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”.