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- The Link Between Tea and Narcissism
This is rich, especially coming from a social media influencer… I know what you’re probably thinking. It’s either, “Cody’s unhinged again”, or, “Why is the pot calling the kettle a, well narcissist?” After working in the tea industry for over a decade, and having a blog for 8+ years, I’ve met a lot of people within various facets of the tea industry — all the way from tea bloggers, educators, high-level executives, and even lower-level social media influencers. I’ve also noticed that despite the industry's image of warmth, love, and self-care, the industry from every angle is very cold and uninviting. Regardless of whichever type of tea industry professional, there seem to be people with narcissistic tendencies scattered consistently throughout. So what is it about the tea industry that harbors this specific personality trait? Does this have anything to do with why the industry is cold and uninviting once you peel the first layer of the onion back? Below are some of my observations, and while not everything is rooted in fact, I will say it with an authoritative stance as if it’s a fact. So, let's dive in! The Ritual: Tea ceremonies can categorized into two main types: gong-fu and high-tea. For many people who drink gong-fu, gong-fu tea is used as escapism to help detach from mental health stressors, and to focus on the senses with breathing techniques. This in itself, is a form of meditation. According to the Healer Within Foundation, the practice of gong-fu tea is an actual form of mindful meditation. However, according to the Oxford Academic, mindful meditation is connected to Hinduism and the Buddhist belief system. One of the major tenets of Hinduism is enlightenment. Given that enlightenment is one of the major tenets of Hinduism, it invites the narcissistic personality trait by making the practicers of Hindus believe that they are more knowledgeable than others. The superiority complex that’s associated with narcissism and the tie-in with the Hindu belief was studied extensively, and written about by PHD and Author, Dr. Pilar Jennings, whose career incapulizes the study of both psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation. With all of this, the link between gong-fu tea and meditation, with traditional roots in the Hindu tenant of enlightenment, is a short link between connecting gong-fu tea and narcissism. Sitting at the head of the tea table of gong-fu tea, and the idea of leading a tea session can loosely be linked to having a superiority complex. However, the link doesn’t just exist with gong-fu tea, the link also exists with high-tea as well. According to Psychology Today, they link that chefs of fine dining intertwine their self-worth into the cuisine they create. This can also translate into high-society as well. According to a journal published in 2013, upper-class individuals suffer from greater psychological entitlement and narcissism. Given that high tea is rooted in classist institutions, the link between high tea and narcissism is a strong one. Tea Industry Professionals: In my experiences as a tea blogger, I’ve worked with a varying amount of tea companies that operated on a small scale, to a massive global production scale, and everything in between. According to a paper published on the Social Science Research Network, CEOs have a statistically higher level of narcissism and a higher level of self-importance. In my observations of the tea industry over the past decade, narcissism isn’t specific to high-level executives either. According to a journal published in 2023 on Science Direct, there’s a link between narcissism and entrepreneurship. Given that there has to be a high level of drive, and self-importance to guide that confidence, business owners on a small scale are more susceptible to narcissistic personality disorder tendencies as well. While I don’t have a direct calculation, I want to point out that you could indicate that a self-important person who partakes in an industry that’s rooted in an attitude that drives self-importance through enlightenment, there is an observation that could be made that this invites a self-important person to partake in a practice that better highlights self-importance. This means that the door is open for a higher percentage of narcissism to flow into the tea industry, compared to other industries. Tea Bloggers and Self-Care: It's no hidden fact that the rise of social media has increased the rise of both narcissism and anxiety among young adults. According to a study published in 2008, researchers indicated that there is a causation between self-image and narcissism, tied to social media and the youth. This takes various shapes, but how does it take shape within the tea social-media blogosphere? Self-Care Given the large amount of tea bloggers and tea companies that promote self-care, there is actually a link between self-care and narcissism. New York Psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Boardman once wrote that the psychological connection between self-care and self-love can be a tightrope balance between being mindful into being narcissistic. The idea of caring for oneself can be so self-reassuring that it’s more about you — not the people around you. There is also a link between altruism and narcissism as well. When tea industry bloggers and professionals push the narrative of self-care, they’re the link between sharing self-love, and altruism. According to a medical-reviewed article on MentalHealth.com, altruism masks the personality traits of people who martyr themselves for a belief system. Within social media, there are countless amounts of people who primarily post and lead workshops about self-care, self-love, and self-meditation. While those things are not necessarily a bad thing, surprise surprise, they also make a full circle back into the narcissistic trait of enlightenment... The Bottom Line: It's All Narcissism Based on my findings, you could conclude that there’s an industry of narcissists who congregate around a narcissistic-driven activity with a narcissistic-enlightened attitude, which accompanies financially wealthy and upper-classist narcissistic ideals, pushed and marketed by people with narcissistic entrepreneur self-important drive, which is drunk and talked about by other altruistic narcissists on social media platforms that harbor and grow narcissistic personalities. To make things more commercial, tea industry professionals will also award themselves with awards when given the opportunity. In 2023, at the World Tea Expo, they awarded one of their board members (the same board members who voted on tea industry award winners) an award…. Over the past decade in this industry, I can’t count on one hand the number of people I’ve seen who dropped out of the industry because they didn’t receive the outward praise they sought from being within the world of tea. These same people leave the industry disappointed because they looked at other industry narcissists, and realized they didn’t benefit in the same way as the other industry narcissists — the same narcissists who’d boast about knowing how to make tea ‘the right way’ while leading a gong-fu or meditation session. Some of the signs of narcissistic tendencies I’ve noticed over the past decade, in the tea industry are, Some of the signs of narcissistic tendencies I’ve noticed over the past decade, in the tea industry are, — When someone says they know how to make tea ‘the right way’ — They offer tea and meditation, but only through them, especially if meditation and self-care is more about the host than it is the audience — When a high-level executive of a tea company regularly posts photos of themselves plucking/making tea, especially if they have the frame of a person who has never worked a day of hard labor in their life — Their posts and photos of their tea and meditation, are primarily only photos of them drinking tea while meditating — If they got their high-level position at a tea company through their family/nepotism — Someone who is aggressively insistent on leading a tea ceremony and wont share the experience by not letting others pour tea at the same said-ceremony — If they are white and American, and claim they know more about the culture and history of Asian Tea than the people whose culture it is itself — If they are white and American, and claim that 'tea caused all of the world’s wars', which goes back into manipulating a foreign culture to fit their personal narrative — If the tea drinker is male and starts a podcast instead of going to therapy — If they run a tea blog and quit within 6-12 months of launching it because they don’t have the audience they think they should be receiving — If their Instagram-grid has more photos of them with tea, or enjoying tea, than tea by itself without them — If you post photos of you leading a tea ceremony with people surrounding you, and post this on a semi-consistent basis. If you ever question why the tea industry is cold, cliquey, and uninviting despite the warmth it promotes on every single level, you might take a step back and realize that this industry is rooted in self-involvement at every single level. While not everyone in the tea industry is a narcissist, the industry attracts and prevails the narcissistic personality type. If you peel back the onion layers of this industry, you'll see that a lot of the industry is not in it to help you and is certainly not here for the love of tea; behind their front, they're in it for themselves. And while not everyone in the industry is a narcissist who is in it for themselves (and while I started this sentence with a coordinating conjunction and end it as a run-on sentence), and while there are a lot of genuine and amazing people in the industry, at the end of the day, I’m a narcissist, you’re a narcissist, and simply -- we’re all narcissists. With much love to myself and my accomplishments, ~ Cody aka The Oolong Drunk "Blissfully Tea Drunk...."
- 8 Year Blog Anniversary: Train-Wrecking my Career
Choo-choo! All aboard! Today, we have a thrilling adventure in store for you. Today's story will take place on a train, and will include various James Bond-esque melodramatic scenes, and will include snarky fourth-wall breaking scenes as well. While boarding today’s locomotive, you’ll be receiving a ticket to the luxurious first-class cabin that will include the amenity of ‘spilling the tea’. Yes, that’s right! As we cross though the St. Louis Arch and travel West, we’ll be on the adventure that is my blog’s fourth consecutive bloggisavery post -- where I spill all about this past year’s tea blogger drama. With this, pack your baggage as I unload mine, and we will travel down the train tracks of how my biggest year in tea ended up being my worst year in tea. All aboard! We’re now boarding the train. (Photo credit: Saraii Seleste Photography, at Trident Booksellers in Boulder, Colorado) Starting our Journey: Loading The Cars Boarding this train included being linked up with various different kinds of train cars that would all be leading the adventure — launching car passengers into 2023. All of the various train cars lined in a succession of the events that represents my past year in tea. The first train-car sat passengers that would be headed to a New York adventure. The next train car then loaded up passengers that would be for a Colorado Adventure. Last but not least, the last train car that concluded the train is the the caboose — which was full of passengers that were destined to arrive in Las Vegas. However, unbeknownst to the conductor, these train cars were built to fail. These train cars were built by ’Chaos’ — and Chaos degraded the quality of these train cars in a similar fashion to when Boeing dropped in quality after switching CEO’s in the 90’s. Also unbeknownst to me, the anticipated joy ride would turn into a 'Final Destination' of my own. At sharp o’clock, the train left the station and was well on its way to a destination it would never reach... (Photo credit: Saraii Seleeste Photography, at Trident Booksellers in Boulder, Colorado) Train Car 3: The Caboose After planning for this trip for over a year, my time had finally come. I looked out of the window of the Caboose of the train, and out into the desert to see a vast landscape sand (or, a blank slate). With this blank slate, the picture had been painted that I’d be a keynote speaker for an educational incubator for one of the largest tea conventions in the Corporate States of America. This convention was one of the pinnacles of the tea industry in the West, and anybody who was anybody would be attending this event. On top of these 'anybodies who were anybodies' were a higher tier of privilege, who got to speak at this said-event. Out of the entire industry, I was one of the lucky ones who held a Golden Ticket. As one of the keynote speakers for this event, I gathered over a dozen allies to join me on this trip. I also sold booth space for this event to a vendor who relied on me to help them get set-up at the event. At this point, I had also supported this institution by writing for one of their subsidiaries for over two years as a regular contributor. The ticket prices to see me speak were extravagant, and I had finally made it to the pinnacle of tea blogging. I went from being a follower in the industry, to being a leader of it. With being a leader, I also took the lead for organizing a blogger meet-up on the showroom floor.I wanted to meet some of the people who supported me in my journey, and also meet other fellow tea-bloggers who were on the same journey as me. This was my victory lap. This was my time to celebrate my career in the industry. However, I wouldn’t be writing about Las Vegas if any of this went perfectly well, would I? When I got off of the train and onto the platform, the conductor of that train had halted and would be stopped in its tracks. First, one of the event organizers reached out to me. She claimed she worked for the convention as a liaison of the bloggers. She hears whispers that I was organizing a meet-up with the other bloggers, and said that I was wrong for doing so. This particular person used to be a tea blogger herself, but abandoned her tea blog seven-plus years ago to work in the fashion industry. Despite that her personal involvement in the tea industry had long-belonged to the past, she told me she held the authority of tea bloggers and she was the authority I’d need to report to from this point on. She then told me that I needed to compile a list of all of my tea blogger friends, with their contact info., and hand all of my work over to her so she could take it all from me, and that it was now all of her responsibility. When I asked her why, she said it was because the tea expo viewed all of the tea bloggers as ‘users who only show up for free stuff’. She explained that her voice was more valuable than mine, and since my career was only in existence for the prospect of free shit, she could get me further. She said her voice was at the only one the expo would listen to. She said she'd be doing this remotely, as her main career in the fashion industry would prevent her from going to the expo herself... She was now both the gate, and the key, for me to carry on with my personal project of meeting other tea bloggers. After we hung up that phone call, I immediately blocked her number. Now, as for my next horror? I had asked the event manager, and expo owner, for a hall pass for me to bring plus-one to the event. Given I was speaking as a headliner, and given I wanted to bring a family member with me for support, I figured this would be an easy accommodation, right? Wrong. Bot the manager and owner responded with, “No more free stuff.” I was confused because up to this point, I had not asked for anything at all. Not only did I convince 12+ people to spend money at the event, but I had also got the expo clients to run booths at the event as well. With context, the conference paid me $400 to show up. I paid $1,000 for the entire trip out of pocket, which meant that I was $600 in the red for this event. I brought the estimated $10,000 to their event, and when I asked for a hall pass, I’m somehow using them for free stuff...? I felt manipulated, gaslit, and above all else, I felt utterly worthless. I didn’t want to go anymore, but also, I signed a contract, which meant that I am now using a redundant statement in this story by saying 'I couldn’t not go'. I was now forced to go to an event where the industry reduced me to being a ‘beggar’. I showed up to my presentation, gave one of the best presentations I’ve ever given in my career, took photos with friends, and left Vegas with a cup of bitter tea in hand. The train then left the platform, and resumed on its journey on the train tracks. While further along on the tracks, I published my review of my experience of the expo on the blog, went viral with it, and got fired from writing for the publication that was tied to the expo. My editor of two-plus years unfriended me on social media, and my career as a professional writer within the tea industry was now over. I was no longer a leader, and no longer a follower; I was nothing... In a moment of sheer random chaos, a rock got thrown onto the train track — causing the wheel of the Caboose to jump off of the tack. After quickly noticing the train car losing speed, I quickly got off of my train seat and stumbled as the train car rocked back and forth. I grabbed my carry-on and went to the front of the train car — seeing that the hook that had pulled the train car to the locomotive had un-hooked. As the gap between the train cars slowly widened, I took a deep breath, clutched my carry-on, and jumped from the caboose onto the next train car. I grabbed the handle from the side of the next rain car, turned around, and watched the caboose come to a slowing halt —being left behind on the train tracks… (Photo credit: Saraii Seleste Photography, at Trident Booksellers in Boulder, Colorado) Train Car 2: Colorado While safely traveling further away from the disaster that was the caboose, I saught safety in a train car that was the most solid link on the train. This link was built on friendships that had spanned over three years. These were friendships that I had made through out my tea blogging journey, and after a while, some of these friendships turned into chosen family. My chosen brother got married, and I even