It can be hard to find fellow tea lovers nearby. I can’t easily go into a restaurant and order a Shan Lin Xi oolong from this spring’s harvest and then rave about it to whoever is there. The tea community is niche and very spread out. Sure, there are people who can casually enjoy a cup of tea, and many restaurants that serve tea. However, if you want to share tea geekery with others, the best place to do so is online.
The internet tea community is a very positive place! There isn’t much judgment, that is, unless you are saying Lipton and Bigelow are the greatest teas in the world, and then I’ll totally judge you. Chances are, if you are reading T Ching on a consistent basis, you already care about tea more than most tea drinkers in the world. If you are looking to further interact with the tea community, here are a few places to start.
Instagram has become my favorite “tea community.” While this is a huge social media platform, a nice niche tea community has grown within it. Instagram is primarily a photo sharing social media network, but it has a very positive community in terms of commenting and “meeting” fellow tea lovers. To get involved, start following and using hashtags related to tea such as #tea #gongfucha #teastagram and come join the great Instagram tea community! (Shameless plug: @tchingblog is ours!)
The tea subreddit is a confusing place. Because Reddit is so large, and r/tea is a public subreddit, any Reddit user can contribute. Because of this, many posts are very repetitive, on a weekly basis people ask what kind of tea they can replace coffee with, how to brew loose leaf tea, and what kind of tea did my friend bring from China? Outside of that, there is a very loyal core of r/tea users who have some great posts that include links to fascinating blog posts, serious conversations about different cultivars/harvests, and of course lots of memes. Every morning there is a thread where users can post what they are drinking, ask questions, and just talk about tea related stories.
Through the tea community I have been able to participate (and even organize) group buys which allows users across the country to share the exact teas. Then everyone gets together and comments on their thoughts about the same teas you have. Many tea vendors are also involved in the tea community. While this can be a double-edged sword, most vendors do not try to shamelessly push their product. I have worked directly with tea vendors to have them source certain teas and even make teaware for me. One vendor, in particular, knew that I had mentioned that I was looking for a type of pot in a chat room one day. A few weeks later I received a direct message from him that he was at a pottery studio in Yunnan and asked me if anything in that shop interested me. This is not a piece I could have easily found on the internet.
This is a very basic list of where to start to get involved with the tea community. It is really fun to talk about basic things like, what should I order from ___ vendor? It’s even more fun to talk about teas that you are drinking with other users. The online tea community allows you to discuss flavor profiles of teas, talk about teaware, and even share tea via swapping. Beyond these three examples, there are IRC channels, Slack teams, Facebook groups, and even a very serious puerh thread on the wet shaving community Badger and Blade (a niche thread inside a niche community!). Real friendships are actually developed out of this community. While it’s not easy to share a cup of charcoal roasted tieguanyin with a friend, as I wrote this post I was talking about different ways to brew it with a tea friend in Canada!