Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Online social networking related to tea

Originally posted to TChing in two parts here and here.

Odd I've never brought this up before; there are lots of places to talk about and learn about tea online.  Writing a blog post about reaching a million answer views on Quora reminded me of the subject, so I'll start there, and list others.

Quora: you can ask or answer questions about tea on Quora, more or less an expanded version of Yahoo Answers.  Comments work out like discussion threads but it's not the same.  There is a personal messaging function, just no forum or thread-style discussion area.  I started writing about tea, and ventured into travel and culture related issues after.

lots of Quora stats to add a level of feedback, if one is interested

Tea Chat (forums): unfortunately this site has ran its course, related to online forums having a natural lifecycle, but this had been the main dedicated tea forum.  Tea Forum is a more recent spin off but it's not that much more active.  Steepster is really a tea review site, also with a currently inactive discussion section.  There's only so much tea discussion going on to support dedicated forums, and the next entry sucks a lot of the air out of the room.

Tea Forum; a new version of an old theme

Facebook groups: this is where people talk about tea online most now.  I co-founded one active group, International Tea Talk, which is focused on tea themes in different countries, but others have their own sub-themes:

handy that the groups, pages, and personal profiles all link in Facebook

Pu'er Tea Club: about pu'er, not as snobby as it might have worked out, but still what you might expect.

Gong Fu Cha: mostly US experienced tea drinkers, who don't favor Western style brewing

Tea Drinkers: my favorite beginner oriented group.

Local / city FB groups:  I'm in versions related to Thailand, NYC, LA, Colorado, and more recently Melbourne.  Groups like these are ideal places to ask for local shop recommendations.

Reddit r/tea: this subforum is unusual, in terms of format and for people not consolidating into a common-perspective group, but it works for a lower experience level general discussion group.  Just as Facebook links personal profile details and interest groups Reddit works to make discussion across a broad range of interest areas available in one place, typically more anonymously.  They just don't integrate.

Instagram: not a good place for discussion, just about pictures and limited video, but it's so active for tea themes that I'll mention it anyway.  I saw a really cool interview about tea culture in Russia by a Russian tea lovers page there but as far as I know those live "story" videos aren't accessible later.  They do also upload some videos to Youtube.  Youtube is a media channel but not set up for social networking in that other sense, related to interaction.  TeaDB is a nice blog there, and Tea Fix hasn't got far as a start on a podcast yet but they're working on it.

Twitter: I don't like Twitter, the format or the vibe (culture, as much as a grouping that broad has one).  It could work a lot better than it seems to for sharing information, but it can work out for sharing news links or as a self-promotion feed. Some "tea people" seem to use it for that, and to share other updates.

Google +:  that social networking site is nearly as dead as Julius Caesar, but it had such potential.  Google tends to really develop what it knows is going to work, like Maps, or Android, and throws the rest at the wall to see what sticks.  It would be possible to write an entire post about obsolete or marginal tea-themed social networking options but I'll stop at G+.  LinkedIn isn't marginal or obsolete but this would be a good place to add mention of it; tea industry professionals add profiles there, and some groups there relate to tea, as with lots of other subjects.

Tea maps:  this isn't conventional social networking, more like a wiki project, but the idea of groups communicating information overlaps.  Someone just mentioned creating a private version of one on a Steepster thread, a site that already has a map function, as Tea Chat did, both now obsolete.  This seems like a great idea but the details haven't come together for any version to get relatively filled in.

Reddit's tea map version

Issues with online groups

The main problem with online tea interest groups--beyond activity tending to drop off at some point--seems to be people being on the same page, sharing perspective.  Facebook groups work well for sorting that naturally; if you talk about scope beyond group theme interest you probably won't hear much back, or feedback could be negative.

That's why it's odd that the Reddit subforum works; it isn't sorted, beyond an emphasis on most people being newer to tea.  That's also probably why it has 120k+ members and almost none of them seem to be regulars, beyond the moderators.  There are some but they are exceptions.  Vendors had seemed to be more active in the past but a few scandals about product promotion inconsistencies may have threw off the friendly neighborhood self-promotion vibe.

this shaving forum previously had a developed tea discussion theme (here)

Related to self-sorting there seems to be a natural split in membership of people relatively new to tea or else really far along a learning curve.  That makes sense, that to everyone else in between there wouldn't be as much point.  Others who like tea could just drink it instead, and skip focusing on a learning curve.  Vendors make up half the people discussing tea on the experienced end, and the rest are probably a bit obsessive to take a drink interest so far.  Relatively few don't actually have some form of business interest.  Take me, for example; why keep going on about the subject?  I suppose it's a long story, only partly because I am obsessive.