flew out to make tea at their wedding. With this, his wife became my new chosen sister by default. My chosen brother and I had virtual tea for several years, and when he got married, we included his wife and continued to have virtual tea with each other on a regular basis. To my joyous surprise, they booked a trip to Colorado. They booked this trip six months in advanced, and would be traveling to see me on July 4th. With this new Chosen Family Reunion, we invited several other friends to travel to Colorado to join us on our Colorado tea shenanigans. To join us was a bi-alley from Texas and another chosen family member whom I had collaborated with previously on my blog’s talk show (who, we'll call Saxophone for the story). This couldn’t have come at a better time — this was 3-4 months after the caboose of my train had derailed and I really needed the company. I had experienced a lot of social isolation by that point, so what could be better than visiting my chosen family? July 4th came around, the newlyweds flew in, Saxophone also flew in, and the Bi-Ally drove up from Texas. Over the course of the next three days, we had a Colorado adventure. We became tourists in my hometown, had tea at various shops, ate at various restaurants, and hiked into the mountains. After three days of non-stop adventure, Saxophone flew home, then the newlyweds flew home, then the bi-alley drove home. The trip was perfect and had a Disney ending, and everyone lived happily ever after… You didn’t actually believe that, did you? This is my blog’s anniversary post, which is famous for being a tell-all and full of drama and whatnot. As much as I want this train car to ride along happily to the train’s destination, it won’t. By the way, don't you just love fourth-wall breaking? Hi reader! How are ya? Are you enjoying this year's post? I know it's a little slow at the moment, but just stick with me here. It's going to fall apart even more, I promise <3 Anywho, let's get back to the story... After everyone left, I realized that I was wrong to connect this car to my train because it wasn't as solid as I once thought. After weeks went by, none of my chosen-family had answered my calls. Our virtual tea sessions came to an end, and the friendships that had been an instrumental part of my life had suddenly disappeared. While insecure, I reached out Saxophone and inquired as to what I did wrong. He later replied and said he had just been busy with his new internship, school, and also taking a summer trip. He then said he loved me. I took my newfound reassurance and went to the Newly Weds and asked them about if everything was okay. They said they had also been busy and had been too busy to schedule time to catch-up with me. They also reassured me and said the Colorado trip was incredibly fun, and they had a wonderful time. I had nothing to worry about. They also told me they loved me. However, I reached out to the Bi-Alley and confronted him with my insecurity by asking, “Are we ok?" Ten minutes of typing later, he said that our friendship would be coming to an end. Despite that we had virtual tea for over a year, meeting me in person was different. He said that he didn’t wish to be friends with me any longer. There was no further explanation, no further reasoning, and no clarification. Our near two-year friendship was over... It's safe to say, Insecurity entered the train car. Despite being devastated, I looked around the train car and realized that it was now empty. I spent three years filling this car with friends who turned into family, and despite the validity of them stepping off the train, it didn’t change the fact that they had gotten off. Even as of now, while writing this post seven months later, I had only had virtual tea with Saxophone twice, and never had virtual tea with the Newley-Weds again. Three years of consistency turned into an infinite emptiness in the matter of minutes. I packed my carry-on, opened the door that connected this car to the first train car, and turned around to look at the hollow structure one last time. I pulled out a hatchet from my carry-on and held onto it tightly as I took a deep breath. With the swing of my hatchet, and a tear strolling down my cheek, I took a swing and detached the car from the train. The connection broke, and the train kept traveling forward — leaving the train car behind in an infinite emptiness as it became a part of this voyage’s past… Train Car 1: New York While traveling on the last train car on my maiden voyage (Is that exclusively a boat term...? Ok that, but whatever the train version of that is…), I realized I was in the most structurally sound train car on this entire journey. You see, despite riding in this train car now, this particular train car had been under construction since January of 2023. The construction started with a meeting with an East Coast tea company, who met with me to discuss plans surrounding my talk show's fifth and final season. At this point, I had already been in production with the final season for several months and wanted to go out with a bang. That said-bang would be hosting the premiere of my tea talk show in New York City, in a joint event with this particular tea company. I would also film three episodes of the show while in New York as well — getting double usage for this trip. This was all set to take place in the fall, and given this would be a paid event, they’d be covering my travel expenses and sponsoring the premiere. After a very successful meeting, the train car started construction. So what did she have to do with my rail journey to New York? We’ll get back to that in a moment. Anywho, at the end of my successful meeting, I began writing the script for the fifth and final season of my talk show. With the format being on Youtube, I decided to take a new approach to this season — I’d scrip comedy bits that were ‘out there’, and I would also be performing in a new persona that asked absurdly silly questions to a panel. After writing a script for a character that would be zanier than myself, I lined up the panels and began filming the talk show through Zoom. I also flew to Mississippi and filmed on-location at a tea far as well. This was great because all of my friends were on board with playing along with the show’s new antics. I filmed ‘in-character’ for three-plus months, organized collaborations that spanned across the globe, and even set up a charity drive for the talk show’s final season. However, as the fall arrived, I realized something was missing — the tea company whom I had been planning this event with. After reaching out to them for clarification that we’d still be hosting the premiere of my talk show, they verified they had a few locations in mind to host it and our plans were foolproof. I began inviting friends to travel to New York and join the event, I took PTO from work, and the ball was finally rolling. The turbulence of the tea expo and the failed friendships were finally in the past, and I had something monumental to look forward to. It would be the revival of my career. Except, this is my regularly scheduled anniversary blog post… You what's coming. Three weeks before the event, I got a message from the tea company. They informed me that they hadn’t been planning for the event all summer and that there wasn’t enough time to secure a location last minute for the event. With this, they said they’d only pay for my airfare, and I’d have no place to stay when I arrived. When I confronted them about everything, they said that a place to stay didn’t encompass the parameters of the term ‘travel’. They also said they got busy and didn't mean for me to plan for an event that was no-longer happening. I didn’t save for travel to NYC because I didn’t know I’d have to budget for it three weeks in advanced. After a bit of arguing (which mostly consisted of me telling the tea company off) we parted ways. I was then thrown into a massive panic attack as I realized two things would now have to happen, — I’d now have to call six separate people to tell them to cancel their reservations and travel plans to New York City. When making these phone calls, I learned that four of the six people had non-refundable travel expenses that they now lost money on. With this horrific revelation, the second thing I learned that I’d now have to scrap three and a half episodes of my tea talk show, which were filmed with the intent of having filming continue in New York City. I’d have to re-film nearly half of my tea talk show and start over. While in a panic, I tried reaching out to my writing friend. We had grown distant since filming my talk show earlier in the spring, due to her busy schedule with her up-and-coming project. However, when asked to have virtual tea with her, she said we’d have to plan a virtual meeting with each other for almost two months out due to her new busy schedule. While upset, I looked around my train car and realized that something was odd. The train was traveling faster and faster in the opposite direction of where I was supposed to go. I jimmied open a window, stuck my head out, and saw that the train was headed directly for the Grand Canyon. In one last-ditch effort to save my train, I used one of my last lifeline andI phoned a friend. We’ll call him Coddled Rich White Boy, who I had befriended several years prior to this. CRWB and I had grown close due to the fact he was also a tea blogger. Him and I had met at the expo, and we had spent time together for when I few out to Chicago a year prior. When reaching out to him, I expressed that I had lost a part of my career, my close friendships, and now the one thing I had left — my tea blog. I told him that I was isolated, experiencing destructive loneliness, and my mental health was slipping… To my surprise, he understood. He told me to book plane tickets to Chicago to see him so I could take a break from my life, and I could enjoy the company of a friend. He then sent me $100 to help afford a $400 round-trip plane ticket to Chicago, with the agreement that I'd help him host a tea-tasting event he was organizing. With my new life preserver, my train switched courses and was now driving along the edge of the Grand Canyon. Except, a two weeks later (a week away from seeing him on the same weekend I was supposed to go to New York), CRWB called me to tell me that a family reunion was happening the same weekend I was supposed to fly out and see him, so he made reservations to see his family instead. He canceled his event, I had to cancel my flight, and I told him I needed space from him. I told him that I felt betrayed, and inevitably, our friend ship ended. I snapped. I started posting pleas for help on social media, and asked various friends for help. I was becoming suicidal and realized that I had a constant panic attack that lasted for three straight weeks. I looked around and I now had zero friendships, a tanked blogging and writing career, and a show that I had been working on all year — just falling apart last minute. I had lost over $300 on my trip to Chicago, caused four people to lose money on travel plans because of me, and was completely isolated from everyone who once mattered to me. As I sat in the last remaining train car of social and career isolation, with the train repositioning its GPS to go full-steam ahead into the Grand Canyon, I will ask you — the reader: How many friends watched me suffer and struggle, to the point that I was on the brink of death? How many people in my life do YOU think offered assistance to help get me off this train ride that was plummeting into the everlasting Canyon of depression and suicidal ideation? Zero. Everyone in my life became a witness to my mental health downfall as my train finally derailed, and headed straight for the canyon. As the train’s whistle began to blow full steam, ran to the back door of the last train car, swung the door violently open, ran, and jumped off the train as the train plummeted off of the edge of the canyon — disappearing into the abyss forever… (Photo credit: Saraii Seleste Photography, at Trident Booksellers in Boulder, Colorado) Finale: Walking the Desert As I walked away from the canyon of dispare, I called another tea blogger during a panic attack. For the story’s sake, I was wandering endlessly in the desert. In reality, I was on the rooftop of a high parking garage and was ready to jump off with a note in hand. This particular blogger talked me out my panic attack and helped calm me down. But, how did I end up on a rooftop, ready to jump? Well, shit continued to hit the fan. After pushing back the premiere of my talk show by a month, and scrambling to put together a show that was half-scrapped and re-shot last minute, I was accused of being on drugs. Despite giving a disclaimer before filming my panels, most of the panelists quickly distanced themselves from me and thought my being ‘in character’ was just a mask for me being an addict. While I had worked on the scrips for the panel for almost a full year at this point, what really hurt about these accusations was that not one person reached out to me to ask if I was okay… I wasn’t on drugs, but hell, if you saw me trippin' so bad that you thought I was winning gold for the Long Jump at the Olympics, I would hope that at least one person would ask how my mental state was. My show went to shit, my freelance writing career went to shit, my social life went to shit, and I was isolated more than ever. With carrying a weight that was too heavy, and with the help of a fellow blogger, I found a therapist and started getting help. I began therapy, and slowly walked further into the desert and far away from the edge of the Grand Canyon. As far as my friendship with the ‘coddled rich white kid’ goes, that also hit me pretty hard. I had harbored this friendship for around two years, and when I needed him most, he canceled on me. It wasn’t like we lived in the same city and our places were canceled last minute — I had invested over $400+ to visit him when I had reached rock bottom. When someone is drowning and you send them a life preserver, just to pull it right back and say ‘sike! I gotch’ya’, was very hard for me to accept. I knew he had issues of his own, but I still took time from this friendship. After a few months of distance, I ran into him at the MidWest Tea Fest, where he was representing a tea company. After trying to come around to this friendship again and extending an olive-branch, he sent me a few angry texts — saying I was initially wrong to throw away our friendship. But, was I wrong to take time to myself to recover, when he left our friendship first? I say no. He would say yes. But when I took time to myself to recover from how he hurt me, he claimed I 'disrespected his namesake'. (I uh, I dunno how to respond to 'disrespecting his namesake' besides, how white-boy of him to respond that way but here we are). While in my recovery, I had also reached out to the Newly Wed couple and the Saxophone friend who visited me in the summer. They all chatted with me on the phone, reassured me that our friendship was okay and I had nothing to worry about. I had to accept that although they still had love for me, the the dynamic of our friendships had changed -- and that's okay. They weren't wrong, and neither was I. They are the greatest three people I'll ever meet... I don't have a point with this, besides that I just love miss them. This past year in my blog has had some bright spots, such as getting to film the talk show at The Great Mississippi Tea Farm and getting to go to the MidWest Tea Festival as a consultant for Snarky Tea. I also got to have my own tea cake pressed for the talk show, and also mat a lot of lovely people from the Colorado Tea Society (hi Peter, hi Jenn, and hi Brian!) . However, when it was all said and done I still walked into my apartment to find an empty home; I was still alone in the desert. It's not like I haven't tried making connections with people offline either. My failure at doing so would require a separate post, but one of the amazing things about the online community I had is that I could fall back on my online friendships. I mean, most of us were friends for several years who had virtual tea with each other on a regular basis, so it wasn't as much a fallback as much as it was a part of my life. However, for the remainder of my virtual friends all dropped out of my life. Through rumors, I heard that they dropped out of my life because they were also going through something. Instead of reaching out like me, they all reacted with an avoidant-attachment style, and when shit hit the fan for them, they dropped out of my life. I watched nearly all of my virtual friendships fall apart and avoid me, yet still post on a regular basis because they said it helped their mental health -- but not so much that they shut me out and disappeared from my life. If my friends can't share their life with me, and be honest, and shut me out and ghost me, then I don't need any further proof of the way in which I perceived the valued those relationships, was not the actuality of how they were actually valued... If a friend shuts me out (like, the coddled rich kid from Chicago for example), it's not up to me to understand them if they don't communicate that they're going through something. If I reach out to them and try to obtain a better understanding of them and they're avoidant, then it's not really on me to save those friendships because they never gave me the opportunity to be understanding of them or their struggle... Could I have reached out to them and ask for reassurance again? Sure, I could have but didn't because simply, I didn't fucking feel like it. I couldn't deal with being ghosted again. My heart longs for them and I miss them terribly. However, I read somewhere earlier in the year that the term love is not a noun, it's a verb. Relationships go both ways, and it takes two people to make any kind of relationship work. Some of the other friends I've made with other tea bloggers have expressed that they want to spend time with me and want to meet over tea, but only under the condition of meeting at the Expo -- the same expo that launched the start of my series of unfortunate petty events... After expressing to so many of them that I would meet them anywhere else, and meet under different circumstances, they went silent. This in itself, made me feel devalued in these friendships as well. I don't blame them, because really, I was miserable around the majority