Continued from yesterday’s post
Tea maps: this isn’t conventional social networking, more like a wiki project, but the idea of groups communicating information overlaps. Someone just mentioned creating a private version of one on a Steepster thread, a site that already has a map function, as Tea Chat did, both now obsolete. This seems like a great idea but the details haven’t come together for any version to get relatively filled in.
Issues with online groups
The main problem with online tea interest groups–beyond activity tending to drop off at some point–seems to be people being on the same page, sharing perspective. Facebook groups work well for sorting that naturally; if you talk about scope beyond group theme interest you probably won’t hear much back, or feedback could be negative.
That’s why it’s odd that the Reddit subforum works; it isn’t sorted, beyond an emphasis on most people being newer to tea. That’s also probably why it has 120k+ members and almost none of them seem to be regulars, beyond the moderators. There are some but they are exceptions. Vendors had seemed to be more active in the past but a few scandals about product promotion inconsistencies may have thrown off the friendly neighborhood self-promotion vibe.
Related to self-sorting there seems to be a natural split in membership of people relatively new to tea or else really far along a learning curve. That makes sense, that to everyone else in between there wouldn’t be as much point. Others who like tea could just drink it instead, and skip focusing on a learning curve. Vendors make up half the people discussing tea on the experienced end, and the rest are probably a bit obsessive to take a drink interest so far. Relatively few don’t actually have some form of business interest. Take me, for example; why keep going on about the subject? I suppose it’s a long story, only partly because I am obsessive.
Vendors account for a lot of the interest in social networking about tea, related to doing it, and providing content as a foundation, in some cases. But even though tea is a potentially bottomless subject to learn about and experience for most people it’s about drinking a version they know and like, so all that only goes so far.
Trying out holding tea tasting events recently reminds me of how important the real-life aspect is to social networking related to tea. People can all talk about what they bought from Yunnan Sourcing together (in their FB vendor-theme group), but in general, it helps really sharing the drink in person.
Someone new to tea can try a lot of types fairly quickly through some sort of meet-up or tasting, and experienced tea drinkers can share more interesting versions with each other. Some teas just don’t come up a lot, and even if the internet makes really local, rare teas available now the range of all types is so broad that you can’t hope to try most of it. Reading blog reviews only goes so far; sharing teas with each other in person covers a lot more ground, the actual experience.
The two themes can definitely work together. Discussing tea online helps with reaching out to a broader group for more information and input, and networking there can help with finding local cafes, shops, meet-ups, and events, to bring the experience back into real-life scope.
Images provided and copyright held by author