I have just recently become the Seattle Tea Examiner, which is a very good thing, and will lead to me writing more articles that are shorter, regional and/or related to specific times or events, which is not generally the way I write about tea. It will also force me to document the more fleeting tea-related experiences that I have in the course of moving about the city and interacting with tea shops, tea houses, restaurants, and other stores that aren’t specifically tea stores. It will not lead to less writing here. So this is all good, but it has led inescapably to a shift in how I identify myself online.
Because Examiner.com requires its contributors to use real names and photos of themselves as user pictures, I am now writing about tea with my real, legal name, which might not sound like anything of consequence, but it is a big shift in my way of thinking. Over the past few years I’ve intentionally cultivated very separate identities in different places, which helps me keep track of what I’m doing, and also prevents an onslaught of irrelevant data going to people who aren’t interested in it. Of course, there’s always some bleed-through. I don’t confine my tea-related online content to tea absolutely one hundred percent tea-related topics, but I keep it close to that, and I very rarely write anything about tea in my non-tea-related interactions with people.
So with this change I feel a little bit like Spider Man, pulling off his mask at a press conference to reveal that he is Peter Parker…except that I’ll never be as cool as Spider Man, and there’s no vitally important, political compulsion to change my tactics and reveal my real name and what I actually look like. It’s all just circumstances leading to an inability to maintain an exclusively separate, distinct, pseudonymed online persona with user pictures that are inanimate objects or murky pictures that suggest vaguely what I look like. I now have to connect at least a few of the lines between my tea-related persona and other versions of me.
In addition to the exposure on Examiner.com, there’e also World Tea Expo, where I’ll be meeting a number of people with whom I have only interacted online, and who do not know my actual name. In this situation it’s going to be pretty useful for people to know that my real name is Virginia since I generally don’t use the name Cinnabar in the real world, and I would never introduce myself as Gongfu Girl to anyone. This whole thing feels a little strange, and even a little uncomfortable, but I’ll try to accustom myself to it. If you see someone who looks like these pictures while you’re at World Tea Expo, it’s probably me, so say “hello” if you get the chance.
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As someone that has done a fair amount of content on tea, I have a lot of mixed thoughts on the way information is passed. With tea reviews or discussing a specific tea I have struggled with the question: how to talk about an individual tea or tea in general in an interesting or useful way.. Whether you like or dislike TeaDB episodes largely depends on whether you enjoy watching two particular people drink and binter. This is fine enough and it is certainly fun for Denny & I to create, but I’ll also agree with the sentiment that it’s not necessarily the most substantive way to review a tea in depth. There’s some signal but there’s also a lot of noise. Writing about a specific tea also isn’t easy and I think is actually very difficult to execute in a way that is actually consistently interesting or useful for people. Most people just want to know if you liked or didn’t like a specific tea. Making something that piques interest beyond that is a challenge and even if you don’t like them a place like Mei Leaf has succeeded in creating content that really does engage their viewers. You also have to consider that the majority of people have not had the tea or are even unfamiliar with the basic taste profile (i.e. Denny & I describing a traditionally stored pu’erh, when the audience has never had one).. Here are some phrases I dislike and hear frequently enough that I find them unhelpful and sometimes even counter-productive.
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