of the tea friends I met in Vegas (due to the circumstances) and probably left a bad taste in their mouth. Maybe I'm part to blame for this. Maybe I ran them off. Maybe I was clingy to some of these friends because I felt my reality slip through my hands and witness my world fall apart in real-time, and they distanced themselves so they wouldn't have to be apart of a derailing train. Maybe if I was on a train that was derailing and I was desperate for help, maybe I needed people in my life who were understanding and loving, instead of avoidant. Maybe I needed love and compassion, but, got silence and ghosting instead... While walking in my desert, another tea blogger reached out to me and said the best way to fix my problem is to practice spending time by myself. This social isolation hit even harder with the realization that I have gone seven months of the year without a hug from friends or family -- three months being the longest stretch without one. My loneliness is already killing me enough as it is, so the idea of being even-more alone feels like a death sentence... I’m now walking into my eighth year in blogging and trying to find my way out of the desert. While trying to navigate social isolation, loneliness, and lack of community, I can at least say I’ve made a lot of progress with my therapist and I’m no longer suicidal. No longer being suicidal should feel like an accomplishment, but it just feels like that the bar for recovery is still set too low -- especially when I feel more isolated now than I ever had. I’ll be walking out of this dry heat, and will be searching for a way out of this desert. My heart is hurting, I’m sunburnt, and dehydrated, but I’ll be finding my way out of this desert the same way I began this journey… …alone ~Cody Wade Aka The Oolong Drunk (Photo credit: Saraii Seleste Photography, at Trident Booksellers in Boulder, Colorado) Also, P.S. To the Oregon tea company who blocked me on Instagram when I told them they had a ‘white savior complex’ over their belief that all of the world’s wars were fought over tea, I have one question for you: How did I know that you were born a rich white kid who only dates Asian women? How exactly did I know that? For some reason, rich straight white guys LOVE Asian women, and claim that they are unique for drinking a drink that has caused all of the world's wars… If you are a straight white man from America whose parents have an exuberant amounts of money, and you identify as a tea drinker, the following message also pertains to you as well so listen up: Tea does not need a white savor, and you are not unique for drinking the second most drank beverage in the world. You did not invent tea, you did not invent tea culture, and you are not a part of the trade history of the tea industry. Does the tea trade have involvement in some wars? Yes. But with the same logic, you could also stupidly argue that red lights cause all traffic accidents for people who run red lights… In case my example is too complex for your 'I read Marvel comics and I can save her’ brain, I’m here to tell you that involvement does NOT equate causation. I'm also afraid to ask for the opinion of how this fits into WWII, because I'm afraid you'd say that WWII was caused when Hitler got pissed at China over the tea trade and took it out on the Jewish race, you idiotic fuckface. But, you know that making a statement like that would be incorrect, right? Do you also realize that when you manipulate a complex Asian history into your Anglo-Saxon American narrative, you're making a racist statement, right? You’re not unique; you’re a coddled rich white kid loser who has never had to work a real day in his life, and you’ll amount to nothing. Go outside, touch grass, and go fuck yourself with your parent's money and go fuck yourself with your racism. Oh, wait, are some of my assumptions about you wrong? Oh, my bad, you of all people should understand the feeling of grossly misrepresenting something to fit your personal narrative. Silly me! I wonder where I learned that from!? That is all... If you want to read previous-year's Blog Anniversary posts, you can check them out here: 5 Years in Tea: My Side of the Story 6 Year Bloggiversary: SOS! The Sinking of the RMS Tea 7 Year Bloggiversary - You Sold Out Your Culture Special thanks to the talented photographer Saraii, whose work can be found here! If you happen to be in Denver and need photos taken of yourself, please reach out to her! Also, more special thanks to Trident Booksellers and Cafe, who gave me permission to have my photos taken at their shop. Trident has become one of my absolute favorite hang-out spots, and has been a place of safety for me over the past year. You can buy their teas online here! Please show them some love :)
- Best 7 Tea Companies of 2023, Best Tea of 2023
Hello hello! As various critics from all over the world release their arbitrary end-of-year lists for 2023 to help boost their site’s SEO results, I figured I’d hop on the trend of optimizing on cashing in on my SEO points by doing the same thing. Keep in mind, my list is entirely subjective, and subjective to the bubble that I live in. I will make bold statements about my personal opinions with an authoritative stance, and will leave out the majority of the tea industry because I’m only limited to what I see on a daily basis from my instagram feed. So in my opinion, who is the best of 2023? I’ll be going over the ‘best’ tea shops from various refined categories, and at the end, I’ll list out the overall best-7 tea shops that encompass all of my bases. So lets dig in! Note: No one from the list paid me, or sponsored me, to be on this list. However, if you are a company and see that you are listed on this list and feel generous enough to help compensate me, I will not say no. DM me on instagram for my Venmo info. (Photo Location: Trident Booksellers, Boulder Colorado) Travel: Under this category, we’ll go over the best tea destinations that are the most travel worthy! Best US Tea Room/Cafe: The Steeped Leaf, San Antonio TX (link) Best US High Tea: Tea Around Town, New York City NY (link) Best US Tea House: North East Tea House, Minneapolis MN (link) Best US Tea Shop: Song Tea and Ceramics, San Francisco CA (link) Best UK Tea Shop, Tea Blends: Bird & Blend Tea Co., Brighton UK (Link) Best UK Tea Shop, Single-Sourced: Postcard Teas, London UK (link) Best UK Tea House: Mei Leaf, London UK (link) Best Canadian Tea Shop, Tea Blends World Tea House, Halifax Canada (link) Best Canadian Tea House: Camellia Sinesis, Quebec/Montreal Canada (link) Best European Tea House, Eastern Europe: T Element, Belgrade Serbia (link) Best Tea House, Central Europe: Chá Dào Tee Haus, Frankfurt Germany (link) Best Tea Shop, Central Europe: Marriage Freres, Paris France (link) Best European Tea House, Nordic: Spill The Tea, Oslo Norway (link) Best Mexican Tea House: Tomás Casa Editora de Té, Mexico City Mexico (link) Best South American Tea House: Quinta Esencia Tea House, Lima Peru (link) Best Oceania/Australian Tea Destination: Zealong Tea, Gordonton New Zealand (Link) Media/Social: Under this category, we’ll go over the best tea entities that has helped progress tea socially, excelled in marketing, or other various tea contents. Best Heart Warming/Motivational Tea Shop: Be Still Tea (link) Best Social Media Marketing Campaign: My Tea Flow USA (link) Best Tea App: Steeped (link) Best Tea Talk-Show: Blissfully Tea Drunk With, Season 5 (link) Best Personal Tea Podcast: Geek Steep (link) Best Corporate Tea Podcast: Steeping Together (link) Best Tea Publication: 80 Degrees Magazine (link) Best Facebook Group: The Snark Squad (link) Best Instagram Feed: Kelly, Ros_Strange on Instagram (link) Best Web Series: Midnight Tea Tastings, by Crimson Lotus Tea (instagram) (link) Best Youtube Tea Influencer: Tea with Jann (link) Best Instagram LIVE Host: UNY Tea Store, Jeffrey (link) Best Social Media Influencer: Vedika, ChaiMusaFirBlogs (link) Best Tea Instagram Baddie: Ana Likes Tea (link) Best Tea Blog: Nicole, Tea For Me Please (link) Best Blog Post: Tea With Neldon — Pesticides and Propaganda: How China Impacts the Vietnamese Tea Industry (link) Best Tea Art: Ruby Silvious, Tea Bag Art (link) Hottest Tea Blogger: Me, duh (link) Events: This next category encompasses the best tea related events surrounding the world of tea. Best US Tea Festival: The Mid West Tea Festival (link) Best Non US Tea Festival: The Toronto Tea Festival (link) Best Tea-House for Hosting Various Events: Sip Jo Jo Tea (link) Best Tea Group/Public Gathering: The Chicago Tea Collective (link) Best Tea Educational Program/Class: Being Tea, by Suzette Hammond (link) Tea and Tea Ware: This Next Category encompasses the best tea by location, tea ware, and various tea-related merch and products: Best Taiwanese Sourced Tea: Grand Crew Co. (link) Best Japanese Sourced Tea: Sugimoto Tea (link) Best African Sourced Teas: Cured Leaves Tea (link) Best Chinese Sourced Teas: Farmerleaf Tea (link) Best US Grown Tea: The Great Mississippi Tea Company (link) Best Bagged Tea/Tea Bags: Seven Tea House (link) Best Milk Tea and/or Boba: Milk Tea People (link) Best Chai Tea: The Chai Box (link) Best Matcha Tea: Marumatsu Tea Corporation (link) Best Innovative Tea Shop Offering: Smith Tea Co, for their cafe's 'tea flights' educational tea tastings (link) Best New Tea Company: Intergalactic Tea (link) Best Tea Club/Subscription: HoYum Tea (link) Best Canned/Pre Made Tea: Twrl Milk Tea, Jasmine Pu'Erh Milk Tea, with Pea Milk (link) Best Tea Ware, Traditional: Yinchen Studios (link) Best Individual Tea Potter/Ceramist: Sanguine Tea Pots, Mark Mohler (link) Best Tea Related Merch: Spirit Tea’s Clothing Line (link) Best Tea Related Product, Food/Beverage: Australian Tea Masters, Non-Alcoholic Tea Wine (link) Best Christmas Advent Calendar: David’s Tea, 24 Trips of Tea (link) Best Tea Stationary/Writing Materials: Tea Thoughts (link) Best 7 Tea Shops of 2023: The following tea shops are, in my opinion, the best 7 tea shops in all of 2023. These tea companies have had excellent in innovation, creativity, and have consistently released incredible product lines that have exceeded the expectation set by the industry-norm. These tea companies also contribute in creating community, and have help grow the tea industry to a very substantial amount. They are placed in random order, and do not rank above one another: Bitterleaf Teas (link) Bitterleaf Teas won this spot by their diverse selection of accessible tea, tea ware, and their contributions to the puer tea market. Their ability to source affordable, easy-to-drink, and complex teas, is a delicate balance that they make look easy. Crimson Lotus Tea (link) Crimson Lotus Tea won this spot for their authencitiy, their side selection of incredible teas, and their ability to bring the greater tea community together. Not only is Crimson Lotus Tea personable, their tea is truly incredible, accessible, and truly one of a kind. Snarky Tea (link) Snarky Tea won this spot for their ability to create community while offering a wide selection of tea and tea-ware, and consistently releasing new products to keep their audience engaged. Their growth and originality is noteworthy. Volition Tea (link) Volition Tea won this spot for their collaborations and partnerships with various tea companies, their ability to bring incredible new teas to their site, and their ability to grow and connect with various people in their tea community. What makes this impressive, is the fact that Volition Tea is ran by only one woman. White2Tea (link) White2Tea won this spot by providing a large selection of tea. Their tea library is accessible, fun, and helps bridge a gap between tea and non-tea people. White2Tea has also managed to have a monthly tea club that has consistently stayed exciting despite for being around for over a half-decade, and is not afraid to release new tea productions that can’t be found anywhere else. Their innovation is currently changing the tea industry as we know it. Trident Booksellers (link) Trident booksellers win this spot for various reasons. Trident Booksellers is a book press, a coffee shop, a live-music venue, and a tea shop. Their tea selection is refined, complex, and tasty. They carry teas that are for every kind of tea drinker, as well as proving gong-fu service as well. Despite having some of the best coffee in the US, they managed to carry some of the best tea in the US as well. They carry their own productions of tea, and provide a safe space for all walks of life to sit and enjoy a cup of tea. Locals and tourists from all over the world, come to Boulder, Colorado to experience a piece of magic that is known as Trident Booksellers. One River Tea (link) One River Tea won a spot on this list for various reason. Derek, the man behind the madness, has overcome great adversity. He might not want me to air out his journey, but despite his hardships, he has managed to release some of the greatest teas the market has seen. He has also helped other tea companies release their own tea productions, and has an online presence that emotes friendship and warmth. This one-man show is something that the entire industry should take note of. Final thoughts: The World of tea has been a mixed bag this year, but despite the industry’s massive shortcomings, amazing people have immersed out of the woodwork to prove that the industry-at-large as we know it, will no longer cater to the same few tea companies. But rather, 2023 proves that tea companies can rely of innovation, kindness, and tact to succeed in the currently market. You didn't need to be a nepo-baby to make it big in tea this past year. Here’s to 2024, and here’s to an even brighter and nepotism-free future. Best wishes, ~Cody Wade Aka The Oolong Drunk
- Handing Out My Thoughts on the 2023 World Tea Expo (for Free): "The Expo Doesn't Want You"
Hello hello! This past March, I was invited to be one of the keynote speakers for World Tea Expo 2023! After returning for a second year in a row, I have finally collected my thoughts and decided to go over how this year’s World Tea Expo went. How did it go? What about the clickbait title I gave this review? Let’s dive in and find out! Me during my incubator lecture, photo credit to the talented photographers at World Tea Expo This year, I attended World Tea Expo as one of their Business-Incubator speakers on the first day of the expo. For the expo, I spoke about small banking within the world of tea. The incubator was full in attendance and had various speakers from different walks of the world of tea. I even won several social-media polls for World Tea Expo as the most anticipated speaker for the expo. After being in the industry for close to a decade, and writing about the industry as an educator and influencer for over seven years, felt like a major victory for my journey in tea. Days two and three are when the expo floor opened. World Tea Expo, which was run in contingency with the Bar & Restaurant Expo, expanded and covered more floor space on the expo floor than it did the previous year. To add, World Tea Expo’s floor plan was slightly more segregated from Bar & Restaurant — which was a major upgrade. Unlike last year when World Tea Expo bled into the Bar & Restaurant Expo, this year, the tea side of the expo was more isolated. Once you reached the tea section of the expo, it was so much easier to stay within the tea side of the expo. Compared to last year, this was one of my favorite upgrades from last year. One of my other favorite aspects of World Tea Expo this year was getting to meet so many people from all over the world of tea that I have known for the entirety of my career, and meeting them in person for the very first time. It was utterly surreal. Group-photo with various vendors and tea bloggers, writers, and educators. However, this wasn’t enough to save my experience with the 2023 World Tea Expo. One of the first jarring things about the convention was that the health department was going around the expo — fining booths for not having a permit to give samples and shutting down said booths from continuing to give samples because they didn’t buy the ‘correct package through World Tea Expo’ to allow them to serve samples under a permit…. (Neldon of Tea With Neldon currently talked about this issue further here) Another thing that I found incredibly jarring, is that one of the other (anonymous) speakers for the expo, was consulting several people about using social media like “a game”. She told these individuals that marketing on social media is random and they should hope to hit it big by going viral… She also stated over a half-dozen times that she was handed her position in the family business and initially didn’t know anything about marketing... Despite that, the most damning aspect surrounding World Tea Expo this year was one massive element that the people running the expo missed big time: They don't want the world of bloggers, freelance writers, and educators. The expo believes the writers, bloggers, and educators, only appear to the expo to, in quote, “Take free stuff.” Yes. This revelation began with this year’s exclusion of Blogger’s Round Table — one of the first World Tea Expos in the history of the show to not include bloggers officially (or unofficially). With this, I went to one of the expo organizers and requested that the bloggers, freelance writers, and educators be granted a meet-and-greet so they can get the chance to meet other professionals in the industry. After coming up with a game plan, I received a phone call two weeks later from World Tea Expo. One of the representatives for World Tea Expo and Questex (the parent company who owns World Tea Expo), told me verbatim that, “World Tea Expo doesn’t want bloggers attending the expo this year. The expo doesn't want you. Last year, vendors complained that too many bloggers asked for too much free stuff, and if bloggers and freelance writers want to be involved with the Expo, then they need to pay their way and promote the expo if the expo wants to take them seriously.” This representative then told me that it was out of my place to suggest a meet-and-greet for the expo, and it would not happen. After having this disturbing phone call with this representative, she then claimed that if any bloggers wanted to work with the expo, they’d have to go through her — despite that she was not going to be attending the expo herself. After this phone call, I verified the validity of this