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  • The Biggest Mistake When Making Tea/How to Make a Perfect Cup of Tea

    Hello hello! In this week’s episode of creating better click-bait titles for SEO optimization, I’m going to talk about a topic that many tea professionals love to over-complicate. They make it seem like it’s some advanced level that you need to work hard to obtain, and if you don’t, then you’re now a blooming idiot who doesn’t drink advanced enough tea. Also, you’re somehow greeted with a huge 'burn in hell' for enjoying a bagged tea. So with this, I’ll go over the biggest mistake people make when brewing tea, how to fix this mistake (easily), and above all else — how to fix this mistake while enjoying whatever tea you like. I’ll also go over how to make the perfect cup of tea (it’s quite simple really, I promise). First, let’s get a stigma out of the way — there’s not one singular correct method for brewing tea. Many tea snobs would have you believe that there’s only one right way to make tea. Which, is incorrect. If you drink bagged tea, gong-fu tea, a mug with an infuser, cold-brewed overnight in the fridge, or a teapot with lose-leaf tea out in the open — then you’re just as valid for enjoying your tea the way you like. Second, I’ll advise you that many tea companies have instructions on how to brew their tea that are specific to their brand. For example, if you look at a box of green tea from the grocery store, it may tell you to brew your green tea with hot water at 170ºf for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, some veteran tea bloggers will tell you that you have to use boiling water for your tea and must brew it for 5+ minutes. So, who is right and who is wrong? Well, my professional answer is: They’re both correct. My petty answer is: The veteran bloggers are wrong because if your tea comes out bitter, they’ll tell you that the tea was produced wrong. This is a problem because many veteran tea bloggers somehow don’t know that you can singe an agricultural product with hot water and not everything was meant to be hard-boiled. If you follow Alice down the rabbit hole of a Google search on ‘how to make tea’, you’ll actually find that everyone has a different answer. Some places say you can hard-boil your white tea, and some places say you can’t. Some places say to use 180ºf for oolong, and some will say to use 200ºf. Some bagged teas will say to brew your tea bag for 2 minutes, and others will say to brew it for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, some keyboard warrior on the /r/tea subreddit will tell you that everything you’re doing is wrong and will downvote you regardless of how you make your tea. So what is the biggest mistake people make when making tea? The biggest mistake they make is stressing out over brewing instructions. It’s not their fault really, because the tea industry forgets to promote this one very important piece of advice that everyone should follow to enjoy their cup of tea: Experiment and have fun! Yes! It’s really that simple. Tea is not singular. No two teas are 100% identical. To add, no two tea drinkers are the same. According to a study published to the US National Institute of Health, the way your body perceives taste varies based on your age, gender, and race/nationality. Scientifically, we all experience taste differently. With this, when one person says to make tea in a very specific way, it's because that is what’s right for them. This begs the question: How do you make a perfect cup of tea? You don’t. Well, not at first at least. When making a cup of tea, I always recommend to try the tea more than once. With each time, make it differently than the last. Brew one cup with boiling water, and another cup with cooler water. Brew it once for 2 minutes, and brew it again for 5 minutes. When it comes to seeking out the perfect cup of tea, you need to keep in mind the previous point mentioned above: What is perfect to me, may not be perfect to you. Does this have to be stressful? Not at all! If you don’t like your cup of tea one way, then try it again. With this very act, you’re exploring you’re likes and dislikes, and you’re narrowing down your preferences. This exploration is not only fun, it’s constructive to figuring out your own personalized bliss-point. But with this, is it sustainable to afford enough tea to figure this out? Well, yes. It can if you want it to be. If you’re new to a specific type of tea, then buy an affordable version of that tea to experiment with. For myself, when I first got into Japanese Sencha, I bought the Costco-brand bagged sencha and brewed it multiple different ways until I figured out a method that worked best for me. With this, keep a few of these quick and helpful tips in mind when exploring your own flavor profile in tea... This should be a fun and empowering process. You can use pre-determined brewing instructions as a guideline, but if it doesn’t work for you, then branch out! But keep in mind, nobody is in the wrong. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re enjoying your cup of tea the wrong way. You’re making tea for your own enjoyment, and no one else’s. If you're brewing tea for other people, then still brew it for your enjoyment. Hell, you bougt the tea with your own money. Your tea, your dollar, your method. Don’t read too heavily into snobby tea circles like the /r/tea subreddit. Reddit is a very negative website, to begin with. One incels truth does not have to be your truth. Boiled water can burn food products. Tea is an agricultural product. Burning things with water is singeing them. One of the ways tea releases flavors is through the release of an amino acid called L-theanin. Tea also releases tannins are broken down into two kinds: theaflavins and thearubigins. Tannins are extracted from the tea leaf based on the temperature of the water you use, because the hotter the water, the quicker it’ll draw the tannins out of the leaf quicker than the L-theanin and makes your cup of tea more acidic (which translates to bitter/astringent). Different tea types have different levels of tannins, because the more a tea is cooked and oxidized, the more it’ll lose its tannins. Green tea typically has a higher amount of tannins because it’s oxidized at a much lower level, and is typically steamed when cooked. Black tea has a lower amount of tannins because is it roasted and oxidized in a way that makes it lose them (well, in the very generalized sense — this rule doesn’t 100% always apply). So when you brew green tea, such as matcha for example, you don’t typically use boiling water to brew it because it’ll extract the tannins in a quicker and higher concentration before the L-theanin has a chance to be extracted from the leaf. This is why green tea is typically made with cooler water because it allows the L-theanin to become extracted before the tannins have a chance to become over-extracted and overpower the L-thenin. So when a .99¢ off-brand back-alley veteran tea blogger tells you that if a boiled green tea is bitter because the tea is produced incorrectly, then they are biologically incorrect for suggesting you can go against the laws of nature that are presented in basic food science, and are being a fucking stupid silicone dildo who needs to shut the hell up and be humbled out of their superiority complex. They're also racist because they're asserting that they know more than the tea farmer, whose culture is rooted in their own culture's heritage, by telling the tea farmer that they're wrong when they brew the farmer's tea incorrectly. Tell those stupid angelo-saxon colonizers to let people enjoy what they enjoy and stop blaiming tea farmers for their ignorance. To conclude, go out into the world of tea and have fun exploring! I can't wait for you to explore you're new tea adventure by finding your perfect cup of tea, and can't wait to see how you end up finding it <3 With much love, ~Cody aka The Oolong Drunk "Blissfully Tea Drunk"

  • The Best Mint Tea in the Tea Industry

    Hello hello! Around September of 2022 (18 months ago), I quietly took on the task of tasting as many mint teas as I possibly could. As of now, I've tried and tasted 54 mint teas! I tried pure mint tisanes, mint-based blends, and various other mint-oriented teas that the industry has to offer. Why did I do this? I honestly don't know. It was a compulsive action that had little-to-no thought going into it. This might be very left-field for many of my readers, and honestly, it's surprising to me too. Which mint teas did I try? Which mint teas are the best of the best? Below is my comprehensive list of categories of mint-based teas that I’ve tried over the past year, and at the end, will reveal the best mint tea that I enjoyed the most. Categories are broken down by three sub-categories, and the winners of the categories were selected by the following factors, Mint flavor profile The aroma-to-taste ratio (does the mint taste as strong as the smell? Freshness Natural sweetness Quality Accessibility & Affordability At the end, two grand-prize winners will be announced. They will win nothing, besides the gratitude of knowing that a Colorado gay favors them. Note: Multi-flavored mint-infused tea blends will be omitted from this list, as there are way too many to obtain to completely rank/judge for this list. So if you’re a fan go chocolate mint or watermelon-mint teas, I’m sorry to say that you wont see them on this list! Anywho, let’s move forward! Grocery Store Brand Mint Teas: Walmart: Great Value, Peppermint Herbal Tea Target: Good and Gather, Mint Tea HyVee: Decaf Peppermint Green Tea Traitor Joes: Decaf Peppermint Green Tea Kroger, Private Selection: Peppermint Herbal Tea Whole Foods, 365 Whole Foods Market: Peppermint Herbal Tea HEB: Caffeine-Free Peppermint Herbal Tea Bags HEB Organics: Caffeine-Free Peppermint Herbal Tea Meijer: Peppermint Tea Wegmens: Just Peppermint Herbal Tea Sprouts: Organic Peppermint Herbal Tea Winner: Traitor Joe’s Decaf Peppermint Green Tea Mainstream Box Brand/ Bagged Tea Brands: Traditional Medicinals: Organic Peppermint Tea Traditional Medicinals: Organic Spearmint Tea Stash: Peppermint Herbal Tea Celestial Seasonings: Peppermint Herbal Tea Harney & Sons: Peppermint Herbal Tea Twinings: Pure Peppermint Yogi Tea: Purely Peppermint Snarky Tea: Cheer The F**K Up Limited Batch Mint Tea Bigelow: Peppermint Herbal Tea Tazo: Organic Regresh-Mint Teapigs: Peppermint Leaves Smith Tea Maker: Peppermint Leaves Herbal Tea The Republic of Tea, Super Herb Tea: American Peppermint The