Almost two months have passed since my last article. In Internet years, that is almost a decade. It wasn’t like I had nothing to write about. In fact, I had several things. For example . . .
Over the course of the summer, I internally outlined an article on GABA tea. Since that was turning into a sort of “in thing” at the time I was writing. Articles already appeared explaining the process, but none went into how well the process worked in other tea categories—like sheng cha, shou cha, white tea, etc.
I rolled my eyes and sighed. Why? Well, I’d notched off just about all those tea categories in GABA form. Between 2020 and 2021 alone, I found a shou, a sheng, a white, a black, and I knew where to acquire an oolong, and a green.
The only one I didn’t have was a GABA yellow. So, I made a bargain with myself: “If we can find a GABA yellow, we’ll write the damn article on GABA.”
Then I found one.
Yet . . . I didn’t write the article.
Around the same time, I made a fantastic discovery; a company in China selling tea grown in Tibet. I first heard about the existence of it from ZhenTea’s online magazine Charen. New to me tea? New to me growing region? Totally my wheelhouse. I bought their black and green, sipped them over a few weeks—loved the green, tolerated the black (once I found a good way to brew it).
Yet . . . I didn’t write the article.
Months later, I received a delivery from good vendor friend, Ketlee. In the care package was a sample of experimental “oolong” from the Bermiok estate in Sikkim, India. While I featured teas of theirs on social media, I hadn’t done an article on Bermiok. Lord knows, I’d catalogued many drinking hours with their teas, but had yet to feature the garden itself. Also in my wheehouse!
I sat down with the oolong, and enjoyed the floral-sweet heck out of it. Multiple gong fu steeps, and it lasted for hours.
I didn’t take notes, I didn’t post a picture of it, I just . . . sat with it.
And yet, you guessed it . . . I didn’t write the article.
If this had been, say, 2017 or 2018 those articles would’ve been over and done with. I would’ve even sacrificed sleep to get them posted by a self-imposed deadline. So what was it? It wasn’t like I didn’t have the time. I mean, sure, with my work commute and odd schedule, time was a luxury, but it was a quantum purchase I was willing to make to talk about teas I enjoyed. What was happening?
Well, a number of factors, and only one conclusion to all of them.
It was time to retire the blog.
Well, let’s answer that in a handy-dandy FAQ:
You’re quitting the blog, why?!
That’s a complicated question. The only answer I have is multi-fold. However, simply put: I don’t feel like doing it anymore. It just took me awhile to realize it. I was starting to experience burnout as early as 2018. I even wrote about that back then, but I kept plodding along. Got some fun stories out of it, too. However, articles were coming out fewer and farther between.
What about your readers?!
What readers? I’ll let you in on a li’l secret. No one really reads this blog, anymore. The last article? Only fourteen people read it within the first week of posting. If they do happen upon my stuff, they see how long it is, skim it for any deets they want, and then move on with their lives. My average article word count was 1,000 words. Not an impossible reading task, but still a lot to take in for our busy world. A fellow blogger once said my blog was, “like a good book, his stories are best read with a cup of tea in hand.”.
I took that as a compliment, but it is also a detriment. I write stories, that was my “angle”, and stories demand a lot of peoples’ time. And mine was—on the best of days, to use tea vernacular—medium-bodied.
Won’t you miss those sweet, sweet review samples?!
What free samples? The COVID pandemic pretty much killed that racket. Tea companies were hit hard by the on-again-off-again lockdowns, quarantines, shipping delays, and all. It was barely enough to keep their businesses running, let alone send samples out to tea bloggers. And those that did went off a shortlist of those who had the biggest reach.
Newsflash: I don’t have a big reach. On social media or in . . . life.
What about your brand?!
What brand? As I said above, my reach is (and has always been) rather small. Other bloggers that started out the same time as me have figured out what their niches are, and have grown their audiences accordingly. Even employing social media strategies to do so. I never had a good grasp of that.
I got by on word-of-mouth alone. I was able to subsist for this long because of the length of time I hung around the tea community. Key people in the industry, the writer-related periphery, and the community as a whole knew about me, and—for a while—I eked out a platform from that.
Those days have long passed.
Another factor: people don’t really seem to read blogs as much as they used to. And the ones who still do have plenty to choose from. There are more tea blogs, I feel, than actual tea blog readers. Just as there are more orthodox tea companies than there are actual orthodox tea drinkers. To survive, many of my compatriots have diversified their content: videos, classes, tutorials, events, etc. All for the sake of the Almighty Algorithm.