representative by reaching out to one of the expo organizers — who confirmed the validity of this said-representatives. To add, all but one of all of the various bloggers and freelance writers who applied for a press pass got approved. Half a dozen bloggers and writers that I personally know got rejected for a press pass; which only backs up the claim that the expo doesn't want us there. Let’s put this in perspective. World Tea Expo wants bloggers to personally pay travel expenses to pay for entry to an event, and wants to require them to promote the expo for free… Me during my incubator lecture, photo credit to the talent photographers atWorld Tea Expo One of the bloggers who attended World Tea Expo, who will stay anonymous for this article, got denied a press pass and spent a minimum of $1,300 to attend this year’s expo. This person in particular works in the world of tea and worked 60-80 hours a week for several months at above-minimum wage— just to be able to attend this year’s expo… According to the expo's representative, the expo’s view on this person is that this person only showed up for ‘the free stuff’. As far as bloggers who didn’t apply for a press pass, one anonymous blogger reported to me that they spent $2,500 out of pocket to travel and attend World Tea Expo. They said that they saved for the majority of 2022 after seeing my personal Instagram posts, just to be able to attend the expo. According to the expo's representative, the expo’s view on this person is that this person only showed up for ‘the free stuff’. To add, another anonymous blogger shared with me that they spent $904.00 alone on just World Tea Expo itself — not including travel or hotel. Since this person is a blogger and influencer, according to the expo, this person gave them $904.00 just on the expo to view them as someone who just showed up for ‘the free stuff. Lastly, another anonymous blogger also reported she spent $879 in total with the expo alone, and over $800.00 in travel expenses. At the time of this post, this particular blogger has shared 21 individual posts on social media with a following of around 1,300 people. If you take the $879 they spent as a blogger to the expo, and divide that by the current posts they’ve made promoting the expo, World Tea Expo has currently made $41.86 per social-media post this blogger has made in free marketing for the expo. They did it for the expo, for free. This person marketed the expo over 21 times for free. According to the expo's representative, the viewpoint that World Tea Expo has of this person, is that this individual is only there for ‘the free stuff’. Let the absurdity of that sink in. As for myself, after the expo compensated me for speaking, I spent over $600 out of pocket on travel. As a keynote speaker of the expo, when I asked an expo organizer if I could bring a family member with me to the expo as my plus-1 and bring them with me to the expo hall, below this paragraph is a screen-grab of their response… To add, keep in mind that I also connected a vendor with the expo, and the vendor bought booth space with the expo. Yes, after helping the expo gain a sale, they replied with the email response below in regards to bringing a family member to the expo hall with me… (Note how the email said, "no more free anything, sorry"... I had not been given anything for free prior to this.) And yet, somehow, they view me as someone who only showed up for ‘the free stuff’. In response to World Tea Expo, my family member did not go to the expo with me. And yet, this continues to get worse. To make the absurdity even worse, I ran into one of the Board of Directors of the expo while on the strip. I voiced all of my concerns and recalled the conversation I had with the expo-representative about the viewpoint the expo has on bloggers, writers, and educators. Their response was, "I see the initial point they were making, but they just worded it wrong." They then told me to email them complaint, and they'd forward it to the said-parties responsible... I felt both defeated and devastated. (This said-Board Member also made a point to avoid me through out the remainder of the expo. Twice, when walking in my direction, he quickly turned a corner once seeing me and hurried in a different direction....) Bloggers, educators, and free-lance writers for the world of tea make up a massive population of the world of tea, and after how much money tea bloggers spent out of pocket to support World Tea Expo, the least the expo could do is show compassion and humility for the people who helped bring success to it. After all, according to Zappa, Questex made $35.9 million USD in revenue in 2022. With how much money the expo is making, and how much bloggers, educators, and freelance writers are spending out of pocket to support the expo, the very least the expo can do is acknowledge the very existence of the people who helped get them there — much less offer a press-pass for bloggers who are giving them free marketing. Instead, they spit in their faces. World Tea Expo also needs to stop gate-keeping the tea experience by outsourcing their relationships with their bloggers, writers, and educators by filtering them through outside organizations. World Tea Expo is very keen on only working with bloggers through a single organization, when that said-organization hasn't been involved with the blogging world of tea in over 7+ years. Many bloggers, writers, and educators exist outside of the parameter of a single organization, and succeed in other various avenues. World Tea News sources their blogger relations with someone who has not updated their tea content since before 2014. To add, World Tea Expo also needs to vet their incubator speakers a lot better. I found it incredibly insulting that a professional publicly bragged about their nepotism in the industry, and reduce the highly-educated skill of marketing to ‘hoping to hit it viral’. If you work for World Tea Expo or Questex, I need you to read the following very carefully, and carefully pay attention to what I’m about to say: World Tea Expo needs to realize that bloggers, writers, and educators launch their careers in this industry despite that they do not personally profit from it. Bloggers, writers, and educators go into this industry in debt to the industry. They do not take from it but rather, give back to it without question. Bloggers, writers, and educators do not make money from the passionate work they do, but rather, they are in the hole with it. Despite that this passion is paid-for out of pocket, they still do it out of the sheer love and passion for the industry. As a passionate blogger and supporter of the World of Tea, and as someone who has poured their entire creative heart and soul into this industry, being able to speak at World Tea Expo should have been a special moment for me…. Instead, I feel insulted that I gave money, time, and attention to an organization that does not value me, my career, or my background. I also feel remorse that I have influenced people to attend this expo on my behalf, as they spent money on this organization to just be insulted and degraded in return. As for World Tea Expo, I am calling on World Tea Expo to apologize to the world of tea bloggers, tea writers, and tea educators for this massive blunder, and call on World Tea Expo to promise to work harder to do better for one of the largest and most passionate demographics that the world of tea has to offer….
- 7 Year Bloggiversary - You Sold Out Your Culture
Hello hello! Over the last few bloggiversary, I wrote about some of the biggest dramas in tea that I had experienced up to that point. While I was thoroughly convinced that the drama would even out, it did not. If 2020 taught us anything, expect the unexpected, and expect the ‘tea’ to be good. 7 years ago on this day, I started ‘The Oolong Drunk’ to write about my enjoyment of tea. Over the years, some people tried to make my cup of tea bitter. Along the way, I lost my narrative. Now, it's time I take my narrative back into my own hands and tell my side of the story. I solemnly swear to the book of tea, this is nothing but the truth, the whole truth, and my side as to what went down in the year of people trying to make my cup of tea bitter… Note: If you want to catch up on previous-year's bloggiversary posts, you can catch up here, 5 Years in Tea -- My Side of the Story 6-Year Bloggiversary: SOS! The Sinking of the RMS Tea Appropriation, or Sell Out? Last year, one individual decided to break through into the world of tea. With a Chinese heritage to back her up, and experience working with one of the more popular tea companies within the blogging company, she exploded into the scene. While taking the world of tea by storm, she made sure to use her heritage as a point of marketing. With this, when you bought her tea, you’re also buying a piece of Chinese tradition and culture. Except, at a high markup… After obtaining a virtual acquaintanceship with this woman, one thing became clear — there was only ‘one’ right way to honor her Chinese heritage. The gate to the door that opened up to her culture was the admission of $2-$5 a gram teas. While other tea companies sold the same teas for a fraction of the cost, those companies weren’t selling the guilt that came with the Anglo-Saxon treatment of Asian-American people in the West. To make up for an implied reparation, and $80 later, I did my diligence of making up for my society's racism… However, that wasn’t enough. Once receiving my tea, I made a slow-motion pour video of it and synced it to hip-hop beats. And when this woman saw that I had broken away from her image of what tradition should be, she felt offended. With her being offended, came her telling me her thoughts on how I wrongfully culturally appropriated her culture. Tea wasn’t meant to be paired with hip-hop, or be spilled or wasted. As a response, I replied to her — questioning if I had a say-so in how she spent my $80 after I bought her tea. With that, I was blocked by her on all social media accounts. Our acquaintanceship was over. Let me lay this out for you — if you are going to be told by the industry that you should make tea to your own enjoyment, then should it matter how I enjoy it? If this woman is going to up-sell her tea at a 600-800% margin and keep the access profit for herself, then how is she giving back to her own culture? I beg the question, what is worse? Me culturally appropriating her culture, or her selling out her culture? With my own culture of being gay, I have used my blog's platform to host several charity drives for The Trevor Project -- a charity that aids gay youth who struggle with suicidal thoughts as a result of the hate they receive for being themselves... As a minority in my community, when I say I will give back to my culture, my claims will be met with action -- not with 'pick-me' claims on Social Media... I will not pocket the profit for myself. As a lesson to this woman, if you partake in a capitalistic society where you will gate-keep the 2nd most drunk beverage in the entire globe, and pocket the extreme mark-up without contributing anything back to the same culture you’re exploiting for your own financial game, then you can kiss my gay-flat-ass as I pour tea to the sound of alternative hip-hop…. Tea Community God…. Complexes In this year's high-school drama, the 2022 Graduating Class will perform a new play at the theatre this year. For myself, I will play the part of Momma Bear. But before we start this Shakespearian drama, I must provide some exposition... Now and then, new tea bloggers will hop into the tea scene with a strong attitude that they’ll reach the top of the blogging community. They will look at photos of people gathering around a single person pouring tea. They will then think to themselves, “I want to be that person that’s the center of harboring a community. I want to be that person sharing tranquility with everyone. I want to be important and be looked up to, and I want to be the god complex that all of these people are looking up to. I want to be the next Uncle Iroh from Avatar The Last Airbender. I want to be important! Me! Myself! I CAN BE IMPORTANT! AHHH!” So they start a tea blog and start out strong. They will create incredible content, take beautiful photos, write well-written blog posts, and have virtual tea sessions with other tea bloggers with the intent of, “Drink a cup of tea with us! We’re important! Look at me!” — masking it behind the narrative that they actually love tea for the sake of it… And after 6-12 months, they start to realize one factor that they didn’t contemplate before starting their journey of "look how important and meditative I am!", is that within the West, the tea community is a small niche community. The top rung of social media popularity isn’t in the hundreds of thousands... It’s just in the hundreds. When these individuals see that they only have 2,000 followers on social media after blogging for several years, they become disappointed, quit their blog, and stop drinking tea altogether. So what does this have to do with today's period drama? This happened this year when a member of the tea-blogging community decided to quietly delete all their social media accounts. This individual's main goal was to harbor a tea community of their own, and without realizing, they actually obtained dozens of friendships along the way (some that lasted for 2-3 years, including my own personal friendship). I didn't blink an eye at his-quitting of blogging, until chatting with a mutual friend who was in near tears over being ghosted. After seeing this friend heartbroken and confused as to why this individual would leave the community they created and ghost everyone without an answer as to why (or much less without saying good-bye), I decided to go back to my high-school Drama/Theatre ways to play the role of ‘Momma Bear’ and go step in it… After digging around, I discovered that there was a point of contact for this individual — to message him through his girlfriend’s account. Yes. The only way to contact this blogger was to message his girlfriend who would play telephone for you. In ‘Cody’ fashion, I sent her a message — asking where this chicken-shit went. She replied, stating that he decided that they weren’t receiving the type of response they wanted and their blog wasn't as successful as they hoped. She indicated that they were disappointed that they didn’t obtain a larger audience for the tea community and didn’t get what they wanted out of it. Her message ended by expressing that her man-child-of-a-man would be rebranding and returning soon. I was in disbelief. After giving it thought, I remembered that he did harbor a community of people around him. He had a dozen committed friends who were always there for him whenever he needed it. The love these people had for him was real and was not conditional… Except, to all of our surprise, it was a condition to him. He cared, but only if he was able to obtain the popularity he sought after. Only if more people looked up to him like a meditative-harboring God. Now, in this part of the play, this is where I got my stage debut with my performance of 'Moma Bear', and ripped her/him (them?) to shreds... I replied to his femme-human-shield that he conditionalized his friendships with everyone he knew by deleting all of his accounts and ghosting his inner circle with no notice, by tying their friendships to his personal success. And if he were to come back to the community and re-brand, he should be embarrassed to show his face for being faker than all of Harvey Weinstein's illnesses that only ‘just so happen’ to appear on any given court date… That is when I took home the award for 'Most Melodramatic Acting by an Understudy'. What was my prize, you may ask? I received a very shiny 'block' from her... In retrospect, I do feel like an actual high-schooler for inserting myself into something that never involved me. I did take on the role of ‘Momma Bear’ way too seriously. But the moral of the story? First, this is the last drama I inserted myself in a drama that never involved me. I need to grow up. Second, as a tea blogger, you’ll never reach the heights of any of the beauty-brand social media influencers. The tea industry doesn’t tend to the garden known as ‘bloggers’ (…this is another can of worms for another time). But if you think you’ll be breaking into the tea industry as the next Uncle Iroh from Avatar The Last Airbender, with the purpose of ‘me’, then you won’t be harboring a tea community — you’ll only be tricking it… Burning Bridges, Let’s Repair Them On one Tuesday morning, I woke up with a fever of 103°f. My body was in pain all-over, and I was delusional (…more than normal). I crawled to my car and managed to drive myself to the ER. However, upon pulling up to the ER, I realized I was in too much pain to get out of the car. I called for help, was wheeled into the ER, and was immediately pumped with fluids. After several tests and awaiting results, I had a harrowing thought… The next physically closest person in my life was around 800 miles away I’m in the middle of Colorado by myself. I left the ER later that evening with the diagnosis of a nasty virus that I can’t spell or pronounce. But with this virus, came along a panic-attack that lasted for well over a week. The idea of loneliness became a virus of its own. However, after I called and talked to my best-friend Luke about my existential crisis, I made a realization… He picked up the phone on the second ring when I called him. He listened to my fears. And he validated them. And shortly after, my panic began to fade away. Later that week, another few friends named Molly and Karissa and I talked on a 3-way, and they asked me about my well-being. And they really listened, and truly cared about what I had to say. And not long after, I flew to Chicago to host an event with Spirit Tea. While there, my friends Chase, Marco, and Nicole took me around the city and we had our own adventure. And earlier in the year, I got to meet my close friend Neldon for the very first time at World Tea Expo. And at World Tea Expo, I met my other close friend Nicole for the very first time as well. And in September, I got to serve tea at Luke’s wedding and celebrated his wedding to a wonderful person named MacKenna. And a month later, I was in Oregon — having a massive tea party with Luke and MacKenna. I also met friends such as Ethan, Molly, Chris, Karissa, Geoffrey, and a few others who were also there — spending time with me. Now that I’m reflecting at the times I spent alone and isolated in 2022, it was evident to me that I wasn’t really alone — I was showered by the care of the individuals who made a conscious effort to love me for who I am. And to add to these individuals, there’s a huge sleuth of others who I have yet to meet in-person. Despite being virtual, these friends show love to me all the same. These people have shown me love, light, and friendship. I might have been hundreds of miles away from the people who I care about, but their love covered me like a warm blanket. Their love gave me the strength to climb up and out of my crisis, and continue forward. Now that I’ve been in tea for 7 years now, I gained one thing that I never imagined ever obtaining and never sought after— a family of people whose love and friendship made me a special person. And it’s all because of one common interest…. With them, I know my 7th year in tea will be a remarkable one <3 So haters, if you’ve made it this far… Remember to not hide behind your girlfriends to end a half-dozen friendships for you, and to not tell me that I can’t listen to whatever the hell I want to when drinking tea. And haters, fuck you… and thank you for the motivation. With much love, ~Cody Wade Aka The Oolong Drunk “Blissfully Tea Drunk With…”