Vendors account for a lot of the interest in social networking about tea, related to doing it, and providing content as a foundation, in some cases.  But even though tea is a potentially bottomless subject to learn about and experience for most people it's about drinking a version they know and like, so all that only goes so far.

Trying out holding tea tasting events recently reminds me of how important the real-life aspect is to social networking related to tea.  People can all talk about what they bought from Yunnan Sourcing together (in their FB vendor-theme group), but in general it helps really sharing the drink in person.

Someone new to tea can try a lot of types fairly quickly through some sort of meet-up or tasting, and experienced tea drinkers can share more interesting versions with each other.  Some teas just don't come up a lot, and even if the internet makes really local, rare teas available now the range of all types is so broad that you can't hope to try most of it.  Reading blog reviews only goes so far; sharing teas with each other in person covers a lot more ground, the actual experience.

The two themes can definitely work together.  Discussing tea online helps with reaching out to a broader group for more information and input, and networking there can help with finding local cafes, shops, meet-ups and events, to bring the experience back into real-life scope.

conference panel; online meets real life, from a post about Polish tea culture

Monday, September 17, 2018

Blind tasting Yiwu maocha, and about an LP group buy

I've been through some really interesting tastings related to Yiwu Mountain Pu'er samples, across a broad range of Yiwu originated pu'er.  Initially that related to multiple year tastings, to comparing teas to notice the effects of aging versions.  The last tasting was different, a blind comparison of two very good and very different versions.  This will just be trying a single tea, the third sample in that set.

This tea is probably from Yiwu, and that's all I know.  I won't be able to identify more specific origin and processing variation details just from tasting because I'm just not there yet, but I can definitely relate what the tea is like.


The dry leaf scent of this tea is really sweet and rich; that's different.  I wouldn't even guess this is sheng based on that smell.  Surely Philip didn't throw me a curve in swapping out the tea type?

I'm moderating proportion a bit, not going for the packed gaiwan effect, requiring flash infusions.  This first round is a bit light so I'll only have an initial impression.  It's sheng, but a particularly sweet and complex version of one.  Yiwu is often sweet and floral but this is something else, really floral, very sweet, and on the soft and approachable side.  Even light, as sort of a half strength version, the feel is full and creamy and the aftertaste is already pronounced.

just getting started

This tea is different.  The flavor is there, pleasant and reasonably intense, but it has lots of depth across other dimensions that overshadows that.  Other flavors beyond the floral range add complexity, including depth that seems to relate to mild spice.  For now the feel stands as much, not astringent but full and creamy.  It's odd the tea could be that smooth and still express that thick feel.  The aftertaste runs long too, again odd that comes out as much as it does in a tea this smooth, with as limited a bitterness as it has.  You definitely don't need a tolerance for bitterness to appreciate this tea.

Next infusion is more of the same, nicely complex.  Sweetness stands out, and lots of floral character.  There's a depth to the tastes that I interpret as mild spice, a warm subtle layer.  The bitterness is very limited in this tea, just enough to balance out the rest.  There's a trace of sourness too, which actually isn't negative, it integrates and comes across as pleasant.  It's like the role of that aspect in a good version of a spiced sweet pickle, just lower in level.  This compares with that in more than one sense, with the sweetness and spice also present.

The overall effect is nice, beyond the pleasant flavor profile.  It's soft and rich, not what one would expect at all in young sheng.  Somehow it doesn't seem like how age takes the edge off new sheng either; it's still bright and lively, just missing a lot of the astringency that typically comes with the type, but retaining fullness in feel and aftertaste.  The feel coats your mouth, with the flavor not diminishing much at all after you swallow the tea.  Often that pairs with bitterness; that aspect transitions to sweetness, but this is something else. 

Being this mild there is no need to use flash infusions to balance the intensity and limit those aspects, so I'll let it run a little longer and see how it comes across as a stronger version.  I guess for some this style would be too approachable; they'd miss the way that typical set works and it wouldn't seem to balance properly.  Being a natural oolong and black tea drinker I like it.

The fruitiness picks up a little on the next infusion; this is relatively fruity as sheng goes at this stage.  It's complex, not simple to separate out all that's going on, or easy to assign a more specific range to that fruit, mixing in with the rest as it does. 