I’m too old for that shit.
You could always go into the tea industry, why not give that a try?!
Is this because of your caffeine sensitivity?!
I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a factor. As I’ve grown older, caffeine has affected me more and more. Too much, and I get anxious; too little, and I get withdrawal headaches. All the while, it affects my skin, my stomach, my temperament, and a few other things I won’t mention.
Luckily, I’ve found other things to drink that scratch that hot beverage itch, like this:
Camellia ptilophylla. A very low-caf cousin of the tea plant. Yet another story I didn’t write about.
What about your role in the tea community?!
Dude, it’s not like I’m dying or anything. Or fading away like some World War II general. I’m not going anywhere, and I’ll still be posting about what I’m drinking. Heck, I even took a picture of a restaurant Earl Grey I was drinking after a Dune screening.
Sure, it was an afterthought, but still something I shared. I’m sticking around, unless I’m canceled for some reason.
Does this mean you’re going to stop writing?!
Not a chance. In fact, I’ve been doing some non-tea writing on my new(-ish) Medium page. Mostly nerd and theological stuff, but I have some other stuff planned. Any odd-ended tea things I come up with will also go there, just not in as great a frequency as in the past.
Plus, I should finally get back to writing . . . y’know . . . books or something.
A couple of years ago, I referenced the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which the superbeing—Q—said the following to Jean-Luc Picard:
“Goodbye, Jean-Luc. I’m gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end.”
And later in the episode, he had the following, oddly touching, monologue:
“For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. *That* is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.”
And that’s what I kind of feel like I’ve been doing for the last decade, mapping stars and studying nebulae. Missing the forest for the juice of a tea tree. Sure, I’ve had fun with it, more than most people would doing anything else, but while that hamster wheel is fun to run on, at some point you have to get off.
I’m reminded of the main character in one of my favorite anime; Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop.
Without giving anything away, it was like he was living his life in a dream, avoiding reality, but at some point he had to wake up.
Writing this tea blog, and keep it going for this long, has been a dream in the best possible way. I’ve encountered so many strange and wonderful stories, met so many wonderful people, and experienced things I never would’ve imagined had I not taken up this crazy li’l hobby one strange day in 2005. But in so doing, I’ve neglected other hobbies, other pursuits, other things that were important to me. I’d like to return to some of those, and maybe find out some new aspects of myself and my role in the world at large.
Tea will be there, in some way.
As I write this, I decided to dive into a sample I received almost eight years ago. An aged Oriental Beauty passed my way by Butiki Tea. The company no longer exists, but the tea was still there, still in its bag. I have no idea what year it was from, only that it smelled nice, and tasted even nicer.
It had an intro of wonderful memories, with a top note of adventures savored, followed by a lingering finish of gratitude.
Thank you, everyone, for reading. Keep sipping. Every tea tells a tale, and every tale is to a “tea”.
A long-time fan
Tea-blog readers who like drinking Indian teas will miss you, as you’re one of the few folks out there who seems to still give them a go, as far as I’m aware…
However, tea shouldn’t feel like a burden, and that includes writing about it.
Good luck in your new efforts!
Thanks you, sir.
Gotta admit that this post made me a bit weepy. Thanks to tea, we met virtually before either of our blogs existed. Doing anything for as many years as we have takes a lot. It’s also important to know when it’s time to throw in the towel. I’m sad to see this blog come to an end, but I’ll always be a fan of your writing in whatever form it takes.
OLDEST TEA FRIEND!
Yes, it was pretty much time to throw said towel a couple of years ago, but I held on to see what else would stick. The adhesive wasn’t that strong. Still hangin’ around the tea community, though, just as an average hobbyist. Writing will also still continue.
I also shed a tear, but as you said, you’re still here! And for that, I am ever so grateful! Your writing has such a special tone. I really look forward (no pressure) to your books. I still think you are the perfect cross section of Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut Jr and Harry Harrison. Keep stepping brother!
We’ll definitely see each other again, and over a cuppa. I’m sure of it.
I’ll always remember getting to meet for the first time in Chicago and the expansive library of stories and wisdom you had to tell. Tea oratorios of a sort – there was always a way people could connect to you. Thank you for propping members of the community up and supporting their own exploration of tea. While I know this certainly isn’t the end I’m excited for you to visit and revisit that which has felt out of reach for so long. You’re amazing and I am grateful for any encounter the path has in store!