- Blue Matcha -- A Review of David's Tea Flavoured Matcha Teas
Hello hello! Ever since trying white-tea matcha, I’ve been more than curious to venture out and try more matcha teas on the unordinary matcha spectrum. In doing so, I stumbled across the color palate of tea and was sent Blue Matcha by David’s Tea because the opposite of white is obviously blue). Along with Blue Matcha, they also sent me a palate of 8 other flavored matcha teas as well as a bag of their coconut matcha! Now that blue matcha is sold out, should David's Tea bring it back? Which of the flavored matcha teas were the best? Let's dive in! Flavored Matcha For the flavored matcha teas, there were 8 flavors that came in miniature tins that came as their Matcha Love tea sampler. For the flavors, they come as raspberry, earl grey, maple, vanilla, peach, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and cherry blossom. My favorites: Out of the flavored matcha teas David’s Tea sent me, I have to say that the Earl Grey matcha was my favorite to make hot, as well as the maple and vanilla matcha. As for the fruity flavored matcha teas, I enjoyed them better when made iced. As far as the Earl Grey matcha goes, this was my favorite to make. The notes of sweet and bergamot blended beautifully with the creamy grassy notes that come naturally to matcha. Because of the earthy and fruity way that bergamot naturally presents itself, along with the creamy grassy notes of matcha, it almost created a fruity pebble milk-like flavor note. When hot, this truly hits the spot. Coconut Matcha: With the coconut matcha, I loved this tea best iced. Since I try to make myself look busier than I am, I’ve been taking a measuring spoon and dumping a hefty whomp of this into my protein-powder shaker bottle, and angrily shake it like it's one of those shake-weight exercising machines. I usually know when to stop because it's when my violent-shaking-of-the-matcha catches the attention of my cats. When they look overly concerned, that's when I know it's ready. The coconut matcha was very surprising, mainly because of how naturally sweet it was. I usually associate coconut with stress (b/c lets be real, they’re more hard-headed than I am when it comes to opening up). However, the coconut’s flavor profile was so creamy and smooth that it made the matcha powder’s notes even more soft and fluffy. The creaminess, and the sweetness, is enough to make this one of the best flavored iced-tea drinks I’ve had in quite a while. Blue Matcha: As someone who sometimes has a short attention span, I must say that anything oddly colored and edible will almost instantly catch my attention. That’s why the Blue Matcha is something that I needed to try. Upon opening the package of Blue Matcha, the aroma of a Jolly Rancher radiated from the bag. The powder was blue/grey, and looked intriguing. When tasting the blue matcha, the natural sweet raspberry notes brushed across the tongue while leaving behind a nice grassy-earthiness. While hot, it was smooth and fluffy to the tongue. While making it iced, the teas natural sweetness became even more noticeable up front. And while making it iced with edible glitter, the tea and I both became fabulous. Kourtney Kardashian could never, I now got a sparkly blue iced drink with my big sun-shades, livin' my baddie insta-life...... Look out regatta moms, we're here to show you how its done. #swag Overview: Overall, I really enjoyed this experience. With their flavored matcha teas, and underneath all of the flavors, you could still taste the matcha tea itself. Usually when companies make flavored teas, they use a lower-quality base and cover up the quality by over-flavoring their teas. As far as David's Tea goes, despite being flavored, they used a higher-quality base material that made these teas more well-rounded and more enjoyable. In the end, I ended up loving them. David's Tea should certainly bring Blue Matcha back! While I'm usually more skeptical of larger tea companies, I would say David's Tea is an amazing example that proves that a large company doesn't equate to loss of quality. Many tea drinkers have been burnt out by being served low-quality tea by larger entities, so having someone like David's Tea in the world of tea is absolutely refreshing. I can't wait to see what they come up with next... :) ~The Oolong Drunk "Blissfully Tea Drunk"
- Top 10 Albums of 2022 to Drink Tea With (So Far)
Hello hello! A few years go, I released my top 15 albums to drink tea to for the end of year of 2020! (catch up here!) I was going to prepare a list for 2021, but lets be honest here. There was maybe only 4 good albums to come out of 2021. Regardless of genera, 2021 was an embarrassment for the music industry... However, now that we're knee-deep into 2022, it has become evident that all of the talent left behind in 2021 was somehow throttled into 2022! Since so many amazing works of art have been released this year, I thought it would great to release my list of the best albums released in 2022, to drink tea to! Just like the previous-years list, I have a few guidelines to suggest to follow along with! Listen to these albums in their entirety. These albums are a journey, and just like a tea session, you cant jump in the middle and start on the seventh infusion (or 7th album track). While listening to these albums in their entirety, don’t skip any of the tracks. To add, especially add, listen to these albums in their intended order and not on shuffle. Let the artist take you on the intended journey. It’s very important that you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and try to physically place yourself in both the music and tea. If possible, were headphones to immerse yourself further into the music and tea…. With these suggested guidelines in place, I want to stipulate that the following albums have exclusively been released in 2022. When doing the year-end list, the album's current placement may change. Now that we've gone over everything, lets move on to the list! 10. (Album Art: Property of Daughters of Cain Records) Artist: Ethel Cain Album: Preacher's Daughter Tea Pairing: Black Tea Secondary Tea Pairing: Shou Puer or White Tea About this Album: If you were born in the 90's, than this album might remind you of something you used to listen to while in high-school. This alt-rock album borders on the line of chill, and psychedelic. This album's tracks effortless flow together to create a cohesively smooth, and moody journey. The song's lengthier runtime is perfect for getting lost in each individual song. This atmospheric anxt is meditative, and will pair perfectly with your tea session... 9. (Album Art: Property of 4AD LTD) Artist: Jenny Hval Album: Classic Objects Tea Pairing: Sheng Puer Secondary Tea Pairing: White Tea or Black Tea About this Album: Jenny Hval's back-yard Portlandia ukulele-girl album is both soft, massive, and audience captivating. Her singer/songwriter style bleeds perfectly with her alternative pop/rock production, and bings forth a vulnerable breath of fresh air. This album is Fiona Apple adjacent as far as artistic goes, and is a brilliant album to listen to with your next tea time. 8. (Album Art: Property of Aly & AJ Music LLC) Artist: Aly & AJ Album: A Touch of This Beat... (Deluxe) Tea Pairing: Aged Sheng Secondary Tea Pairing: Fresh Sheng Puer or Green Oolongs About this Album: While this album initially released the year before, the new deluxe tracks of Aly & AJ's 'A Touch of this Beat' adds beautifully to make this album fresher than ever. Disney star's Aly & AJ bring forth a mid-2000's pop-rock production that reminisces of a 1960's California sun-bleached postcard with tie-dye synths. Overall, this album is great to listen to with your tea session because not only is this album refreshing, it's also groovy in a mediative way. 7. (Album Art: Property of Future Classic) Artist: Flume Album: Palaces Tea Pairing: Fresh Sheng Puer Secondary Tea Pairing: Heicha or Aged Sheng Puer About this Album: Australian-born synth artist used influences from all of his previous works to make the perfect combination of electronic music and pop music. Flume's Palaces has many incredible features through out the album, while creating a wide-range of emotion through distortion and synths. While some of these songs are flat-out ear worms, this album will help place you in a trance that will make you want to drip your next tea leaf on your tongue like a sheet of acid... 6. (Album Art: Property of Jagjaguwar; Secretly Group) Artist: Angel Olsen Album: Big Time Tea Pairing: White Tea Secondary Tea Pairing: Roasted/Oxidized Oolongs or Shou Puer About this Album: This highly-anticipated album os one helluva ride. Angel Olsen bends the rules with country music and meshes with rock, and ends the album with 4 blues/jazz tracks that punches your gut over the hills and into the sunset... The second half of this album is not only a masterclass in songwriting and lyricism, it also brings forth some of the best songs produced in all of music in 2022. The rawness of Angel's vocal performance will infuse harmonically with your next tea session. 5. (Album Art: Property of Asylum Records UK, Warner Music UK Limited) Artist: Charli XCX Album: Crash Tea Pairing: White Tea Secondary Tea Pairing: Fresh Sheng Puer or Black Tea About this Album: Charli's tong-in-cheek 'sell out' album bring back the 80's while channeling both Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson. Crash is a fun pop-album that is funky, nostalgic, and sexy to listen to. Crash is a masterpiece in pop music because as a whole, this album is both thrilling and balanced. Crash is amazing to listen to with your next tea session because not only is it a a fun album to listen to, it'll have you head-bopping along with your next cup of tea... 4. (Album Art: Property of Noble & Brite LTD and EMI Records) Artist: Kate Bush Album: The Dreaming Tea Pairing: Fresh Sheng Puer Secondary Tea Pairing: Shou Puer or Black Tea About this Album: Okay, before you start in on how this album was released in1982... Kate Bush is timeless, and because she's timeless, it means she's still relevant today. The Dreaming is legendary to the Queen of Pop, Kate Bush, because it's the first albums in her discography she wrote and produced herself. With her Shakespearian 'High School Theatre Kid' energy, this album is the sheer invention of art-pop in itself. To have such a monumental, yet incredible journey of an album that exists in all of our lifetimes, Kate Bush is one of the most incredible musicians to ever live. She's always an amazing choice, especially when pairing with tea. 3. (Album Art: Property of Promised Land Recordings Limited) Artist: Koffee Album: Gifted Tea Pairing: Green Oolong (unroasted) Secondary Tea Pairing: Sheng Puer or White Tea About this Album: Koffe brought forth one of the most incredible albums in music in 2022. With this, Koffee lit reggae ablaze. While re-awakening modern society to how fresh and incredible modern reggae can be, she created an atmospheric soundscape that's easy to fully submerge yourself in. This album is amazing to pair with your next tea session, because you will also be transported to a new plane of existence... (This album is like Solar Power by Lorde, except, it's reggae and it's actually good). 2. (Album Art: Property of Dead Oceans Records) Artist: Mitski Album: Laurel Hell Tea Pairing: Shou Puer Secondary Tea Pairing: White Tea or Sheng Puer About this Album: The long-awaited return of Mitski came with one of the most powerful albums in 2022 (so far). Mitski came out of retirement at the ripe ole' age of 31 to release an album that is 80's synth/Abba inspired. Laurel Hell is an emotional roller coaster that leaves Mitski the most vulnerable as she's ever been. Just like a good tea session, when this album closes, you wish that it could keep going and never end... Mitski's emotional and vulnerable delivery is what makes this one of the best album's to drink tea with (so far) in 2022... 1. (Album Art: Property of Ploydor Records Release, Universal Music Operations Limited) Artist: Florence & The Machine Album: Dance Fever Tea Pairing: GuShu Sheng Puer Secondary Tea Pairing: White Tea or Oolong (any) About this Album: The dog day's will alway's be here for Florence Welch, because one after another, her albums keep getting better and better. Dance Fever is the perfect combination of understanding the never ending rollercoaster of emotions that comes with surviving the pandemic. While this album touches a chord with how the pandemic left us feeling angry and upset, it also resonates with a vulnerable lust for us to keep moving forward, regardless of the anxiety that comes along with waking up the next day. Dance Fever's production is flawless, and beautifully carries any tea session you have with it... ~ Now that the year us more than half over, we shall see what's left in store for the world of music! Do YOU agree with this list? Join the discussion on Instagram and tell me your thoughts! See you at the end of 2022! ~The Oolong Drunk Blissfully Tea Drunk Disclaimer: Album covers are not owned by me and are utilized by fair-use. They may be copywrited material, used under fair-use, for the purpose of highlight various works of art.
- Brewing in Steeped Tea's Initiative to Change The World of Tea (Review)
Hello hello! Steeped Tea is an online app that can guide you on how to make your tea — a project that’s spearheaded by a few fellow-tea addicts in Germany. Along with the app, you’ll also get invited to their online community on Discord, and also offer tea subscription boxes that can be drunk with fellow users of the app. To learn more about Steeped Tea, they sent me one of their subscription boxes! When opening the box, I was greeted with three teas that included a Japanese Oolong, a Nepalese Black Tea, and a Long Jin Green Tea! The subscription box also included a QR code to download the app as well as a sticker. One of the things I noticed was the fact that the teas included in the box were from companies that I have heard of before, but never ordered from. When joining Steeped’s Discord channel, I was warmly greeted by a few of the app’s users, including Tristan — one of the head developers and owners of Steeped Tea. I poked my head around the channel for a bit, and also introduced myself to everyone there. Afterward, I downloaded their app and browsed around for a bit. Upon opening the app, I saw a large comprehensive list of different tea types. From there, you can pick the tea you’re drinking and select the parameters of how you’re brewing it. Once finish customizing the tea selection, the bottom of the page will have a ‘start instruction’ button that will guide you through how to brew the best possible version of that tea. After making a session of tea using the app, I realized that this app did two things — it held your hand and guided you through making a cup of tea, as well as taking the guesswork away. It was simple and easy to use. I was blown away. When I finished playing with the app, I went back to the discord to say hello to everyone, but due to mild anxiety and my ability to procrastinate every single thing I do, I just read the current day’s thread before going on reddit to bitch about other people's political views… Overview: My initial reaction to the idea of Steeped-Tea was, “Oh look, another tea app.” However, when using it, I regretted putting it off as long as I had. To add, you could tell when using the app (as well as the discord channel) that accompanied the subscription box, that this was created by somebody who was really passionate about tea. All of my expectations for the app were quickly defied after exploring it. As far as the subscription box goes (which sits at around $38.00 USD at the current rate of Euro-to-USD conversion), I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality that these teas were. As a tea drinker, it’s easy to stay comfortable within my own bubble. It was great to be pushed outside of my bubble, and be met with amazing teas. As far as the Discord channel goes, I can’t imagine myself using it much. It’s not due to a flaw of the channel itself, it’s more or less because I like to drink tea in my underwear on my couch and browse instagram while being needy to my cats… I don't like change. As far as the app goes, I couldn’t see myself using it for gong-fu brewing tea… Let’s face it, I’m perfect (haha). However, as I try to keep expanding on my tastes in tea, especially with how I brew tea, this app will come in handy to help me find a comfortable starting point with teas that I have little-to-no knowledge of. I believe others will find this aspect to be incredibly helpful, and in my opinion, this is where this app strikes gold. I know that this app was in development for quite a long time, and the passion and hard work really paid off. I think this app is incredible, as well as the work Tristan and the Steeped Team is currently doing. We’re all lucky that we have them to help drive tea forward, and to help the tea community grow. ~The Oolong Drunk “Blissfully Tea Drunk”
- Review: White Tea Matcha!
