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Four years ago I wrote a beginner’s guide to tea themes post that included a reference section. Someone just mentioned a good reference on oxidation (a Tea Geek blog post), a source listed in that, and it made me reconsider what I had left out or what has changed.
Most of what usually gets mentioned isn’t bad. If you ask in a tea group–which I see, moderating one–people will bring up blogs like the ones mentioned in that post, or the Global Tea Hut magazines, or a few Youtube channels. I’ll only cover what is new or that I didn’t include there, at least for the most part. Mei Leaf and Hojo vendor content both aren’t bad beginner references, but both contain errors and marketing bias, as I see it. All vendor-produced content doubles as marketing, so it’s probably that part of the context which bothers me more than that it’s different from other sources I am mentioning.
Farmerleaf video content – This vendor started making interesting tea production videos a few years back about black, white, and pu’er teas (and most recently about oolong – strange for a Yunnan vendor). I did actually mention this source in that older post. It’s odd how rare it is for vendor content to seem like a reference. Cindy added background on Wuyi Yancha in hers, there’s just not a lot there yet. That limitation is normal; travel photos typically are as close as vending pages get, maybe just with tea processing pictures mixed in. It’s all partly there to sell Farmerleaf products, but William Osmont does a great job of just covering basics and some finer points, without steering ideas too far towards product sales.
Late Steeps – This blog includes a lot of cool experiment references on using mylar bags for sheng storage, and heated storage experiments. I’m not sure what other blogs seem like a reference to me, as half mentioned in that post some years back also sort of don’t – more about reviews and general commentary. One I left out then works for that:
Tea DB – Maybe the most popular video blog out there, with some pretty good research reference text posts. It’s hard for a blogger to level up to really being much of an expert, as tea producers almost automatically are, but someone doing research works out as developed content.
Mattcha’s Blog – This isn’t mainly designed as a reference like the Tea Geek blog is, but it’s a personal favorite. Some parts head towards that scope, digging a bit deeper into background.
Discord Communitea – Not a reference at all: A social media channel and group instead – but that post included that range too. An old-style forum like Tea Chat can serve as a reference using searchable threads, but daily streams of discussions just aren’t that (but I’m mentioning it anyway, mostly related to novelty and uptake).
Tea Forum – Kind of a carry-over from Tea Chat – more what that had been – really by design since a falling out in Tea Chat led directly to its creation. It never became what Tea Chat had once been, but then it’s a different time now; diverse online channels mean no central references or groups could take up the same role some had a decade ago. This reference on making your own humidity control packs is about as solid as this site gets for that role.
Moychay, Sergey’s content – Their content is mostly in Russian but this sub-channel is translated. Content is pretty good, solid and in-depth, and not so directed towards sales.
Tea Masters, Tea Obsession (Tea Habitat related) – Classic blogs are worth a look, and Tea Masters is actually still active (a vendor-related Taiwan-based blog), with Tea Habitat, Imen’s now-inactive blog, mostly related to Dan Cong. I must be missing a lot related to this range. Walker Tea Reviews on Youtube were great (from 2011-2014 or so); I bet those haven’t even aged badly.
Podcasts – Since I don’t keep up with this range, or necessarily see these as a reference, I’ll just mention a couple of examples and let it go; Crimson Lotus does an interesting series, and Cody of Oolong Drunk does a cool informal version. There must be lots of these (I keep seeing mentions), or saved seminar and forum content. Again the “reference” theme can be vague; if someone put enough research in a seminar session could be that, or the right expert talking for an hour is a great resource, but hearing stories about how someone got into tea can become repetitive.
That’s good for a start. I’m really not reading around reference content as frequently now; exploration naturally follows cycles, and after a while that kind of drops out; then something triggers new rounds. I try to not give up on learning, but in basic references I tend to see more errors and omissions in reference content than ideas I’m not already familiar with. It’s hard to think of a counter-example, to place that in relation to something I’ve read or viewed this year that was newer to me. William’s Farmerleaf content always goes into more detail than I’m clear on for tea processing, and Sergey’s Moychay content talks about visiting parts of China and growing and processing themes there – which of course aren’t familiar.
A lot of blogs are just about trying countless teas; I suppose mine could come across like that, even though I’m largely off the subject this year. A little of that could go a long way. It’s nice venturing into the range of new types, to higher quality levels, or getting to other basics; but trying to drink the ocean for trying hundreds of kinds or versions of teas could be way too much to embrace. Even the basic background context has limits for practical utility. It’s all about making a drink from dried leaves and hot water, which doesn’t need to be so complicated. I tend to see the background learning and social media themes as secondary and complementary interests, as much as directly tied to drinking tea.