07 October 2009

Tea Tech 3.0 – The Revolution is Coming

We’ve got tea blogs.  We’ve got tea twitterers.  Tea websites, social networking, forums, online videos and all sorts of other uses of technology to spread tea love.

The best thing about the internet – for tea – has been our ability to gain and share knowledge, as well as to buy from retailers all over the world.  Had a great pu-er from NYC?  Well, chances are, your friends can buy that same tea online.  The speed of the internet also allows us to (theoretically) support or discredit what people are saying about tea.  I am referring only in part to the tea details that are debated online.  More importantly, access to rapid info and communications creates a feedback system where we as a community have the ability to identify good/bad tea and good/bad/overpriced retailers.  As a community, we also (theoretically) have the ability to dictate taste.  Knowing that Taiwan oolongs are judged based upon current consumer taste profiles, so too is there a way to tap the community to understand what people seem to like drinking, and to improve upon those products.  For savvy tea merchants and producers, there is valuable data to be had.

Like all businesses where the face-to-face contact with clients is important, the ability for the tea experts to connect with their supporters and customers is vital.  That’s what I feel like I’m missing from my tea experience.  If I enjoyed a great green tea that I got from Japan, for example, I’d have to call/email the retailer with my questions and comments.  However, it’s not an exchange that benefits the tea community by staying on some site or repository somewhere.  The tea merchant has also probably answered my questions a million times before (good idea for many tea retailer blogs to post FAQ sections).

I propose that tea tech 3.0 will come about soon as a measure to bring tea experts and their supporters together online.  Using web conferencing technology, experts may be able to have open Q&A sessions at designated times, or to do group tastings online.  Since tea is so different each season, such a setup would also mean that a tea lover in Malaysia can log in to taste and interact with the tea retailer in real time.  The retailers have often worked with the producers of their tea to understand optimum brewing of the tea.  More than taste alone, such a system brings us back to a feeling of belonging to a greater community of tea lovers.  Since we’ll be having an online tea party with 20 or 30 others, it’ll be easier to correct our brewing, share tasting notes/experiences, and call out crap tea.

Lastly, these online sessions, I think, would bring the tea experts to the forefront.  Tea experts: brush up on your gong fu because tea consumers are smarter and better informed now than ever, thirsting for answers to some difficult questions.

Whom, among the brave and skilled tea retailers, is up for the challenge?


  1. MarshalN addressed some of these issues that you brought up, tea in an internet era, and I think that you two address both the negative and positive aspects of tea in the internet era. Even though there is a greater likelihood that there will be more misinformation, the other side of the argument is that with the internet as the way it is, people can come closer to "the truth."

    The idea of online conferencing would be awesome, but sadly it wouldn't be a replacement for the kind of social interactions we get from being in a brick-and-mortar tea store; however, the idea of online video-conferencing would be the next best thing.

  2. I think MarshalN and I share a disdain for people that proclaim to know a lot but spout nonsense. I proclaim nothing, so I have freedom to say whatever I wish (but at the risk of sounding like a madman).

    Working on getting someone brave enough to take up the challenge of being the first virtual tea expert. Getting the technology part right will also take some work.

  3. Ah, virtual tea expert. Who's going to step up to that privilege and responsibility? I have friends on the Internet who know a lot about tea and like to correct stores that say outdated things. Usually it works pretty well. There isn't just one expert but a group of them online. You can find them on Twitter if you follow everyone involved with tea. --Spirituality of Tea