Hello hello! As we all know, matcha is a Japanese green tea that's ground into a powder. However, what many of us do not know is that many tea companies from all over the world have been milling their own teas into unique powders. While there's a debate going on whether other tea-powders can still be called matcha, Kiani Tea sent me a package of their White-Tea matcha! This unique tea started out as a Fuijan white tea, and, still is? Just, matcha-powder form! So how is this unique treat? Let's find out! Price: $6.50 per 5g sample Infusions: 1 Infusion 1: Like a typical Japanese matcha tea ceremony, I sifted this matcha into a bowl to break up any clumps. I then added a tiny bit of water and whisked it in to make, well, whatever the white-tea version of koicha is. After trying to make the initial paste, I tasted the white-tea koicha and got the sticky notes of a bitter ’Body of Christ' communion wafer. After having to wash my hands from the stickiness, I added more water to the paste and whisked it like I would any other matcha powder. When sipping this tea, my taste buds were re-reminded of catholicism again but with less of a bitter punch. After adding more water to help with the bitterness, the majority of this tea's physical matter sank to the bottom of the bowl... This became evident when I took my last sip of the bowl when I got a mouth full of Pepto Bismol-like texture of a woodsy-tasting Jesus-cookie tea. That is also when I also noticed that my fingers were stained a darker shade of beige from when I tried the koicha from earlier... The session was over. Conclusion: First off, I want to preface everything by saying that Kiani Tea is a wonderful tea company and I have always been a fan of theirs. This specifically, is a poignant tea that is definitely worth having as a learning experience and worth trying as a novelty. While I might not have initially clicked with this specific tea, Kiani does carry other incredible teas that are quite enjoyable. However, I do appreciate Kiani Tea for continuing to try new things and will continue to try anything new and unique they may release. As for my opinion on if this should properly be called a 'matcha' or not? I can most certainly say with confidence that my personal opinion of whether this would be called a 'matcha tea' or not is ~ The Oolong Drunk "Blissfully Tea Drunk"
- Overview of the 2022 World Tea Expo!
Hello hello! This year, from March 21st through March 23rd, and after nearly 6 and a half years of tea blogging, I finally attended my very-first World Tea Expo! However, this year, the World Tea Expo merged with the Bar & Restaurant Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. After plans for the World Tea Expo being hosted in Denver Colorado being canceled, and moving to Vegas, how did it all go? What was noteworthy, and what were some of the main takeaways? Let's dive in! Expo Hall, Day 1: On the first day of the World Tea Expo, I met up with Nicole of Tea For Me Please and Neldon of Tea With Neldon at the entrance of the expo hall. There was a massive crowd of people waiting at the entrance, and while waiting for the ceremonial rope to be cut, I turned around and spotted Chase of ‘Davids Tea Share a Day’. Quickly thereafter, the four of us waited by the Expo Entrance for the expo to open. After standing by a DJ Booth for fifteen minutes, and after CNN filmed the ceremonial rope-cutting, the expo began! After walking past 70% of the Restaurant portion of the expo, we quickly arrived at two massive spinning pillars that displayed the ‘World Tea Expo’ logos. And after another row, we made our way to the tea bar — which provided ceremonial ‘World Tea Expo’ cups… Except, stating ‘Denver Colorado’ and a sponsor that wasn’t there. It was quirky, but it made it more memorable! After traveling through the first row, which was dedicated to new up-and-coming tea shops, I happily met Nepal Tea — a tea company from New York, New York. We also continued our way through Flowerhead Tea, as well as other tea start-ups. We even got to meet the Chai Box! However, the most intresting booth on this row was a booth by Matche — who made a matcha-powder tea by using the leaves of olive-tree leaves… Yes, this tisane of a drink is exclusively made with olive leaves. To add, this intriguing drink was herby, and also tasted like olive oil… Throughout varying rows of the expo, we also got to meet SugiMoto Tea, who was impressively providing demonstrations of a tea ceremony using their sencha and matcha, as well as Marumatsu Tea Co. doing matcha demonstrations as well as proving intricate Iced-Brewed Japanese teas! We even got to see a ‘boba robot’ — a fully-automated boba-making robot! After exploring the expo, we ended the day by attending ‘Tea Tycoons’ — an event that was the tea industry’s version of Shark Tank! This was especially interesting because across from the stage, the Fireball booth (alcohol) had actual fire reformers breathe fire in contingent with 'Tea Tycoons'. Expo Hall, Day 2: On day two, Nicole, Neldon, Chase, and I started our day at the expo by joining some of the talks. Given that I was running around Vegas like a mad man trying to return my rent-car, I missed the talks I wanted to attend (Nicole of Tea For Me Please’s talk, as well as a talk by Key to Teas on the downfall of Teavana). However, I barely arrived on time for the blogger’s-round table! While on the round-table, famous New York Model JoAni Johnson facilitated a conversation between Nicole of Tea for Me Please, Babette of T-Ching, and I. After talking about varying topics regarding the world of blogging and the tea industry itself, we went back to the Expo Hall to make our final stops around the expo. While going back through the Expo Hall, we stopped at the Harney & Sons booth where I met Mike Harney! While meeting Mike Harney, we spotted a celebrity in the wild — James Norwood Pratt! James Norwood Pratt is a US-Author and a pioneer in tea culture in the US. While talking to James Norwood Pratt with Mike Harney, Nicole of Tea for Me Please, Neldon of Tea With Neldon, and Chase of Davids Tea Share a Day, I realized that this trip was something special, and something I would remember for a very long time to come… Overview/Conclusion: When reflecting on the 2022 World Tea Expo, I noticed that the world of tea is in the middle of a massive transition. Attending the expo made it very evident that the world of tea had been heavily and negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This was evident by the massive amount of regular Tea Expo Vendors who couldn’t attend this year due to their own countries' Covid-19 travel restrictions, as well as the absence of massive US-based tea companies — some of which no longer exist. Another thing I noticed in reflection was, when initially getting into tea, there was a massive amount of tea bloggers and tea writers spread across the board. However, now, that umbrella doesn't really exist anymore. Outside of Nicole, Neldon, Chase, and I, there wasnt a large presence of tea bloggers and writer present. However, despite that the pandemic has hit the industry particularly hard, I noticed that the majority of exhibitors at the expo were relatively new in age. Or, brand-new to be exact. There’s a massive absence of veteran tea pioneers, which thankfully, there were so many new and up and passionate people there trying to fill the gap that was created by the pandemic. Another thing I noticed across tea people (especially at the Expo), in the general sense, is that many of them were upset/angry that the World Tea Expo merged with the Bar & Restaurant Expo. While I do understand that the world of tea is special to us, I also understand that if the world of tea does not continue to grow, it will cease to exist as we know it. Now is not the time to gate-keep our own experiences with tea and restrict it, and now is not the time to restrict how people enjoy and discover tea. It is absolutely detrimental to the survival of tea culture in the United States that we continue to expand and grow, and continue to share the love of tea. I think the Bar and Restaurant Expo merging with the World Tea Expo was a success, and this became evident when flying back home to Denver from Las Vegas. On my flight back home, a woman sitting in front of me was explaining to the woman beside her how she didn’t realize tea was as big as it was and felt inspired to incorporate tea into a chain of restaurants back at her home. Seeing so many bar and restaurant owners, as well as massive food and beverage entities, discovering tea for the very first time was exhilarating! Overall, I will certainly attend World Tea Expo in 2023! I’d say that this was an excellent experience overall and believe the industry is headed in the right direction. My main takeaway from this year's expo is: We all need a wake-up call about gatekeeping tea. It is imperative that we invite all sorts of people into tea with open arms, and do our absolute best to support the small tea shops that are currently filling the gaps that were left by tea-industry giants. I was just a gay kid from Texas battling depression, who was introduced to tea. And Nicole from Tea for Me Please was just a woman from New Jersey who enjoyed tea. Neldon is a college kid from Utah who got into tea for just the love of it…. And we’re all connected and celebrate a shared passion for the world of tea. If it wasn’t for someone introducing us to tea, all of our lives would be very different. Who knows? Maybe the next time you invite a cup of tea to someone new to it, it could inspire them to move the world of tea further into the future… ~ The Oolong Drunk "Blissfully Tea Drunk With"
- A Beginners Guide: How To Make Gong-Fu Tea!
Hello hello!! Welcome to comprehensive guide on how to get into gong-fu brewing tea! Gong-fu brewing tea can be a lot of fun, but for someone whose unfamiliar, it may be daunting. While trying to make learning come with ease, use my guide as a starting point to get yourself familiar with gong-fu! But first, what exactly is gong-fu? Gong-Fu Simple Definition: Gong-Fu is the Chinese ceremonial way of making tea. Gong-Fu More Detailed Definition: Gong-Fu is a ceremonial way of making tea by repeatedly brewing a large amount of tea in a given vessel to analyze the change in tea, and to maximize the wide-variety of tasting notes of a tea’s profile while getting as much out of a tea-leaf as possible. Sounds great! But how would I do that? Before I answer that, I’m going to give you a hot-take: You’ve probably already made tea gong-fu style tea before and didn’t even know it! Let me ask you a question. Have you ever brewed a tea-bag a 2nd time? Or re-infused tea leaves in a teapot multiple times? Wha-la! You’ve loosely made tea gong-fu style! Although it may not be ceremonial to Chinese tea-culture, re-brewing already brewed leaves is the most basic way to complete gong-fu! However, the way of making it more-traditional may seem complicated, but in reality, it’s not! Technically, you only need one brewing vessel to make tea. That’s it. Everything else can be make-shift, or do without! What's a vessel? What are the different types, and what do I need? I’m glad you asked! A ‘vessel’ is a piece of teaware you make tea in! This can be a teapot or a mug! However, for gong-fu, there are several different kinds of vessels that you should familiarize yourself with Gaiwan: The simplest way to describe a gaiwan is to say it’s a small handleless bowl with a lid. They sometimes come on a saucer, and can be made out of porcelain (the most common), clay, glass, or even silver! The basic idea behind a gaiwan is that you put your tea in the bowl, pour water over it, close the lid, and when you’re ready to pour it out, tilt the lid ajar to hold back the leaves and pour out the liquid! (See photos below). However, when pouring a gaiwan, pace fingers at the edge of the bowl to avoid burning yourself! (To pronounce a gaiwan, say ‘Guy-Won’) Side-note. I see a gaiwan with a spout. What's that? Great question! If you see a gaiwan that has a spot on it, that’s what you’d typically call a ‘Hohin’! They’re typically used for Japanese teas, and different variations of them have made their way to different tea cultures around the globe. They pour like you’d pour a tea-pot, but just without the handle. Hold on, I’ve also come across a vessel that’s wide and flat in shape. Is that also a gaiwan? Actually, that’s not always a gaiwan! What you’re probably looking at is a ‘shiboridashi’! Around the tea community, you’ll see people reference it as a ‘shibo’ (like she-bo), and are typically used for Japanese teas! Japan's teas are some of the most delicate teas in the world, and easily singe and get bitter quickly. A shibo’s purpose is to keep the water’s temperature from staying too hot when brewing, and also used to quickly pour the brewed tea out of the vessel to avoid over-steeping. The fast-pour also explains why they have such a wide-opening and such a large lid. A tea-pot: For gong-fu tea, many places sell smaller tea-pots. They’re typically smaller than you’re average teapot, and unlike gaiwans, they have built-in filters! These tea-pots are famously made out of clay, however, they also can be made out of glass or porcelain. I saw a tea pot, but it has a long handle and the spout is to the side. Is this the same thing? Another great question! These work very similarly to a teapot, but they’re not. These have their own name, and they’re called a ‘Kyusu’! These are also used for Japanese tea, and have a much wider spout to quickly pour out the brewed tea to avoid over steeping. These pots are typically larger, and unlike using another vessel, these are typically used for only 2-3 infusions (whereas, in a traditional gong-fu session, you want to get more infusions out of it). Starting Gong-Fu, The Tea Ware You Will Need What to start with: A Vessel: To keep it simple, you can start with just a vessel. That’s all you really need. You’ll also want to find something to pour your tea in and drink from. The most commonly-used vessel in the world of gong-fu is a gaiwan. However, when looking for a gaiwan, if you’re making tea for just yourself, I’d recommend using one that’s from 60ml-100ml. To use a gaiwan, you'll place your middle-finger and thumb around the outer ridge of the bowl, and use your index finger to fold the lid down at a tilt. Then, lift the unit and tilt until tea pours out. See photo below... If you’re comfortable with adding a few more things to get the ball rolling, here’s what else you’ll need… A Kettle: You’ll want an electric kettle. The idea is, you’re consistently making tea. A kettle is great to quickly warm up your water and is easier to pour from compared to a pot on the stove-top. With an electric kettle, if given the option, you’ll want one that has a temperature reading on it. Since some teas are pickier to temperature than others (and to keep consistency with your tea session), it’s always good to keep up on the temperature of your water. Gong-Fu Tea Cups: These tea-cups are typically smaller, and will typically hold between 40ml-100ml of tea. These can be made out of various materials, and are great for sipping and concentrating on the tea you’re drinking. Cha Hai: A Cha Hai, also known as a serving pitcher, is what you’d typically pour your tea in! The idea is, you pour your tea from your vessel into a sharing pitcher and serve tea from it. This is so whenever you pour tea from cup to cup, everyone gets the same and consistent brew. If you poured from cup to cup, each cup of tea will have different strengths to it. This is important, especially for more delicate teas. However, If you’re drinking tea at home by yourself and you’re pouring directly into your cup, you might not necessarily need one. This is a personal preference. Tea Tray/Tea Table: A tea tray, or also sometimes references as a tea-table, is what you serve your tea on. Tea trays typically have holes or slots, and a tray or cavity underneath to catch spilled tea and water. Gong-fu tea isn’t necessarily the cleanest way of making tea, and spills will happen. They can be made out of bamboo, wood, or clay. Some people even use drip-baking trays for an affordable version of a tea tray. A scale: With gong-fu, you’ll sometimes want to measure out your tea. For this, I recommend getting a food-scale (or depending on where you live, you can find small scales at smoke shops). When measuring tea for gong-fu, you’ll typically measure tea in grams. However, you don’t necessarily need one, as some people just eye their tea. However, for people like me, a scale is always necessary. A filter: A filter is sometimes used in gong-fu to catch any tea-dust of tea leaves. This is optional. For me personally, I’ll use a filter to pour the tea through when taking photos or making tea for other people. When I’m by myself, it doesn’t bother me if a few tea-leafs specs end up in my cup. However, most filters are made of metal (aluminum) and are very affordable. So, I’ve also seen other tea-wares. What else is there? For other tea-ware, it's completely optional. Some people go further and use tea-towels to clean tea-trays, use separate trays for measuring tea on, as well as using carved pieces of wood to present the tea-leaves on! To add, some people decorate their tea-teas with decorative ornaments called ‘tea pets’. We’ll dive into these tea-wars later on, as I don’t want to get you too confused when starting. How to Gong-fu: First, you’ll want to heat-up your kettle to your desired temperature. How hot do I heat my kettle? Many different places say many different things about what temperature to are your tea at. For some teas (like green tea), it’s recommended to brew them at 170ºf. For other teas, it's much higher and can go up to boiling. I will go further into this in a separate upcoming post, however, I start every single tea at 190ªf, and will raise or lower the temperature from there. Note: Some people prefer to use boiling water for every single tea. However, in my personal opinion, I always steer away from doing