Republic of Tea: Organic Mint Fields Herbal Rishi: Mystic Mint David’s Tea: Peppermint Armour Tea Mariage Frères: Peppermint Tea (Mentha Piperita) Adagio Teas: Peppermint Mina: Moroccan Nana Mint Taylor’s of Harrogate: Organic Peppermint The Tea spot: Organic Herbal Peppermint Tea Mighty Lean: Organic Mint Melange Tea TeaLyra: Pacific Coast Mint Pukka: Three Mint Organic Herbal Tea Winner: Mariage Feres: Peppermint Tea (Mentha Piperita) Moroccan Mint/Mint-Infused Tea: Art of Tea: Mint Green Tea Tea Forte: Moroccan Mint Tea Drops: Peppermint Tea Numi Tea: Moroccan Mint Herbal Tea Mina: Organic Moroccan Mint Green Tea Mighty Leaf: Marrakesh Mint, Mint Green Tea Organic India: Tulsi Peppermint Tea Stash: Moroccan Mint Green Tea Smith Tea Maker: Moroccan Mint Green Tea Tealyra: Moroccan Mint Fortnum & Mason: Moroccan Mint Green Tea The Republic of Tea: Moroccan Mint Green Tea The Tea Spot: Moroccan Mint Tea Mariage Frères: Casablanca (Green Mint Tea) Adagio: Mint Moroccan Tea Oliver Pluff & Co: Mint Gunpowder Green Tea Bigelow: Perfectly Mint Black Tea Tea Forte: Moroccan Mint Harney & Sons: Organic Moroccan Mint Winner: Numi Tea: Moroccan Mint Herbal Tea Before I list my winners, I want to point out some observations that I’ve notated in my journey: Many of the same mint teas were duplicates. By this, I mean, it was very evident that many of the same companies used the same supplier for the same mint tea. It wasn’t until almost a year into this journey that I made this realization. Though, by this point, I was too knee-deep into the journey to want to re-visit half of the teas to pinpoint which ones were duplicates. I would argue/predict that for many of the larger national-brands (including the grocery store brands), come from the same 3-4 vendors. If you enjoy one of the teas from my list, chances are, you have already drank 3/4 other ones. Believe it or not, mint had a very subtle difference in taste depending on the region it was grown in. My OCD kicked-in to really notice, and you’d have to hyper-focus to notice a huge difference. To piggy-back off the last point, I’d argue Pacific North West mint was arguably the best out of all of the regions of mint I’ve tried. I now hate mint tea Ok, without further ado, here are the best mint teas that I favored in this journey. Overall Best Mint Tea: For this list, I have a two winners for the best mint tea you can overall buy: 2nd Place: The Republic of Tea: Super Herb Tea, American Peppermint 1st Place: Smith Tea Maker: Peppermint Leaves Herbal Tea ~Cody Aka The Oolong Drunk “Blissfully Tea Drunk With”

  • 7 Tips for Tea Companies when Approaching Tea Bloggers, Educators, and Influencers

    Hello hello! Last month, a company reached out to me to create educational content for them on social media. After going back and forth on an agreement, we agreed that they’d sponsor me to create a reel, upload it, and add it as a creator on the post. The idea was that, with this agreement, my audience would see their brand as a form of advertising, with education surrounding their teas, and would help this tea company's web traffic. After spending six hours of filming and editing a reel, I was ready to upload. However, when the tea company reviewed the reel before publishing, they said, “This is great for education, but you didn’t review us. We believe you should review us in the reel to enhance the education.” After explaining to the company that in our agreement, I specifically negotiated that I did not want to review their tea and that I’d only be making an educational-only video. They replied, “Well, we understand that our original agreement outlines that the video be educational-only, but we will wait for payment until you add a review of it in the video. If you want, you can still post the video as-is so your work doesn’t go to waste.” So what did I do? I did exactly as they advised, by posting the video. I went back to my video editor, removed every mention of their company, deleted any video footage that displayed their branding, re-recorded my voice-over, and published it (which, you can see here). However, among the tea educator and blogging community, stories like these are way too common. Many of you might not know this, but I’ve actually worked in the tea industry for over a decade. Despite that I’ve only blogged about tea for 8 years, I have worked in various tea shops long before putting my thoughts to paper. As a fun fact, did you know I used to be a shift leader at Teavana before they closed? After being in the tea industry for so long, I have seen a pattern of disrespectful behaviors from the tea industry, to tea bloggers, educators, and influencers. So, how should tea companies approach and work with tea bloggers and influencers? What should tea companies know about tea bloggers before interacting with them? Below are 7 tips and factoids about tea bloggers that tea companies should keep in mind when approaching tea bloggers and influencers. (Photo: Me presenting at the 2023 Mid West Tea Festival in Overland Park, Kansas on October 22nd, 2023) 1. Understanding Tea Blogger’s Dispositions Many tea companies do not completely understand that many tea bloggers and tea influencers have to buy their way into the industry. What does this mean, exactly? Many tea bloggers, educators, and