In this, the fourth and final installment in my series on those tea blogs nominated for the title of Best Tea Blog at the first annual World Tea Awards, I turn at last to the 2014 winner of Best Tea Blog – Tony Gebely’s World of Tea. Like Jason Walker, whom I featured in my last post, Tony is a well-respected tea expert and an enthusiastic tea evangelist. Founder of the now-defunct Chicago Tea Garden, Tony pointed to his blog as “the greatest source of business for Chicago Tea Garden” in an article for World Tea News in 2012. Tony, along with his wife, Katie, recently moved from Chicago to California’s Bay Area to work with Tea Pioneer David Lee Hoffman at The Phoenix Collection. Tony is also working on a book about tea that is due to be released next year.
How did you get interested in tea?
I fell in love with tea during a month-long university trip to China in 2006. The trip was a study of the geology of China, but I immersed myself in tea culture there as much as I possibly could, knowing that I was in a place where I could learn more about tea. Once the organized portion of the trip was over, I visited the Long Jing fields of Hangzhou.
Why did you decide to start a tea blog?
I wanted to share what I was learning about tea with my friends, so I started World of Tea and began with some very elementary posts. I also began participating in the online tea community at that time. I have recently gone back to edit / enhance some of my older posts because many of them still show up in Google searches and my tea knowledge has grown a lot since then. I am not concerned about modifying earlier posts because my posts are informational, so if I learn that something I’ve written is false or could use some fixing up, I just fix it.
What new experiences have you had as a result of starting your tea blog?
Since starting World of Tea, I have found a close circle of tea friends in Chicago and many more scattered around the globe. I met my wife, Katie, through tea, I started a tea company, and I got a book deal. All of this is because of World of Tea.
What sets your tea blog apart from others?
That I rarely post to it! I only write blog posts when I have something important to say or when I’ve figured out an intuitive way to teach a tea concept. This results in maybe 5-10 posts a year. Despite the low post frequency, traffic grows each month.
Which tea or tisane would I most likely find in your cup?
My tastes are always changing; this week it’s houjicha.
What is your “elevator speech” as a tea blogger?
I don’t feel as if I need one; my blog speaks for itself!
Where would you like your tea blog to be in five years?
The content on my blog is closely aligned with my personal tea journey, so as my journey progresses so will my blog. I hope that in 5 years I will have become even more mature in my tea knowledge.
How do you grow your readership?
By creating content that readers find valuable.
Which tea events do you make a point of regularly attending?
The World Tea Expo when I can, but mostly small gatherings around Chicago. I just moved to the Bay Area this month, so I’m looking forward to attending some tea gatherings here. If anyone knows of any coming up, please drop a line! I’ll be announcing what I’m doing out here in the next week or so.
Who in the tea world would you love to meet and why?
This is a difficult question because mostly everyone in the tea world is so accessible and friendly. Perhaps I’d go back in time and tap William Ukers for inspiration as I’m working on my own tea book.