I recently saw an online group post about a top 100 tea blogs list by Feedspot, which I’m critiquing here. According to the listing part of the criteria is as follows:
“The Best Tea blogs from thousands of top Tea blogs in our index using search and social metrics.”
Facebook and Twitter follower counts are cited, so there is some justification, although for some entries both are listed as “n/a.” I’ll mention what they missed, and why the list doesn’t work related to that. Of course, many of the entrants are good blogs and reference sites, with a lot of familiar names: World of Tea (which changed names and theme), TChing, Tea DB, and Tea For Me Please. It includes some of my favorites: My Thoughts are Like Butterflies, Oolong Owl, Sororitea Sisters (good for basic reviews), and Lord Devotea’s Tea Spouts, which is nice for opinion posts (rants).
A lot of entries are sales sites. If a vendor creates reference content that’s a different thing, and many do also put out a blog. Evaluating if content transitioned from product marketing description to actual background information would be difficult (if a blog really is a blog). The Hojo vendor articles seem like a good example of such an effort; they create nice articles, even though I’m not sure their content is 100% accurate.
What’s missing might be a bigger problem than what’s there. I’ll cite my FB group discussion comments about that:
It’s missing Steep Stories, Tea Geek, Tea Addict’s Journal, The Half Dipper, Death by Tea, Tea in the Ancient World (my own blog), and the Global Tea Hut’s magazine.
Also Tea Master’s Blog, probably the best reference about Taiwanese oolongs, and Tea Journeyman, a good basic review blog. Tea Obsession is now inactive but the old posts are a great reference on Dan Cong. Mattcha’s Blog has moved onto other scope, after a period of inactivity, but old posts are still a great reference on Korean teas.
Steep Stories is my favorite blog, and for overall reference Tea Addict’s Journal is pretty far up the list, definitely top 10. Tea Geek is mostly inactive now but still a good reference blog. My Japanese Green Tea is the best Japeanese tea reference blog I know of, and Puerh.fr is a great classic pu’er reference site.
This list is just not a well-informed effort.
It is what it is, a blog ranking site that cuts and pastes search results material, a Top 100 Tea Blogs list that stops at number 86. If a bot made that list then it’s not a very thorough bot. I checked the Top 60 Whiskey Blogs list there and that leaves off at # 53.
What goes into a good tea blog? About tea review methodology.
Whatever someone happens to like in a tea blog defines what is good, so any list would be subjective; unless it was only an attempt at ranking stats. Stories can be nice, or a lifestyle theme, about everyday experiences, or research. If the criteria used is Facebook and Twitter followers along with Google search metrics that actually sort of works; it’s clear and objective.
I’m not implying that tea reviews are at the core of a good tea blog (although many are only that, for content), but I did comment on how those map out further in that online discussion. It related to a criticism by someone else that many blogs aren’t informative, that they really don’t describe how good the teas being reviewed are.
It’s natural for reviewers to not want to say negative things about teas, to communicate what is positive instead, probably at least partly related to being given free samples for review. A reviewer skipping mention of teas they don’t like only solves part of the problem. No matter how that’s cut off there would always be some boundary condition, or aspects that don’t work as well in some teas, or typical attributes that could be there but aren’t. Different bloggers deal with all that in different ways.
Some reviews express so little description that this particular problem hardly comes up, but that’s an exception. More often bloggers include no subjective content at all, to the degree that’s even possible, mentioning aspect descriptions but not how much they like the aspects or tea in general. It works better than it sounds but that approach skips a lot.
There are two other potential approaches that tend to never come up: placing the tea quality on a scale related to what else they’ve tried, or evaluating trueness to type, if it’s what one would expect from that version. Bloggers almost never mention value either; teas are sold as better or worse with pricing indicating that level, implying it. If you buy one Longjing for $8 per 50 grams and a second for $25 you’d expect the second to be better, even if the descriptions were a close match. There’s no way to really wrap all this up in the form of conclusions, just talking through the background a bit.
Of course, actual vendor pages are something else; they’re describing what they sell, and may or may not include any other content. Lots of vendors do go further but more don’t.
Even if a person did try to evaluate tea review or research theme content, versus condense a Google search ranking, they would need to be very familiar with tea to do so. That listing site, Feedspot, seems to be more an automated rating system with a link forwarding function, like Bloglovin (a feed reader), designed to also include ranking along with subject type sorting. At least it did work well as a starting point for talking about my own favorites and what goes into a tea review.
Images provided by author.