BlogToday’s post is the second in my series to learn more about the finalists for the title of Best Tea Blog at the first annual World Tea Awards. In this post, I spoke (via email) to Jen Piccotti, the creator and voice of An International Tea Moment, who is based right here in Southern California. In fact, I am surprised our paths had not crossed before now.

How did you get interested in tea?

We’ve always been tea drinkers in my house, but my eyes were opened to the ritual and tradition of tea when my aunt took me to a Victorian Tea Room when I was a senior in high school. It opened my mind to the idea that there was a greater tea culture out there that was worth exploring.

Why did you decide to start a tea blog?

I had just had my first baby and felt completely out of control and incompetent in every way as a new mom. Tea was my daily luxury, and I enjoy writing, so I began writing about past tea experiences as a kind of mental vacation and creative outlet during my daughter’s naps. It was very soothing and was one thing that felt within my control at that time. I never expected people to begin reading it, but they did.

What new experiences have you had as a result of starting your tea blog?

Where to begin? After over 6 years of blogging, I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to over 100 tea companies, each with their own unique story and specialty; I’ve tasted an enormous spectrum of some of the best teas and blends in the world; I’ve developed friendships with other tea enthusiasts who don’t find my tea nerdiness the least bit odd; and I’ve met some of the biggest names in the tea world who are more than happy to share their knowledge, experiences, and recommendations. Plus, I almost never have to buy tea! It just shows up at my house on a nearly weekly basis!

What sets your tea blog apart from others?

I’m not very scientific about my “reviews,” if you can even call them reviews. I like to tell the story of the moments I have over a cup of tea, with the tea being as much of a character in the story as any guests I may be with. I also made the decision pretty early on to focus on the positives. I only write about what I love because I have limited time, and I’d much rather shine the spotlight on what I enjoy rather than on what didn’t work for me.

Which tea or tisane would I most likely find in your cup?

A bold black tea. I’m a die-hard Assam fan and have my go-to single estate preferences (like Mokalbari and Hazelbank), and my tea cupboard is always stocked with serious breakfast blends, like California Tea and Coffee Brewery’s Irish Breakfast blend.

What is your “elevator speech” as a tea blogger?

The best tea moments are the ones that are shared. Tea is the great luxury and the great leveler of the world. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your pedigree (or lack thereof) might be, sharing a cup of tea brings people together. Those are the moments I enjoy writing about.

Where would you like your tea blog to be in five years?

I’d like to become a go-to source for helping people create their own tea moments. Whether through tea recommendations, tea party planning ideas, or recommendations of tea wares. There’s a universe of options, and I’d like to help take the mystery and magnitude out of the process and make it easy for everyone to enjoy.

How do you grow your readership?

I engage on social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, and seek out other tea enthusiasts. I also try to write and post regularly. The more consistently I write, the higher engagement I see with readers. As with many things, out of sight = out of mind, especially on social media channels.

Which tea events do you make a point of regularly attending?

My own, of course! And then the World Tea Expo. I attended the very first one when it was introduced as “Take Me 2 Tea.” It’s grown and changed so much, but now it feels a little bit like a family reunion! I also try and attend the Annual Tea Lovers Festival that takes place in Pasadena / Los Angeles every year. I’d love to attend more regional shows like the Northwest Tea Festival, the Tea and Coffee Festival in London, and the Dublin Coffee  and Tea Festival.

Who in the tea world would you love to meet and why?

It’s kind of amazing, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many of the “greats” in the tea world: the well-known names, as well as the paradigm-shifting new entrepreneurs. I feel like I really missed out by not having the chance to meet John Harney. The stories of his warmth and humor are lovely. I would like to meet Steven Smith, who was the mind behind both Stash Tea and Tazo and is now running his own “teaworks” in Portland, Steven Smith Teamaker. It would be interesting to hear how he approaches business and blending. I’m curious about what’s in his cup this morning.