The next round is more of the same, a bit fruity, complex, pleasant but unusual in aspects balance.   I'm curious what led to this character.  Is it a more oxidized version of sheng, is that why the sweetness is up and flavors cover a unique range but the feel is so smooth?  Some wild grown tea versions are mild, earthy, and complex but others can be quite bitter; plant type and processing steps seem to be equal factors in how they turn out.  Yiwu tea versions are typically approachable, even when young, not too bitter or astringent, but not typically this mild in character.  The next section covers what the vendor says about it but never does completely unravel the related inputs.

Yiwu Mountain Pu'er vendor description

Phillip said that it's this:

2018 Yiwu Maocha Spotlight

This tea has been especially selected for its outstanding attributes and drinkability as a fresh Puer.  Enjoy tasting the tea as it matures from completely fresh maocha finished processing in late March 2018.  

This single estate maocha is a premium quality from one of the most amazing terroirs in Yiwu.  This tea is outstanding in terms of it's aroma, sweetness and qi, and holds out very well over a long session.  This maocha is typically selected to be sold by or blended by vendors as part of their premium selection.  However, it is this quality that makes the tea outstanding and worth the price. 

They sell it for $21 for 50 grams; not cheap tea but it seems to be in the right range, given expectations related to what I tried.  Being atypical, unusually complex but not covering much in the range of bitterness and astringency, makes it harder to compare to other versions.

That blending idea he mentioned is interesting.  Of course no one is going to buy a tea at nearly 50 cents a gram and blend it (are they?), but the idea is still worth considering.  I drift towards trying lots more single-type teas, like this one, and experiencing and appreciating a limited set of attributes, which varies from version to version.  It certainly would be possible for vendors to apply a blending approach instead, and try to combine the strengths of different teas in different ways (and blend around gaps and flaws, seen the other way).  I run across the idea more in relation to black teas sold as blends, and what Da Hong Pao--the main Wuyi Yancha type--tends to be, but it would work for sheng too.

We never did talk more about it, Philip and I, so I don't know more about why it turned out as it did, and to some extent that doesn't matter.  He did mention something about basic Yiwu character, which would be well-traveled ground in this blog already, but his basic summary version is clear:

The Yiwu style teas don't really have a strong feel of astringency that most teas have, even when oversteeped. It's pretty well known amongst puer drinkers that if you have a preference for 'strong' (bitter/astringent) teas then Yiwu is not going to be the obvious choice. It's the sweetness, aroma and aftertaste, that stand out and any initial bitterness/astringency adds to the contrast by quickly fading for those other attributes to shine.  This overall experience is one that is heavily marketed and is what makes the good Yiwu teas have such strong reputation in the market. One might argue that this is how you can differentiate the best teas.

Placing the style in relation to trying other sheng, and about a group buy

It's kind of completely different subject but I just tried a 2007 factory sheng someone from those tasting sessions passed on, sheng in a completely different scope.  It had aged to taste a bit earthy, mostly like tobacco, which I'd assume different aged sheng drinkers would have different preference-related takes on.  I liked it.  That deep mineral effect is nice, even if centering on tobacco as such a pronounced flavor aspect could be a bit much for some.  I think it was inexpensive, with an aged 357 gram cake costing less than 100 grams of this Yiwu sheng.

I didn't get the impression that this Yiwu version I tried would be any better in 10 years, that it would make sense to age it.  More generally I have the impression that higher levels of bitterness and astringency make for a more natural starting point for aging, since that range will transition, where a mild, sweet, flavor-intensive but subtle sheng might just fade.

On the subject of rambling on about trying random things I finally took part in one the Liquid Proust sheng group buys (I just haven't tasted any yet).  The main form I wrote about some time ago, the "Sheng Olympiad," but this was a beginners' introduction set instead.  I'm not sure if that other group-buy version would've been more suitable but I love the idea of considering what someone in the role of a sheng evangelist thinks would make for a good introduction, and it'll be cool to try some different types.  That site I mentioned sells teas but these group buys are something else; you'd either have to see a post on Reddit or Steepster by him to know he was doing one or follow him on Facebook and see a post.

that 11 year old sheng had time to darken

A "tea haul" style photo would introduce that set but for whatever reasons I've come to see those as a little obnoxious, maybe just burning out on the theme from running across too many.  The set looks like a dozen samples of sheng.  One is labeled as an LBZ; that's not starting with the basics, in one sense, but trying some things across a broader range fits a different meaning of an introduction.  It's my impression he didn't choose basic, type-typical, low-medium quality standard region-profile teas as much as what he considered to be a look into different characters.  It'll be cool.