social media influencers are complexly out of pocket for all of the work they do. Many blog-hosting sites and domain websites cost a lot of money, and given the social-media presence of the tea industry as a whole, there is not a lot of opportunity for bloggers or influencers to make brand deals like other industries (such as the beauty industry, for example). When bloggers review tea, post photos, and publish reels, they’re doing it all on their own time and dime. 2. Valuing The size of Tea Social Media Audience In the tea industry, many tea bloggers have a smaller following when compared to other industries. The beauty-brand industry prevails on social media, whereas the tea industry across the board doesn’t reach anywhere near the same size of audience. At the time of this posting, Lipton only has 119,000 followers on Instagram. This type of size trickles down to tea bloggers and influencers. A tea blogger with a following of 2,000 followers, is a large number of followers. Tea bloggers primarily fall into the category of being a ‘micro-influencer’. However, it’s been studied that micro-influencers have a more direct tie-in to their audience, and when marketed to their audiences, can generate a more-dense revenue stream. Because micro-influencers following is a niche, it allows them to seek out people with a stronger buy-in to the hobby. 3. The Size vs. Value of Audiences In my experience, I’ve had many tea companies approach me when partnering with me, and undervalue my audience size. Hypocritically, many of these tea companies have a similar follow-count to me or less. Any tea companies have looked at my audience size and said, “Your follow count is only 5,000, the financial value of your size isn’t a lot.” However, if a tea company has a following of 2,000 followers, and I have a following of 6,000, then my reach is triple the audience of theirs. As I already mentioned above, this is all relative to the size of the industry on social media compared to other social media industries. My rhetorical question to you is, in what other industry can businesses afford to work with an influencer that has 300%+ of audience size to them? The difference in size-ratio doesn't make it less valuable. In fact, it makes it more valuable. 4. Why Bloggers Promote Some and Not Others, Willingly Now that we’ve covered that tea influencers have stronger engagement with their audience, this means that they have a stronger influence over their audience when compared to someone who has a massive following. However, when you tie in the fact that tea influencers are completely out of pocket for all that they do, this means that they will most likely only share content that relates to things they have personally enjoyed. If you’re a company and ever question why tea bloggers will post about many companies out of their own volition, it’s because they’ve had to filter all of this out for themselves. 5. Entitlement, ‘Exposure’ is NOT Payment While entitlement in the industry goes both ways (and is something I’ll cover in a future post), I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve had a company reach out to me and say, “I’ll pay you with exposure.” Nearly every single company that approached me with this, has had half of the following that I had…. Yes, that’s laughably bad. But, you can’t give a blogger better exposure when you already have less of a following to them. This is the quickest way to get an influencer to not only avoid working with you but to ghost you and never reply again. One other thing to remember is that work is work. Exposure is not payment, it’s just a keyword for use when you want to take advantage of someone without paying them. Educators, bloggers, etc. can’t pay bills for the equipment they need, to provide you free media. I can’t pay rent by showing my apartment's property manager the follow count on my Instagram page. 6. Is Tea an Acceptable Payment? When companies approach me and say they’ll pay me with exposure, and they are met with pushback, they’ll also offer to pay bloggers by giving them their product. However, this is not any better than offering to pay them in exposure. Why not? Well, let’s sit back for a moment and talk about my main career. Currently, I work as a banker at a bank, and I specialize in IRAs and HSAs. I also sometimes pull a cash drawer and help with teller work when we’re busy or short-staffed. Now, in my cash drawer, I’m required to keep a certain amount of money in my drawer. While l can’t disclose the actual number, let’s just say it's $5,000 for example. Now, how would you react if I told you that my bank required me to front up the $5,000 in cash for my cash drawer, to be able to work at the bank? That would be absurd, right? Supplying an employee with specific materials to perform their job duties is not considered payment. To drive this home more, I was once a freelance photographer for a leather company to help them take photos of their inventory for their yearly catalog. They had a massive warehouse of wholesale leather products, and they had thousands of photographs that they needed to take and process to be published in their catalog. Now, could you imagine if they tried me and told me that I’d have to take their photos for free because they didn’t require me to buy every single product I had to take a photo of? That’s still absurd, right? My counter-point this (or, the reality) is that most bloggers and influencers will happily promote tea brands for free if given free tea because many bloggers will see this as their hobby being self-funded. However, not all of them feel this way, and that also doesn’t mean companies should take advantage of blogger’s goodwill. If tea companies want to support bloggers and influencers for collaborations, then support them. As I mentioned above, calculate the value and what it means for your company to have the advertising space of being promoted by a blogger, and move forward accordingly. At the end of the day, it's an advertising expense. 