin has become popularized, with full support of its local government. Wuyi government and tea farmers soon caught up. Then more tea regions and more tea varieties join them. Such movements, I believe, mean a lot to tea communities, even in China where tea has been always abundant. These movements help promote national trends of specific tea varietals such as TGY and Wuyi Rock Tea. Before that, tea drinking in China had distinctive regional patterns, with specific teas restrictively consumed in specific provinces. Before mid-1990s, in Beijing (where no tea is agriculturally grown), good TGY and Wuyi could be found in market, but just a few representative products carried by the few renowned vendors. Today, there is at least one "tea city (mall)" in every city district of Beijing, with dozens of TGY and Wuyi sellers, along with other specialist vendors. Well, as a Chinese tea drinker in mid-30s, I do have many reasons to have nostalgia for the pre-1990s tea market. But I have no doubt that today's tea market is the best for tea drinkers.
I believe this is just the start. There are still so many teas recorded in books but can be hardly found in market. Meantime, there are so many popular teas that are not yet covered by academic tea books. A tea book I have in hands records about 200 types of Chinese tea, but only lists Wuyi Yan Cha and Feng Huang Dan Cong as 2 entries. It takes another book to go over just Yan Cha and yet another book to go over just Dan Cong. A tea drinker's pursuit of new flavors can be endless. When it becomes easier and easier for tea drinkers to buy tea of great variety, small tea producers and farmers of small tea varietals enjoy better market opportunities. Therefore, even with all the emerging problems in today's tea world, I still believe we are the luckiest tea drinkers ever.