It's not simple to place this Yiwu version in relation to a moderately priced aged factory pu'er and a set covering a lot of different range.  I like better versions of Yiwu sheng; they tend to be approachable, as Philip mentioned, sweet and floral, relatively intense, with good balance and intensity and a pronounced aftertaste.  Most are fine to drink young, positive for being so intense and bright in character.  On the downside Yiwu is in high demand, so better versions tend to not be inexpensive, and inexpensive versions tend to be less intense, a bit flatter, missing some part of that aspects set.  They can be made in a more traditional style, as this Tea Mania version was, and those are slightly less drinkable initially, with more astringency, and would probably improve more with age.

I'm expecting a lot of those beginner's set samples to run into the type of trade-off that people new to sheng often complain about:  bitterness or astringency being too much, or tasting a bit like kerosene.  Usually that comes across as white cardboard or an odd expression of mineral to me but it's funny hearing it put like that.  This Yiwu I reviewed here was way towards the opposite of that, uncharacteristically smooth and easy to drink, bright and clean, sweet and complex in flavor and feel at the same time.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Attending a detox seminar; what's it all about?

I just attended a Bangkok Expat Healthified group detox theme event.  Of course I was a little skeptical; people use that concept in a lot of different ways, many that make no sense.  Your liver and kidneys remove toxins from your body, not special teas, vinegar, alkaline foods, or whatever else.  Bear with me; it all makes plenty of sense, and the parts that don't work are also interesting.  I went in with an open mind, a very practical approach, with this review covering what people said in three separate presentations.

not about those products or marketing (photo credit)

As tea goes detox tea tends to be a strong laxative or diuretic product, both of which will help a person temporarily "cut weight" but with no health benefit; the opposite instead.  Those contain things like senna

Fair warning:  this really isn't about detox tea or slimming tea, or any tea at all, so for the most part outside the scope of this main blog theme (although I do mention how it connects at the end).  I just watched a Tea Fix podcast on detox issues related to tea but they were focused more on rejecting the standard claims and those herbal products, and to some extent tea as a miracle health product in general.

Since none of the problematic herb tea themed detox ideas came up, in this or any talks, what was "detoxing," to them?  Really three different things in the three talks, which overlapped quite a bit.

I will be critical of parts of what they said and supportive of other parts.  The idea isn't to condemn any particular approach or to completely endorse one either.  The ideas were interesting to me.  A later section here interprets how something more complicated than people passing on good, helpful information mixed with some flaws in background context or conclusions is going on.

Olga Vita on detox

Details about an event coming up on the 26th, with Olga Vita presenting more along the same lines, might work to specify this theme better, or serve as a resource.

the next related longer talk; more details here

Her talk was interesting, and it made some really good points.  Not all of it worked for me.  One has to be careful with both the bias towards accepting things you want to be true and rejecting those you expect to be false.  Maybe no one in that room had issues with the latter, but both throw off clearly considering ideas that you encounter.  That's essentially a summary of confirmation bias, a common flaw in reasoning.  It really should already be familiar, but here's a good definition just in case:

Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.

Back to the central theme, the first talk of the three was more a short introduction to a larger set of ideas that weren't covered in detail, but there were some clear themes and distinct ideas.

Detox was presented as a general term for eliminating anything harmful, not even limited to toxins as negative compounds in the body.  Processed food or sugar based diets were presented as unhealthy, or use of artificial flavors or scents.  That's sort of cheating, narrowing toxins down to known, common sense problems.  Using a definition that broad working in an unpleasant work environment could be considered toxic.  It definitely is unhealthy.

Olga presented drinking water from a plastic bottle as unhealthy.  That could be, and it's not that controversial, since that's been covered in legitimate news for awhile, that traces of that plastic gets in the water.  And she raised cell phone EMF output as a risk, which also might be right, or might not be so bad.  It would seem odd if no negative health effects are ever connected with all the types of signals that pass through us.  It's not natural.

(photo credit)

Contact with nature was presented as positive (for a sketchy reason; toxins are positively charged but the Earth is negative), but the point still works.  Walking barefoot in Bangkok might put you in contact with parasites too, but there would certainly be a psychological benefit. Wearing shoes or even flip flops all your life is unnatural. 