so, as it will singe and burn most tea. However, if you’re confused about temperature, you can always see what the vendor of the tea you’re drinking recommends. I’m not trying to confuse you when I say this, but there is no right/wrong temperature to brew your tea at! You’ll read many different things, and above all, it’s up to you to experiment to see what you like best. For me, I always used temperature guides as a, well, guide. I actually implore you to venture out and see what you like best for yourself. My kettle is heated up. Now what? Next, you’ll want to measure your tea. For gong-fu, it’s important to stick with single-origin whole tea-leaves. Ground tea-leaves, or tea bags, will steep most of its flavor out almost instantly. So now you have your loose-leaf tea, I always recommend measuring 1 gram of tea per 15ml of water. What does this mean? Your vessel is a specific size and is typically measured by how much water it can hold. If your vessel holds 60ml of water, and to use 1 gram of tea per 15ml, then you’d use 4 grams of tea. I measured my tea. What next? Next, put your tea in your vessel, and put your water over the tea. Pour your water to the top of the vessel, and place the lid on. Then, quickly, pour the now brewed-tea out. That's it! However, in gong-fu fashion, you don’t stop there; you keep going! Next, you repeat the process by doing the same thing again, except adding a little more time to it! For every pour you do, which is called an ‘infusion’ or ‘steep’, you slowly add more time to compensate for the tea leaves diluting with every pour. Now I poured the tea, what else do I do? Once you pour your tea into your sharing pitcher (or cup), then it's time to drink and enjoy! You can continue with infusions, and keep the session going. Below are some FAQ’s, and other helpful tips, when making gong-fu tea! FAQ's: Q: Is a gaiwan specifically used for only Chinese tea? Can I use the same vessel for different kinds of tea? 3 Of course, you can! Most tea-drinkers use a gaiwan for everything from green tea, all the way to herbal blends! For me, I use my gaiwan and teapot for every single kind of single-origin loose leaf tea. It may not be the most traditional, but it’s up to you. Everyone tends to have their ‘one’. By this, I mean their ‘one’ go-to vessel they use for everything. For your tea vessel, you should connect to it like you would a pet. Some tea wares are a life-long connection. Q: I’m still confused with infusion times. What do you recommend? For most teas, I brew with the following, Infusion 1: 10 seconds Infusion 2: 20 seconds Infusion 3: 30 seconds Infusion 4: 40 seconds Infusion 5: 50 seconds Infusion 6: 1 minute Infusion 7: 1 minute and 20 seconds Infusion 8: 1 minute and 40 seconds Infusion 9: 2 minutes Infusion 10: 2 minutes and 30 seconds Infusion 11: 3 minutes Infusion 12: 4 minutes Infusion 13: 6 minutes Infusion 14: 8-10 minutes However, depending on how strong the tea is, I will repeat infusion times, or skip some. This is largely dependent on the tea, and also dependent on personal preference. I highly recommend you test out times of your own, and come up with a system you like! This may seem stressful, however, this is the perfect opportunity to explore your personal likes and dislikes. Try and have fun with it and make it your own! Q: Do I really need to measure my tea? Not necessarily. Like I said above, you can measure it by eyeing it, and add/take away infusion times based on taste. Q: How much water does my vessel hold? When ordering/buying a vessel, it should already say. If it doesn't, wanna know a neat trick? Place your vessel on a scale and tare to zero on grams. Pour water until the vessel until it’s full, and the amount of grams you see is the same amount of milliliters of water it holds! If it says your gaiwan holds 60 grams of water, it means it holds 60 milliliters of water. Q: I have a flavored tea-blend. Can I gong-fu it? Well, in theory, you can. However, most flavored teas are made with the intent of being brewed in a mug or a larger teapot. Gong-fu is mostly intended for loose-leaf tea, typically single-origin, so you can taste the different complexities and notes within a tea. Q: Can I add sugar/milk to my tea? You could, but I say no. I mean, the idea of gong-fu is to quickly pour it out, and to experience a tea as-is so it would defeat the purpose. Also, when making tea gong-fu, a tea's natural sweetness and creaminess can make itself known! Some tea's natural sweetness and creaminess can easily get lost when making tea in a mug or larger tea pot. Q: Where can I buy these teawares? I can’t recommend anyone specific (in the spirit of being non-biased for this specific post). However, I would browse a web-search, or even social media, and look around. Many tea vendors carry different tea vessels, and they shouldn’t be hard to find. For starting, I do recommend going with affordable options, until you decide to treat yourself to something expensive. Especially with starting, you’ll likely break something very easily. (No worries if you do! Everyone at every stage of their tea journey has broken their teaware). Q: I only have a mug and a defuser. Can I still? No worries! You can also infuse a tea bag or infuser multiple times. It wouldn’t be anywhere near tradition and wouldn’t get as much out of the tea (tease, profile, etc.), however, that doesn’t mean you can’t join in on the fun! However, just know that you’re limiting yourself to what you can get out of a tea, and highly suggest getting a vessel (like a gaiwan) geared towards gong-fu. Overall, keep in mind that this is supposed to be fun and meditative! Try to make this your own, and make tea in a way that makes you happy :) — The Oolong Drunk “Blissfully Tea Drunk”
- Review: Colorful Peony White Tea by Volition Tea
Hello hello! For the first tea review of the year, we’ll be talking about Volition Tea! Volition Tea, based out of Chicago IL, launched in 2021 with their first line-up of teas. According to Volition, they sampled over 50 teas to narrow down a selection of just only 7. One of those selected few teas is their ‘Colorful Peony’ White Tea — a white tea from Fujian, China. So how does their only white tea from their first line-up hold up? Let’s dive in! Dimensions: 4.3g of white tea in a 65ml gaiwan Infusions: 12 Price: 30g for $24.00 UDS Water Temperature: 200ºf Infusions 1- 6 Upon the first infusion, the tea’s texture glided across the tongue to leave a light honey-sweet afterglow radiating from the tongue. However, after a second and third infusion, this tea’s liqueur started to darken as the bold tasting notes of sweet vanilla overpowered the palette. However, by the 6th infusion, a sweet velvet smooth texture blanketed the mouth as the strong notes of vanilla left behind a light glow of stevia and honey. Infusion 7 - 12 By the seventh and eighth infusion, this tea’s thick texture quickly lighted up to being more slick and thin. Despite the tea’s texture thinning, the notes of honey-sweet vanilla began to settle as this tea continued to leave an echoing sweetness. By the twelfth infusion, this tea had given all it could and began to die out altogether. With a final kill-brew, this tea left behind a memorable session that continued to echo in the corners of my mouth for hours to come… Conclusion: When making this tea, I first noticed the powerful notes of vanilla. For a white tea, notes of vanilla and honey isn’t something that typically comes to mind. For me, it was a very pleasant and enjoyable surprise. Another aspect I enjoyed about this tea was its ever-changing texture. Despite not having a huge variety of notes, its texture carried this tea’s notes in a way that kept it interesting, and tasty. Overall, I believe Volition Tea is starting strong with their first line-up of products, especially their white tea. Despite having a strong white tea to launch their initial line-up, they’ve also quickly garnered a good following on social media. To add, they’ve quickly become a force of inclusiveness and have already gone far and beyond to be socially aware in such a way that it’s hard to ignore. Volition has just started, and yet, has already been a massive breath of fresh air to our community. I believe they’ll only continue to do great things, and hopefully, become a staple within our community...
- 6-Year Bloggiversary: SOS! The Sinking of the RMS Tea
Sometimes in the sea of life, waves will come crashing ashore from many different waves. If the waves are too big, they’ll splash over and pull you into their current before taking you out to sea. While trying to stay afloat in the rocky winds of life, you must quickly hold your breath before being submerged below the surface. In these moments of chaos, sometimes all it takes is for you to open your eyes underneath the surface to find the vast world of calm water standing still below you. In my sixth year in tea, a tropical storm whisked me away from the land and dragged me out to sea. I quickly dipped my head underneath the current, held my breath, and opened my eyes to find a vast and expanding world below. What did I see when I looked beneath the surface? Today, I’ll be showing you what lies within the dark depths of this oceanic wave. Six years ago today, I launched ‘The Oolong Drunk’. Over the past year (since last-years blogiversary post), I encountered many sirens in the ocean of tea. So before we set sail, grab your life vest and a gaiwan, and let me take you with me on my side of the story of how these waves almost completely capsized me from blogging, and the world of tea itself … Welcome to my 6-year Blogiversary, where I will continue to tell my side of the story. Hurricane White Tea Over a year ago, I tea-drunkenly stumbled across an industry secret that no ship’s captain would want you to discover: The processing of white tea is manipulated in a way to make it appear ‘aged’. After studying a theory that began as maritime fiction, I noticed a commonality in this doppler radar's reading: The same aged-white tea’s production year was all the same across many different tea vendors. Now with a full mast of a conspiracy theory at sail, I began my search for a captain to help navigate this ship through a tropical storm. After months of circumnavigating the world of tea’s waters alone, I finally caught my first proof that would be able to turn this Lochness Monster theory, into fact. “Who told you about this?” One company questioned as I asked them about the idea. My months-long search almost came to an end as they inadvertently admitted to the theory. This would have completed this slow-moving regatta, except, they declined to let me officially quote them and use their words for comment. I had to continue my search. Over the next few months of talking to dozens and dozens of tea industry people, I finally found a Capitan who was willing to sail my ship through this growing storm. After weeks of interviewing, research, and digging for factual information, and almost 6 months later, my report was ready to share with the world. Prior to launching this ship to sea, I hopped onto Instagram-LIVE and talked about the massive effort that went into this report. After talking to an audience of fifteen, the post was LIVE and with a few clicks of a mouse, the course of my voyage would forever change…. Two things happened: When filming the said Instagram-LIVE and upon announcing that the report was published, my audience dropped from fifteen to three in just a few seconds. I was shaking because up to that point, I had never worked on something so monumental regarding the world of tea. I was also petrified because I had been promoting this post as a ‘shocking truth’ for about a month leading to this moment without referencing what it was. I just remember thinking to myself that if I took any misstep in any of this, my credibility would instantly anchor to the ocean bed. Then the second thing that happened was the next morning when I opened my social-media account, I found over 200+ inbox messages on Instagram, several dozen website entries, and a few dozen inbox messages between Facebook and Twitter. Upon seeing the notifications, I instantly became seasick and wanted to vomit. When reading through the bottles at sea, it quickly became apparent that all of the replies were of support of this revelation. With a sigh of relief, I was finally able to breathe again. Despite creating a tsunami-sized wave in tea, my credibility didn’t sink below the roaring sea and anchor itself to the ocean floor after all. Instead, my credibility missed the iceberg and stayed afloat…. Links: The 'Aged White Tea' Article [Photo: One of my favorite tea-sessions in my 6th year of tea -- 10,000 feet in the air in the Rocky Mountains] The Ocean Floor: ‘Blissfully Tea Drunk With…’ Society was launched to sea rapidly without a lifeboat, much less a lifejacket when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Despite that my personal social life wasn’t so much affected, society for many around me was. Over the course of the previous year, online friendships through tea were growing to the point that my boat needed to be upgraded to an ark. However, with the mental health of friends quickly diving below sea level, I saw more of a need for togetherness. With the 2020 election, calm waters quickly became rippled. Racists were posting ‘white’ squares on their tea-feeds, activists were anxious and panicked, and everyone in-between was losing their ever-loving goddamn minds. While I momentarily started to question my own sanity, I reflected on integral fact: Tea didn’t have political boundaries. Tea doesn’t have elections. And tea doesn’t drive people apart. So on the night of November 3rd, I gathered six tea friends together to put on a LIVE-show to our audiences. If we were all going to be suicidal while watching electoral-votes fluctuate in colors of red and blue, we might as well do it together… That night, the 3-hour LIVE turned into an event that many tea friends used to help distract themselves from the hurricane winds… That’s where it all started. And where did it end up? At the beginning of 2021, Instagram launched a feature to add multiple people to a LIVE. That next weekend, I utilized this feature, and the series premiere aired. With a chaotic ten episodes that made up the first season of ‘Blissfully Tea Drunk With…’, I took a short hiatus. During the first season, which included guests from Europe and Australia, I moved across several states and started my new career without skipping a week. After a month of taking a much-needed breather, and the waves at sea finally calm again, I began planning season two. Unlike previously where I lined up guests two nights before, I spent a whole month planning the first six episodes in advance before the season-2 premiere. With this, I also planned further out — including the season 2 finale. And on Saturday 21st, the ship set sail. For season two, I planned and structured each episode for consistent flow, which often included a comedy segment (with help from my brilliant comedy co-writer, Neldon Hamblin of ‘Tea With Neldon’), things went off with a bang! Week after week and every crazy stunt becoming zanier and zanier, I finally reached a project I had kept in hiding for the entirety of the 2nd season up to that point: I launched a fund-raiser for The Trevor Project. Before long, three months of planning led to the announcement of a fund-raiser that included 23 tea companies donating over $1,000 of tea and teaware for four sweep-stakes. After a week, 41 people donated and helped me reach 220% of the goal. And ten weeks after the premiere, season 2 ended by riding out this wave as four winners were drawn…. However, once the season-2 finale aired, I quickly realized that not every wave was meant to be surfed. The weekend the winners were drawn, my ship drifted off-course and after the blink of an eye, the boat capsized and I was quickly sinking to the bottom of the ocean floor. Ten straight weeks of organizing season 2 with 10 episodes while filling 41 guest spots across 5 countries, 8 comedy segments, and a fundraiser involving 23 companies, the weight of my anchor pulled me down to the seafloor. Later that night, hours after completing the season 2 finale, I was still sending the winner’s information off to the tea companies… Before I knew it, I realized my life-vest couldn’t keep me afloat anymore, and I sunk. At that moment, I lied on the ocean floor while holding my breath before questioning if I had enough energy in me to even swim to the surface of the ocean. While lying on the ocean floor, the sight of light appeared in front of me. A faint glow in the distance drew me into its comfort. While floating closer towards the light, I reached out as far as I could reach. And as my fingertips reached the angelic glow, I quickly realized that it was attached to the anglerfish of blogging retirement. While close to drowning in oceanic darkness, I quickly pulled my fingertips back and kicked as hard as I could to swim away from the bottom of the ocean floor, and spent the next few months swimming upward and letting go some of the weight that had kept me anchored. After a bit of time and without even realizing it, I had resurfaced to the top of the water to take a breath of fresh air. While being able to breathe fresh air and letting go of the thought of retiring, I started working on my next blog project and I kept on swimming…. Links: Season 1 of 'Blissfully Tea Drunk With...' Season 2 of 'Blissfully Tea Drunk With...' The Trevor Project Donation Page (Archived) The 2020 Christmas LIVE (video 1) [Photo: My 26th Birthday on Sept. 17th, one of my most liked photos in my 6th year in tea on social media] SOS! The Sinking of The RMS Tea In my opinion, one of the most enjoyable aspects of tea surrounds its ability to bring people together. From this togetherness, friendships set sail from the docks and embark on a maiden voyage to new lands. Our journey set sail with a beloved tea friend who, due to life circumstances, suffered from a condition. Despite so, she