Tea has always had a reputation in the U.S. as a staid, sedate beverage for grandmotherly types.  All that is changing (has changed?) in many ways, one of which is tea’s growing popularity in social media.  Tea blogs have been around for years, and are thriving – sites like T Ching, Adagio Tea, and World Tea News are well-established, informative, and fantastic resources for any level of tea interest.  Many tea shops and companies use their tea blogs to create rapport with their customers, and share more than just purchasing information.  Along with these, there are a host of tea blogs doing reviews or other commentary on tea and life.  I googled “tea blog” the other day, and got more than 10 pages of entries!

Another great social media outlet that is rapidly gaining popularity is Twitter.  For those of you who don’t know about Twitter, it’s a micro-blogging site (entries or “tweets” are limited to 140 characters), which people can use for anything from sharing what they had for breakfast to creating a brand for themselves or their business.  The number and variety of tea people on Twitter (excluding, of course, “Tea Party” people) is growing every day, and it’s fascinating to read and share thoughts on our favorite beverage.  If you own a tea business, or are interested in tea, Twitter can be a great place to further your tea knowledge and join a community of tea lovers.

For businesses, Twitter is a great way to generate interest in your shop or web page.  A couple of great examples of this are Zen Tara Tea in Bethesda Maryland, and Té House of Tea in Houston, Texas, who both update their “tweeps” on the activities at their shops, as well as what new teas or culinary creations are available in their tea room.  Check out Mashable’s Twitter Guide for more good information on tweeting!

Video is also a valuable way to pique peoples’ interest – YouTube is the second-largest search engine, after Google.  According to a presentation I attended at the Austin Social Media Club (also on Twitter), Google is beginning to rank sites higher in their search results if there is video on them.  There are already many tea people using video – the “Calm-A-Sutra” video scholarship contest sponsored by the Specialty Tea Institute of the U.S.A. is hugely popular every year and there are YouTube videos on a myriad of tea-related topics.

A couple of other new tools that are gaining popularity are Foursquare and GoWalla, which people can use to check into your location on their smart phones.  As a business, you can give special offers to users of these services, and as a tea drinker, you can use them to connect live with people you’ve only met online so far.  They have the potential to be able to create “meet-ups” on the fly as tea drinkers who are connected online check into the same physical location.

I think that the best thing about any of the social media tools is that they really can create a community for tea.  Having the ability to interact with tea lovers from around the world keeps my knowledge of tea growing, and keeps my excitement about tea fresh.  I look forward to continuing to “meet” people online to talk about tea, and hope that I’ll be able to meet some of them in person one day.