You don't need ancient Chinese medicine and that one crazy footpad nerve-energy pattern model to sort out that walking barefoot is very refreshing; you can just walk around and draw your own conclusions.  The same applies to being around plants instead of inside shopping malls or walking on concrete.

She recommended skipping breakfast, the intermittent fasting idea, that eating for 14 hours a day is overdoing it.  Again, maybe. How to judge that?  Surely different cycles would work best for different people, based on all sorts of inputs. It's pretty far off the track of colon cleansing, a topic that didn't come up until the next presentation.

A recommendation to only use fasting to the extent you are not making too big a shift made good sense.  It was easy to miss that this was one of the more practical, positive themes she brought up:  you start from where you are.  Someone really into a poor diet, processed junk foods and sodas, would shift off that first. Next someone could move on to a temporary raw diet, then later up to juice fast, and after acclimation onto water fasting (not one after the other, as an longer term staged program).

I experimented with periodic juice fasting when I was younger and that seemed fine, not difficult or shocking. I'm not sure if it actually helped but it seemed like a good idea at the time, and I still believe that it's unnatural and even harmful to never let your body get a break from the digestion cycle.  I can't justify or explain that; it's just my impression, based on limited personal experience.

A bit on structured water started to go off the rails, per conventional wisdom.  Finally, something to criticize.

The idea is that water remembers a form it took in the past, a shape, so specific forms of stirring rearranges it, or certain mineral concentrations set up structural patterns. The basic premise is nonsense but all the same some of the steps taken to "structure" water may still be positive and useful, even if based on theory that's dead wrong.  An example:  she recommended to drink natural spring water versus treated water, and to select water based on mineral content, or treat it with minerals.  All that might work.  It's quite possible that water is healthiest if you drink it with certain minerals included, and in general we don't keep track of which are in different versions of water, or at what levels.

yeah, no (credit)

Someone might wonder, how can I be so sure that "structured water" isn't a real thing, that there couldn't be anything to it?  It violates the basics of what water or any fluid even is.  Anyone who took basic college chem classes would know better; fluids don't have molecular pattern shapes, Brownian motion or movement causes molecules in any liquid to move around quite a bit.  Not in the same sense as heat representing a level of carried energy and motion in a solid; all the molecules move in relation to position to each other.  It's not simple to look up what any one person is referring to related to that subject, which could vary, but I have ran through background review on this topic before.

Again there might be more going on than the description being wrong; in some rare cases useful conclusions could be masked by completely wrong explanations.  It seems like in most cases dissolved levels of gasses in water could be adjusted by physical manipulation that's described as giving the water structure.  In this case it's unlikely that would be helpful though, since we have another organ that's much better at taking in and removing gasses than our digestive system, in the form of our lungs.  Drinking water that's not contaminated by traces of unhealthy substances seems a much more important concern than all the rest.

I'll say more about a general impression at the end, but I liked the content, in general.  And Olga seemed genuine and nice enough, which helps.

Second speaker:  Rasayana retreat (a spa, really)

This speaker also seemed nice enough (I lost track of her name, and it's not in notices and such), and for the most part the content was clear and grounded.  Again it seems odd to specify that eating a lot of raw foods or drinking juices, or just drinking plenty of water, is really "detoxing."  You sort of expect more from the theme.  It's as if someone was going to pass on a special method to have more energy and then told you to get enough consistent sleep at night.  That would help, by the way.

The second speaker stuck mostly to some plain common sense ideas, with that bit about colonics mixed in but played down (about getting enemas).  She offered retreat services, endorsing outings based on eating healthy foods, including a lot of raw foods and juices, and getting massages, etc.

I'd skip all of it myself, given the colonics tie-in, but who knows, some people are into that.  Two of my good friends were back in the 90s, but it's my impression that the trend either came and went or never really did resonate with many.

I'm mostly cutting out a detailed account of the rest she talked about because Olga went a little further with interesting ideas.  The theme of doing a spa retreat, getting massages, eating healthy foods, and probably getting some advise about lifestyle revisions seems sound enough.  As for colonics, maybe not.  I'd rather drink that senna infusion, a powerful laxative, which I also wouldn't do; just eating more fiber and drinking more water would be fine.