managed to board RMS Tea with me and power through by drinking tea from a vendor who convinced her that this tea would not only keep her afloat on calm waters, it would also bypass her medical condition. The company found a solution that allowed her to keep drinking tea. Despite the information being incorrect, our voyage across calm waters sailed through multiple facets of tea, mutual admiration for music, and above all else — friendship. While wiring the high wave of exposing the truth about aged white tea, my hunger for sharing knowledge of tea, in tea, was at its strongest. With a strong education in marketing in this industry, something about my friend’s situation regarding this company playing doctor didn’t sit right with me. While our ship sailed through endless oceans that kept us afloat, the beginning of the end happened when they shared that this said-company raised the price of the tea they made her dependent on… …by 40% At the time, I didn’t realize that this was the exact moment when our very-own RMS Tea hit the rigid edges of an iceberg while scraping by. After complaining to this company, the company modified my friend’s tea-medical supplement by switching prescriptions — a tea that was more expensive than the one she was originally buying. On top of being grossly price-gouged, she was now paying a higher price than ever for tea. After commenting that the processing of this tea wasn’t any different than any other, and the fact that this company was manipulating their marketing, my friend scrambled to send me YouTube evidence to help back her claim that this vendor’s teas were processed in such a unique way, that it wouldn’t affect her health. And this processing method was unique and this company was ahead of Moses and would part the sea their self… After watching a 20-minute video of this tea company gate-keeping tea production by bashing traditional processing methods, while doing the same exact thing as the other company, the video’s grand reveal was, “This godly processing of our tea can never be explained. You have to buy it and drink it yourself and that is when you’ll know. If you don’t buy it and drink it, then you’ll never know the true real meaning of tea.” In the most professional wording possible, I must tell you that urban-dictionary would properly define that as the moment I instantly became, ‘fucking pissed’. The hull of the RMS Tea began to flood as fireworks set off from the decks. Alarms were sounding as the ship began to be pulled down by the weight of rushing cold water. This happened when I told my friend that the processing of tea isn’t something you believe, it's something that’s factual. While on the defense, and as the ship’s engine room kept flooding, she reacted by saying this company was her friend and they wouldn’t mislead her. She then claimed that the owner of this company rescued them from having to give up their most beloved hobby altogether, and since I didn’t want to believe in it or continue listening to this tea company, I was being closed-minded and not being supportive. Then claimed I wasn’t being a true friend. The water of our sinking was now rising so quickly that passengers upon the RMS tea couldn’t evacuate fast enough. While racing up to the deck on a ship that was quickly being weighed down by the frigid waters, I told her that no true friend would ever take advantage of her by giving them medical advice to manipulate their health condition, to just to then illegally price-gouge her into buying more of their tea. This company wasn’t her friend; she was their victim. At that moment, her response completely submerged the bow of the ship. She said, “I believe that he’s my friend, and since you’re my friend, you should respect that he’s my friend and is trying to help me and my condition — more than you ever had!” The lights on the RMS Tea’s electricity shorted as the weight of the water had pulled down the bow of the ship so much that the stern of the ship launched into the air. The hull of the ship began to creak under the pressure of hanging in the air as smoke-stack began to snap off from their base— rolling down the upper deck before crashing into the water. Then, as I shouted my response, I knew the fate of the ship our friendship was built on was sealed. “Tea is not a belief system!!!!” At that moment, she hopped onto the last lifeboat — leaving me on a ship that quickly broke in half from the weight of being suspended in the air, before free-falling into the icy water and disappearing from the surface of the earth, forever… She blocked me on every single social media platform, blocked my phone number, and disappeared from my life in thin air. A friendship that lasted for well over a year, sank in seconds. At first, I began to get angry at her but after a bit of time, I re-directed my anger at the said-tea company who weaponized her with such falsehoods that she felt the need to end our friendship when being faced with truth and reality. After another chunk of time, I began to redirect my anger at the tea-company and redirected stat myself. I often found myself asking my question, did my reveal of white tea inflate my passion for tea knowledge so much that my need to be ‘right’ ruin one of the best friendships I’ve ever had in blogging? I also began to question, what’s the point in being a tea educator if you can’t share factual information? What was my purpose in all of this? The only thing that submerged my life was sinking with insecurities of my own personable relationships in tea, and also, in my personal life as well…. [Photo: One of my favorite sessions of tea -- during the break between Season 1 and 2 of the Instagram-LIVE talk show 'Blissfully Tea Drunk With...'] From Sea to Shining Sea: My Final Truth After mentally going back and forth on my falling-out with this ‘friend’ for months, I had finally come to the conclusion that the need to share factual information in tea wasn’t wrong, and no one should be shamed for sharing knowledge and truth in tea. However, with this, I also learned that the double-edged sword here is that no matter how hard you try, you can’t fight someone’s beliefs with facts. I’ve also reflected that despite my friend, they are likely not the only person being grossly manipulated like this by said-tea company. As social media blurs the line between vendors and their shops, with personably connecting with their consumers, it's harder and harder to decipher how to gauge a colleague with a friend. Because the boundaries are harder now than ever to decipher, can you really blame my friend for being misled? When you have the knowledge of knowing better over someone who is being willfully ignorant, are you actually at fault for sticking to your morals and not backing down? The most unfortunate thing about all of this is, this tea company is too big within our niche that I don’t feel safe enough to name-drop them. Their influence extends so far into tea that I can’t afford to out their identity. It’s unfortunate because this fallout resulted in multiple panic attacks, as I even went through a phase where I questioned every single one of my friendships in tea and their authenticity altogether. It’s also unfortunate because there are other victims of this company, and me not being able to speak out about makes burdens me with guilt because I feel like I’m letting it happen. It’s the consequence of being a leader in our community because it comes with the knowledge you don’t ask for, and sometimes, having this knowledge just absolutely sucks. Having knowledge and not being able to do anything about it is a burden that no one deserves… To hell with both this friend and this company for putting me in this position. On the flip side of this, I've also learned that so many people in tea came out of the woodwork when hosting the charity for the Trevor Project. While I did get overwhelmed by all of the work and even contemplated retiring my tea blog right after, I was also sent dozens of messages from other tea drinkers from the LGBTQIA+ community who claimed that they felt like they finally had someone to connect to. After reading a few tearful inbox messages, I felt like that following my heart and doing what I love has made being overloaded worth it. The love and support that so many people showed was breathtaking. Even in reflection, I wouldn’t be able to tell you if I was overwhelmed by doing so much work while in the middle of major life changes, or, was it just by the massive and staggering amount of outpouring love from this community in such a short period of time. In this instance, I like not knowing. Finally, I also learned that while making the massive post regarding aged white tea, I questioned one thing repeatedly: If the staggering amount of tea companies I reached out to knew about this singularity in grossly-negligent activity and refused to speak out, what other shady marketing practices do they also partake in? Are these manipulations so commonplace that it was even a factor in ruining one of of my favorite friendships in tea?! The answer to this is no. In my 6th year in tea, I lost a wonderful friendship. And in my 6th year of tea, dozens of more tea friend suited up, dived to the bottom of the ocean, and brought me back to the ocean surface. These friendships that brought me out of my sea of sadness to show me that we’re just one big family. Dozens of tea friends, 23 companies, and 41 people opened up their hearts and proved that love, not tea, is the biggest driving force behind our community. If I want you to take anything from my 6th year in tea, I want you to remember several things: Tea is a beautiful thing that can only be used for whatever purpose you project onto it. Tea has no meaning unless you give it meaning. Don’t fall in love with any projection of tea that you begin to lose sight of the differences between fact, and fiction. To add, if one person tries to sink your ship, you’ll have a community of allies across many different worlds who’ll be your life-vest and prevent you from sinking to the bottom of the ocean floor. Be skeptical, yet open-minded. Never stop asking questions. And never stop telling your tea friends that you love them… Thank you to everyone who has fucked with me for the past 6 years in tea, and thank-you to everyone who chooses to love me and my work. I realize that loving me is a choice that you make, and because of your love, my heart keeps growing to keep making room for the more and more wonderful people who keep coming into my life. And to those who talked a big game this year and couldn’t show up — fuck you… and thank you for the motivation. With so much love and respect, ~Cody Wade Aka The Oolong Drunk “Blissfully Tea Drunk” I wanted to give a special thank-you to Neldon, Danielle, Kelly, Luke, and Alex for peer-reviewing this post. Thank you for challenging me. I want to also give a massive thank-you to Jeannie of Miro Tea in Seattle, you changed our world for the better :’) [Photo of Alex and Neldon, who I often drank tea with virtually though out my 6th year in tea]
- A 'Oolong Drunk' Expose: The Authenticity of the Social Media Tea Farmer
You can’t necessarily believe everything you read on the internet, and when it comes to tea, there is no exception to this rule. This became true when I got presented evidence from ‘Machine Gun Kelly’. For the purpose of this article, MGK requested that his real identity be kept anonymous. “You know, these tea-farmer accounts on Instagram that has thousands of followers. They present their profile in a way that makes you believe that they’re actual tea farmers, when actually, they’re reselling from TaoBao,” according to MGK. With these allegations, MGK showed me exact listings from several prominent tea farmer influencer Instagram accounts, along with one tea vendor. When showing me comparisons from TaoBao listings to their own, it proved that the product photos at hand are copied from Taobao. For reference, ‘TaoBao’ is a China-exclusive online retailer, and is the eighth most visited website globally according to the Alexa Rank. The four accounts that have evidence against them are @TeaFarmerLin, @TeaFarmerBruce, @TeaFarmerGirl, and Crafted Leaf Teas. I was then shown where ‘Crafted-Leaf Teas’ copied a product photo from TaoBao, which is a tea listed for around $6.00 USD for a pound. This particularly hit home, as I had bought 50 grams of this tea from for $20.00 UDS. If they really got their tea from this TaoBao vendor, this means I bought this tea from Crafted-Leaf Teas at 3,900% mark-up. When reaching out to the accused for comment, only Tea Farmer Girl responded. “Some Taobao are ours, and some TaoBao good come from the same factory as ours — all of which are product information provided by the factory,” she stated. However, when looking, the TaoBao accounts come from a Chinese tea warehouse. This is damning. Tea Farmer Girl's admission to this means two things: These accounts are price-gouging the same product for their Western-Facing audience. This also means that they’re not really tea farmers. Lets put this in perspective: China has their own internet that’s specific to them. To be able to run a Western-facing shop, you would have to use a VPN to bypass the Chinese government's restrictions. Given that a lot of Chinese farmers do not live in cities, the likelihood of a farmer owning advanced enough technology to operate a western-facing online retail shop on a larger scale while bypassing the Chinese government is not likely. However, most vendors rely on wholesalers to some extent or another. Not one person or one entity can do everything. However, most vendors don’t copy-and-paste the exact same photo and price their tea at 3,900% mark-up. That still leaves the question: Are these ‘tea farmer’ accounts authentic, or are they just fantasy? That’s for you to decide…. Posts regarding tea from Crafted Leaf Teas has since been removed from my social media, as I no longer associate with them for allegedly selling me tea at 3,900% mark-up. @TeaFarmerLin, @TeaFarmerBruce, and Crafted Leaf Teas have yet to respond for comment. ~The Oolong Drunk
- Crimson Lotus Tea goes Intergalactic.... with Black Tea
Hello hello! About a month ago, Crimson Lotus Tea released their new line-up of black tea. Although they've sourced black tea for others before, this is the first time they've released a tea that wasn't sheng our shou, in eight years! For this line-up of Dian Hong Black Tea (which is a Yunnan-grown bud-heavy black tea), they released three different variations -- all ranging from being light to heavy with tea buds. After buying a cake of Intergalactic, the most bud-heavy of the three in their line-up, I opened my tea-mail to find samples of the other two in the line-up -- Roam and Big Red. How did Crimson Lotus Tea do with sourcing a tea that's outside of their normal range? Is Intergalactic out of this world? Let's find out! Tea: Intergalactic Dimensions: 3.3g of white tea in a 50ml gaiwan (1g per 15ml) Infusions: 14 Price: $34.99 USD for a 200g tea cake Water Temperature: 200ºf Infusions 1 - 6 When smelling this tea, I first noticed heavy aromas of malt and honeydew. With the first infusion, the tea's slick texture slid its way past my tongue, leaving behind woodsy notes of sweet malt. With a few more infusions, the light notes of sweet notes of tree-bark and tree sap became sharp and sweet. By the seventh infusion, there was a hint of brandy lingering in the mouth, which was overshadowed by a fluffy malt echo that filled the air in my mouth. Infusions 7 - 12 The notes of malt and rum were balancing well with the notes of tree bark, with a texture that was equal parts light and smooth. As the session continued, this tea's notes held a consistency in notes and texture for at least four infusions, before beginning to ease up. However, by the fourteenth infusion, this tea was looking pale in color and was ready to be concluded... Tea: Big Red and Roam Dimensions: 3.3g of white tea in a 50ml gaiwan (1g per 15ml) Infusions: 14 Price: Roam: $24.99 USD for a 200g tea cake Big Red: $29.99 USD for a 200g tea cake Water Temperature: 200ºf Infusions 1 - 12 At first, Roam started out with soft notes of malt and light stone-fruit. With just a few infusions, this tea's body was noticeably balanced with sweetness, fruitiness, and woodiness. This tea's texture also jumped out at me because it was fluffy, yet defined. When trying Big Red, I first noticed a strong woodsy-like maltiness that immediately blanket the entire palate. While having less defined fruit-like sweetness to Roam, this tea's texture was substantially more defined in regards to being smooth. However, just like Big Red, roam was very well defined and held a strong consistency throughout the session. Conclusion: To start, I wanted to commend Crimson Lotus Tea for going outside of their comfort zone with releasing their first line-up of Crimson Lotus Tea-brand black tea. One thing I really enjoyed about Intergalactic was how radiant and pleasant its aroma was. This was carried over to this tea's tasting notes, which at one point, was energizing and room-filling. Another aspect about this tea I liked was its ability to continually change and alter throughout the session. As far as Big Red and Roam goes, they were more consistent with their notes throughout the session. However, one thing to keep in mind with Intergalactic is that this tea still felt very fresh. Due to being so bud-heavy, this tea could benefit from aging for a month or two for its notes to really shine. Due to personal experience with other Dian hong, Intergalactic will continue to grow and become even more incredible after a bit of time. Overall, I believe that Crimson Lotus Tea did a phenomenal job with sourcing Dian Hong. Out of the three, they are all delightful on their own merit. Despite that Crimson Lotus Tea being known for carrying some of the best shou-puer in the industry, who know what else they can master if they continue to explore other avenues in tea? We can only daydream of amazing things... ~The Oolong Drunk "Blissfully Tea Drunk"