The idea for Tea Journey Magazine came about the way most great ideas do . . . at a party.
I wasn’t at this party, but I wish I’d been a fly on that wall.
However, I did get a glimpse of said kernels of inspiration from the lead publisher/editor, Dan Bolton, himself back at World Tea Expo 2015. I was wandering the exposition floor with Nicole “Tea For Me Please” Martin and happened by the World Tea News booth. Thankfully, Dan remembered who I was, and we exchanged a few pleasantries.
Then, out of nowhere, he said, “I’ve got something big planned. We’ll be in touch.”
True to his word, in January of 2016, he was in touch.
I had just published my most popular (and divisive) blog article to date, and he wondered if we could talk on the phone for a spell. And talk, we did . . . for three hours.
The short of it was this:
His new venture was Tea Journey Magazine—a major tea industry mobile-based publication—and he was launching a Kickstarter for it, soon. Once it got over its financial goal, he was looking for contributors. No actual details were hammered out during that conversation, but I had some idea of what he wanted.
In the interim, he wanted folks to get the word out about the Kickstarter. I said I would. (Just as soon as I could find a way to turn that into a story. My blog did have a theme to maintain, after all.) The Kickstarter campaign launched on April 3rd, 2016 . . . which was also the day Devan Shah died. There was my story . . . unfortunately.
After that, the Kickstarter campaign chugged along, but not as quick as anyone would’ve liked. For the next two-to-three months, it almost looked like it wouldn’t reach its funding goal. I acquiesced to that possibility. However, on May 31st, there was an update by Dan on the campaign page.
It was funded.
The next hurdle was logistics. Through it all, I stayed on the relative sidelines. I wasn’t one of the major contributors nor a sponsor. Or even a partner, for that matter. If I had any involvement in the project, I had to wait for word from one of the founders themselves.
And I . . . kinda did. The week before World Tea Expo 2016.
Austin Hodge of Seven Cups wondered if I would be attending the inaugural Tea Journey meeting before Expo. I told him I knew nothing about it. That and I added that I wasn’t sure I belonged at such a thing.
He replied with, “Well, you’re going. I’ll fetch you from your hotel the day of.”
I learned it was always best to just say “Yes” to Austin Hodge.
The day before Expo, he picked me up from my hotel. But he also mentioned that there would be additional passengers. Namely Andrew (his right hand man), Chloe Liang (a Chinese tea expert), Raj Barooah (director of Aideobarie Tea Estates Private Ltd.), food and wine writer, Jennifer English, and—a name I didn’t expect on the roster—Rajen Baruah of Heritage Tea Assam.
When we picked them all up, I may have fanboyed over Rajen.
. . . A little.
I was a huge fan of his teas, particularly an oaked-fired green tea, which I couldn’t stop talking about. But I digress . . .
The moment we arrived, various tea industry luminaries were already there. And that was when it hit me. I had no clue why I was there. Dan Bolton also seemed surprised to see me, but the look of shock lasted but a second.
As the meeting was about to begin, he handed me his camera and said, “You know how to use this? I can’t lead a meeting and photograph it.” He chuckled. He does that.
Luckily, it was the same exact type of camera my brother owned. I agreed to help. Yay, I had a job! As . . . a literal fly on the wall!
The meeting. Was. Packed.
So many tea industry luminaries were there, it would take up too much blog space to list them. And I did my little shutterbuggy best to chronicle them all. That is, until Dan’s camera died in mid-snapshot.
Various important bits were discussed during the meeting. None of which—I’m sure—I’m at liberty to divulge. But the one big highlight I can discuss was this, Dan mentioned that the Tea Journey mobile app went live that week.
Afterwards, the meeting adjourned, and everyone retired to the launch party that followed. Austin Hodge was my ride, so I went where he went. The entire experience was dizzying and surreal. I kind of felt like I was a witness to something historic. And I was content that I was a part of it in some small way.
Even as just a fly on the wall.