[Tap-tap] Is this thing on? Okay…

I started this Tea Trade blog in April of this year because of one occurrence – tea was dominating my writing website. My “Steep Stories” category – a section devoted to leafy wonderfulness – needed a new home, one with an appreciation from likeminded folks. The biggest problem it had, though, was its complete lack of focus. It was as if my mind had taken text form. But for some reason, it was met with approval from the burgeoning community.

It was to serve as a Litmus test for my tea writing – to see if it was even plausible to put tea to fiction, musings, and reviews in an interesting way. And – most importantly – gain an audience. However, its biggest hindrance was its disparate narrative. Cohesion was not my strongest suit. I had no clue what my niche was, or what sort of theme the new “Steep Stories” blog would have. Tea fiction really didn’t work as a sole magnifier, rants were few and far between, and I already contributed to two review sites. What would make this blog stand out?

A couple of weeks back, it finally occurred to me that it was developing its own focus. More or less under my notice. The only reviews I posted to the page were teas with unique stories and/or origins to them. I decided I best make it official and finally unveiled the oft-mentioned Tea “WANT!” List – a growing collection of strange new teas I wanted to try before I died. (Okay, yes, it should be called a Tea Bucket List, but that sounds too morbid. “WANT!” just sounds more childlike.) It seemed like a perfect manifesto to springboard from.

Then a funny thing happened. Well…not funny…more like…peculiar.

Yes, this is the *actual* tea inventory stack.

That same week I found myself bombarded. I put in my orders with the two review sites I was a part of, received three-to-four new packages in the mail, and still had to contend with a backlog of review inventory. Yes, I actually had to use the word “inventory”. By last count, the amount of teas I had to plug through had climbed to a staggering fifty-plus.

I know what you’re thinking, We should all have such problems, a**hole!

Believe me, I’m not complaining. I am eternally grateful to the vendors that valued my opinion enough to send me anything. What it did, though, was remind me that I needed to actually keep a schedule. So, I started mapping out what teas were going to what sites. Unique teas would stay on the “Steep Stories” page, manly teas would post to the “Beasts of Brewdom” page, and the reviewer samples would go to the respective sites they were shipped from.

Realistically, I could get through one (maybe two) tea reviews a day. An average write-up took me about an hour or two, depending on type and brewing specs. Blogs were another story entirely. A typical “Steep Stories”/”Beasts of Brewdom” post – with accompanying pictures – took anywhere from four hours…to two days. That’s a hefty chunk of time.

When I thought I had everything mapped out, I noticed a sobering trend. My readership had dropped significantly. Most recent entries were met with deafening silence compared to posts past. That and my own writing site had seen a drop-off by about two hundred views. Tea folk are generally a more polite lot than the rest of the Internet; they won’t outright say, “You suck!” However, no response is a response.  Something was clearly wrong with my new “business” model.

Which brings me to the questions I wanted to pose to you, fair reader(-s?): When you visit this page, what have you come to expect? What works and what doesn’t? What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of? Should I leave reviews solely to the review sites – even the unique ones?

Or are you all just shaking your head and thinking, Quit your bitchin’ and get back to “work”.

I ask these out of logical necessity. Contrary to popular belief, blogging is a lot of work. I’m not getting paid for any of this (well…except in tea). Keeping a semi-regular schedule of two-to-three updates a week – on top of a one/two-review-a-day – writing schedule equates to roughly 36 hours. That’s right…a day-and-a-half. Last week alone was two-and-a-half.

Clearly, I’m doing something wrong. I’m just trying to gage what that is, adapt accordingly, and cut corners where I can. I don’t want this to be another tea reflection or review site. There are plenty of other folks on Tea Trade that are far better at those than I. (The Devotea’s Tea Spouts, Lahikma Joe Drinks Tea, The Purrfect Cup, Teaconomics and The SororiTea Sisters come to mind as shining, more worthy examples.) Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for listening to my tea-fueled identity crisis.