7. Work is Work In the latter part of my blogging career, I have veered away from reviewing teas and focusing more on tea education. While doing so, I’ll often work and collaborate with tea companies to utilize their products to promote tea education. I’ve also been approached by companies to help them promote their products by hosting live sessions with them, as well as various other content — including product photography. However, many of these deals did not come to fruition because I required some sort of financial compensation for my time. I’ve had the reason of ‘audience size’ be cited for why I shouldn’t be compensated (adding on from the ‘exposure’ comment from earlier in this article). However, at the end of the day, work is still work. Filming videos, taking photos, editing visual media, interviewing, and hosting sessions all require work. I will say it again — work is still work. Let's give an example: You’re throwing a wedding with over 200+ guests in attendance. You have an audience of around 200+ people, and you want to cherish the memory of your wedding by hiring a wedding photographer. The wedding photographer spends 4+ hours taking photos attending the wedding. They go home, sift through thousands of photos, and narrow down the shots to several hundred. They then spend the next month editing the several hundred photos and make them look as perfect as possible. Now, imagine going to this photographer and saying, “Hey your work is incredible but my wedding only had an audience of a little over 200 people, I don’t believe I should monetarily compensate you because the audience at the wedding isn’t as big as we wanted, and you should be grateful for the experience. You got exposure to those 200 people anyway, and that could lead to more opportunities.” That would be absurd, right?! RIGHT! Exactly! If you go to a content creator for product photography/videography, and you don’t feel like you should pay them because they don’t have a Kylie Jenner following, then you’d be just as absurd. Not only are you assuming you deserve free labor, but you’re also telling content creators that their skills, extensive education in said hobby, work-history, and content are valueless. You’re telling them you deserve to use their extensive research and history in said niche for free. (Photo: Me presenting at the 2023 Mid West Tea Festival in Overland Park, Kansas on October 22nd, 2023) How to Move Forward: The Bottom Line Let’s cut to the chase: Many tea bloggers and influencers are wonderful kind-hearted people who partake in this industry because they have a true passion for it. Many bloggers do not financially benefit from being in the tea industry, and many of them are actually indebted to it. Many tea bloggers would love a chance to talk about your product, and simply, would be grateful to just have the opportunity to connect with you. Tea bloggers are passionate people who absolutely love what they do because they have a pure love for the industry and the product. I can say for myself that I have a long history of being used, taken advantage of, and manipulated by tea companies for 8+ years, but keep coming back because I absolutely love what I do. With this, keep in mind that many tea bloggers do not receive any monetary help of any kind, and they fight an uphill battle. Despite fighting the uphill battle, they are often excluded from many narratives that they helped create off the sweat of their backs. Tea educators, bloggers, and influencers do not reap the benefits of their work; they do not reap the benefits of their work in the same way that other influencers and bloggers receive from other industries. With this, move forward with compassion, understanding, and a realization that tea educators, bloggers, and influencers are a massive asset to the world of tea because of their dense pipeline of content-to-follower. We are also the largest asset the industry has to offer because we will be your biggest cheerleaders and want to see you grow and succeed. Also, don’t forget that when educators, bloggers, and influencers succeed, the entire industry succeeds. As a tea educator and blogger, I can safely say that we just want you to want the same success for us, that we want for you. Thank you for reading and thank you for being willing to learn a new approach to working with educators, bloggers, and influencers. Just by reading this, you are already taking one massive step forward. With best wishes, ~ Cody Aka The Oolong Drunk “Blissfully Tea Drunk…”

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