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….
[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….
[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…
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,
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,
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]