Feb 27, 2012

writing about tea (1)

Last year, The Association of Tea Bloggers had a blog carnival on the topic of Why I Write about Tea. There were quite a few interesting entries on the topic. Here is the host post of the blog carnival by Jason Walker. Here is my participating post in that blog carnival. Besides, Alex Zorach once wrote on "writing about tea" here.

Recently, for various reasons, I thought a lot about writing, especially writing about tea. I'm not a well trained writer, and one of the reasons I feel comfortable about tea blogging is, I could always write whenever I wish, as much as I wish, and however I wish, without worrying if I would get an A or an F :-p So as always, I will just write whatever comes to my mind and try not be be disorganized. Here I will cover:

1. Options of writing about tea online
2. My challenges in tea writing and how I overcame some of them
3. What have I gained from tea writing

1. Options of writing about tea online:

a. Of course, blogs! :-D

b. Teatra.de - by the way I am @gingkoseto there :D
I have been watching this site growing. Although it's not yet the largest online tea community (I guess Steepster is the largest one so far), it has been growing rapidly and I believe it has great potential to get really big. It has a lot of cool features that are not found else where. It hosts tea blogs (I have a mirror site there lifeinteacup.teatra.de). More importantly, it organizes a blog network, which nurtures active communication among bloggers and blog readers. Besides, it has a twitter-like system serving tea enthusiasts. And of course it has online forum too. Basically I feel it has all features modern internet tea surfers want, and from time to time, it creates some feature that nobody had ever thought of.

c. Ratetea.net - It's a tea product review site, so I can't write much there. But I read a lot there. Since it has the focus on product review, one can get very clear and convenient information on what other people think of a specific product. Besides, there are a lot of tea articles on the site that focus on unbiased scientific information, environmental sustainability of tea products and healthy life styles. For active bloggers, another attractive feature of this site is it links reviewer's blog site to his/her ratetea.net profile. So a good product review helps attract traffic of fellow tea drinkers to the reviewer's own blog site.

d. Steepster.com - by the way I am @gingko there :D
I love its tea logging feature, and "logged" about tea there from time to time. I also know some people who don't have a blog site but use steepster as their personal log/database for tea drinking. I enjoy tea logging because it's more relaxing and casual than tea blogging. Although as I said, I don't try to be highly organized in tea blogging, I still would like my blogs more presentable than not. But when I tea-log, it's more like free writing, and present-ability is barely a concern. When I enjoy a tea, it just feels good to write it out at the moment, with the teacup in my hand. This works especially well when I don't have time to write a more organized article but desperately want to document the moment :D Sometimes I would use my tea logs as raw materials, and organize them into blog posts, preferably with photos added. 

Some very serious tea drinkers have complained about the rigid format of steepster's tea log. For example, the shortest infusion time you can choose is 15 seconds, which could be much longer than what you use for a Yan Chan brewed in gongfu style. In addition, there is only one set of infusion time and temperature, while these parameters often change from infusion to infusion, and people like me never give up any tea after merely one infusion :-p In spite of all this, I still love the tea log.

Besides the above mentioned, there are some social network sites that can be used for tea writing. I personally don't like facebook (maybe I am too old to get its meaning haha...), although it does have some writing devices. I suspect I don't get all the fun of facebook or twitter kinds of sites because I barely carry a cell phone with me :-p Well I often carry one of these guys with me and pretend it's my smart phone :D

I enjoy twitter a lot more than facebook though - by the way I am @lifeinteacup there :D I feel it's a nice site to communicate with other people, read smart quotes and share them with other people. But it's not for systematic writing.

Besides above-mentioned options, online tea forums are nice places to communicate with other tea drinkers. I have a list of online tea forums here and try to update the list from time to time.

But I don't think online tea forums are made for systematic writing either. A downside of online forums, including tea forums, is that sometimes they contribute to fragmentation of your thoughts and writing. Online forums sometimes nurture the most interesting discussions. But I hope many of these discussions can be well documented by the discussion participants. I know some people who don't have tea blogs but often give very good thoughts on tea forums. I personally think all these good tea drinkers should establish their own tea blogs, or establish their accounts at teatra.de, ratetea.net and/or steepster.com, so I would know where to visit them if I recall something interesting that they have written and want to recover all the details.

In another aspect, online forums are more for interpersonal communication rather than personal writing. Even in my list of "the most active online forums", there are forums with rather low traffic, because after all, the population of tea drinkers has yet to grow. If there is nobody around to interact, then there is no interpersonal communication. In contrast, with the above a, b, c, d options of tea writing, one could enjoy interpersonal communication, but could also write just for personal reflection or personal documentation. So I would like to see more tea drinkers using the above writing options on top of online forums.

Do you know of other places/options for online tea writing? Please share!


Alex Zorach said...

I really like the way you summarized the differences between all these sites! And thank you for the mention!

A quick note, RateTea.net has officially become just RateTea, and the domain moved to RateTea.com. But the old links work just fine...we're keeping both domains indefinitely and the .net will just redirect to the .com.


I've actually experimented with writing about tea on other websites too. There are some mentions of tea on my site Cazort.net, as well as some photos; that's just a general site of writings, without a blog-like format. I've also tried publishing on EzineArticles, Squidoo, and a bunch of other places. Squidoo is a very fun place to write about tea if you want to include interactive components in your page (like polls, quizzes, discussions) without doing any web programming.

I also want to point to another site that I find interesting: WikiCha. And, of course, Wikipedia's pages on tea. I would encourage anyone who wants to contribute more objective material about tea (as opposed to opinion) to consider contributing to one and/or both of these sites. They have a slightly different role (Wikipedia's guidelines for sourcing and scholarship are considerably stricter, yet WikiCha goes into much more depth about tea).

=) There are lots of great options out there!

Gingko said...

Alex, thank you for recommendations of some more sites!

About WikiCha, I think it potentially could be a great source of tea. I contributed a few short passages there. But when I did that, as a computer-illiterate person, I had to guess what to do to put things on the web pages. There were also a few things I never manage to put on. Some codes there might be quite basic for people who knows computer coding, but got me sort of lost :-p I feel WikiCha should try to attract more people to contribute to it. But I don't know if there are a lot of people like me who have little clue about how to put things on the webpages.