I consider you, Marco, one of the best voices of the new class of tea bloggers/content creators. I will still be around to see your ascent, and hopefully share more cups with you in the future.
While I’m sad to see the end of this particular era, I understand the feeling. And I know that you will continue to write wonderful things, which I will continue to read. Tea has brought so many of us together – in what I have always referred to as the Underground Tea Syndicate. Remember the time we met up at that tea place in Portland and ordered the exact same tea before seeing each other there? Great minds, and all that. Keep writing, old friend. This is not an ending, as we all know. It’s the start of a new chapter. Thanks for sharing with us.
I do remember that! Zhen Qu Gold Buds was the tea. Aaaaah, good times. I will do as you say, friend.
Sorry to hear this.
But I understand, things change and we have to change as well.
Once I thought about quitting my blog and my small tea store in Colombia, mainly for financial reasons.
Now my situation improved, so I continue them as a hobby. For most tea bloggers, maintaining their blog is probably a luxury.
Definitely a luxury of time. And I seem to have less of it, or it seems to go by faster, the older I get. Thanks for understanding!
Your writing is so fun to read. The fact that it’s about tea, on this blog anyway, has been a treat.
I will read anything you write!!
I’m happy to hear that!
I’ll catch ya with good laughs and conversations on IG. I loved reading your stuff. I think it’s good to delve into other areas of interest. Whatever you write or wherever you’re going with it, I’m sure it’ll be an enjoyable read.
I think so, too. So many other stories to tell. I mean, there are still tea stories to tell, but not “just” tea stories. Stay tuned.
While we may not know each other super well, I’ve long revered your commitment to reviewing the teas you like – even if they aren’t the crowd favourites or what is necessarily “of the moment”. The ability to be unphased by people who don’t appreciate a good Darjeeling, the weird experimental stuff, or that not every person loves pu’erh is something I greatly admire.
Thanks for sticking to your guns, and best of luck on whatever you decide to tackle next!
Thanks, Kelly! I’ve enjoyed some of our correspondences over weird teas. I’ll still be exploring, just not at the same output. Along with the other pursuits.
Sad, this has been my favourite tea blog. The background makes sense. Pretty much all of it applies to my current experience, even that limited readership part. Text tea blogging seems to be on the way out, drawing a small fraction of the attention that Instagram tea pictures get. Moving on to have more time for other exploration should be good. Thanks for sharing all those well-crafted stories.
Video seems to be the way everyone is going, and I can only find comfort zone in doing that a little bit, not diving all the way in.
Hey, very best of luck Geoffrey. I like the more serious tilt to your writing on Medium.
I’ll say hello if I ever come across you at some tea gig.
Thanks, Eunice, I’m glad you’ve tuned in to some of the new stuff. I do hope we encounter each other again at a tea festival in the future.
We don’t know each other, but I’ve been reading your blog for years. Your reviews have been entertaining, and have introduced me to teas I might never have found. (Including Ivan Chai, the best non-tea tea I’ve ever had!) I appreciate you generously sharing your experiences and love of tea. Many thanks, and best wishes for you on your future endeavors. Peace!
Thanks Ron, happy to have provided a service. Of some sort.
Lu Ann Pannunzio
It’s been wonderful following your tea journey through your blog all these years. Your steeped stories will be missed. Best of luck on your next chapter. I know you’ll do great things!
Thanks Lu Ann. I’ve still got plenty of stories left to tell.
You’ve got one of the best tea palates I know of. Your skill at identifying teas in the wee hours of the morning in a Vegas hotel room always astounded me. Can’t wait to see where your next tea adventure will bring you. Looking forward to getting sloppy tea drunk soon my friend. Pinky up!
Likewise! And thank you. Too tall a praise from too tall a man.
I add my voice to those who have enjoyed your “Camellia Period” for years! Yours is a singular voice, and I look forward to following you on Medium to learn (and laugh!) from what your pen reveals. Thank You for a thoroughly refreshing and resonant body of work.
Adventures await, and ’tis a long road that knows no turning!
Good Luck. I second Phil’s comments. Miss those times so much. I will miss the stories (can’t stand video) Take care x
Haven’t seen any updates from you in a while.
Have you been drinking any new tea this year?