Part 3 in my series to learn more about the finalists for the title of Best Tea Blog at the first annual World Tea Awards introduces the voice behind the Walker Tea Review, Jason Walker. For most T Ching readers, Jason needs no introduction. Jason is one of a handful of tea luminaries whom nearly everyone in the tea industry is familiar with. A knowledgeable and reliable source of tea information, Jason is perhaps best known for his extensive library of tea reviews, but his blog also offers interviews with tea personalities and reviews of tea businesses.
How did you get interested in tea?
It was while working and living in China for over 7 years, drawn there after college to teach and do corporate management training. I began drinking more loose-leaf tea, and then my wife started collecting yixing teapots. We became friends with a tea store owner who introduced us to some great teas. That experience confirmed what I learned from my friend, Thomas Shu, that education is the best form of marketing.
Why did you decide to start a tea blog?
I saw a unique opportunity to present teas in a way no one else was – candid videos that showed the steeping process start to finish in one take. It was simple and honest. I wanted the videos to help people learn to appreciate the tastes, flavors, aromas, and textures of teas with no added ingredients.
What new experiences have you had as a result of starting your tea blog?
Tea companies starting to come to me to review their teas, and in this way, I was able to grow in my tasting experience. I have also been able to work with some great tea companies, such as Teaneer Teas, which offers hand-crafted Nilgiri teas.
What sets your tea blog apart from others?
In-depth articles with scientific research, dialogs with tea professionals, and the largest collection of video tea reviews. For scientific research, I rely on a variety of sources, including English-language abstracts of research done in Taiwan and China and, closer to home, work being done at the University of Hawaii, Mississippi State University, and independently by Brian Kirbis, who has focused on puerh teas grown in Yunnan Province, with an emphasis on the relationship between environmental and human health as it relates to tea.
Which tea or tisane would I most likely find in your cup?
Most any loose-leaf tea that is unblended and with no flavorings.
What is your “elevator speech” as a tea blogger?
I don’t have a single “elevator speech” because I wear different hats – as a blogger, a tea consultant, and a subject matter expert.
Where would you like your tea blog to be in five years?
With a dedicated and growing community looking to more deeply appreciate artisanal, single-origin teas. Like Robert Parker’s wine community. One category of teas that are only just beginning to attract more attention are the “dark teas,” of which puerhs is a sub-category.
How do you grow your readership?
Organically, through social media and my contributions to print publications, such as The Daily Tea and World Tea News.
Which tea events do you make a point of regularly attending?
World Tea Expo and New York Coffee & Tea Fest. I recommend the Fancy Food Show as well.
Who in the tea world would you love to meet and why?
Robert Fortune. I know he is long gone, but I admire him as the Indiana Jones of tea. In addition, I’d want to meet the people of the Darjeeling tea plantations to discover the history and character of those estates.
Among your contemporaries, whom do you admire?
I would include Kevin Gascoyne of Camillia Sinensis, Mike Harney, Beth Johnson of Teas Etc., and Devan Shah of International Tea Importers among those I admire.