Their Facebook page talks a lot more about raw foods workshops and events, really downplaying the standard spa theme (massage, etc.).  It's good they branch out and explore different directions.  My wife loves massages so we're always doing that on vacation, less so related to the Thai version where they bend you around and use pressure points, more the typical oil type.  She trained to do Thai massage--she's crazy; she learns all sorts of things she doesn't need to know, like studying Mandarin--so once in awhile she will do my forearms and hands, or touch up a "monkey fist" in my back.

about 100 photos down their FB section standard spa themes come up (credit)

Digital Detox Asia

The last section was on digital detox, putting your electronic devices away for set periods. Again that's cheating, isn't it, shifting detox to mean something so practical and common sense related as putting the phone down once in awhile?  It wasn't quite that simple.

Again an upcoming event notice (for a yoga retreat Sept. 28-30) might help lead to more on who this is and what they're about.

yoga; that's pretty the theme (different version of their next event notice)

They were selling something (they all were, really), in their case yoga retreats.  That probably would be nice, but you don't need to go on a yoga retreat to turn your phone off for a weekend.  Someone mentioned that you can still buy a "feature phone," Nokias and such.  Apparently that's going to be a new thing now, "digital detox" and buying a non-smart phone.  After that maybe getting land lines will make a comeback, or it will become fashionable to talk to people face to face, or use paper again.  Nah.

Of course the main point works.  We all intuitively know that everyone walking around like zombies staring at small screens is horrible, but it hooks you.  One of the guys recommended not checking messages until lunch. He definitely doesn't work in IT, or any corporate job.

This is where some of the ideas break down; the personal rules and standard practices should be different for a yoga instructor versus a desk bound employee.  The same applies to someone running a spa, or charging what a Bangkok English teacher might earn in a week for a two hour alternative practices health consultation.  Some of all that would relate to healthier, more natural living, to practices people should consider and adapt, and some might just relate to those people not experiencing typical daily demands.

Everyone would live a more natural, balanced life without working a 9 hour work-day with 3 hours of commuting tacked on (the standard Bangkok work-day; unfortunately not a worst case).  Add a couple showers and meals to that and you can either experience normal sleep or time to spend on whatever work-life balance you might achieve, as long as you bang that out.

Initial conclusions

On the way home I couldn't help but consider, what did I learn?  Stop eating sugar and processed food, eat raw fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, pay attention to the source of water, take breaks from smart phones, spend some time in nature, do yoga, and skip breakfast.  I do eat a really light breakfast, fruit and just enough starch to allow fruit and tea to digest better, and on the weekends eat breakfast later because that cycle feels more natural.  I was already ok with very limited forms of fasting.  I used to do yoga; it was good for centering for snowboarding.

I suppose it was better than I expected.  Very little actually conflicted with common sense and next to none seemed wrong.  At the short talk summary level all the next level of detail was hard to evaluate.  I suppose longer versions may have offered more details, some probably helpful and useful, and maybe some a bit out there.

They were all selling things, so the next concern might be if those things were really of good value, or if alternatives would provide better options.  Spas and yoga retreats are around.  I'm kind of skeptical of personal counseling about "progressive" health issues and approaches.  For someone on that page, why not.

It would seem easy for people with strong biases on either side to come to the other two opposing conclusions, that beyond the familiar ideas it was all nonsense best avoided, or all clearly useful, practical input that should be embraced.  Without either bias half just seemed like common sense, some interesting ideas came up, and there were only a few gaps.

Thinking it through a little more, about subculture

After giving it more thought it's probably not the right question "which parts of the subject of "detox" are real and useful?"  It's almost not about that.  That's what people are looking for in going to an event like that, on the surface, but underlying that something entirely different seems to be going on.  A story is going to help explain what I mean.

A friend in Thailand is into some of that New Age scope, but selectively so.  He's into yoga, travelling in India, "metaphysics," or at least parts of what people would consider that, and is open to all sorts of ideas that some would consider marginal (aliens are in continual contact with us; that sort of thing).  And running; that kind of fits but kind of doesn't.  I''m not sure he looks the part; his short hair could fit in anywhere, and he doesn't wear clothes that look Indian, as far as I know.  And he's not a vegan.

What difference, one might wonder, if he doesn't make the choice to not eat meat, dairy, or eggs?  According to him that's seen as a critical component of that general lifestyle in the circles he might otherwise be a part of.  To some extent he is completely excluded for that.

The deeper question beyond if detox works or not, the parts of related ideas, is what kind of social sub-group people are really trying to be a part of, and what kinds of buy-in are required for that to happen.

yoga retreats are not an uncommon theme in Thailand (photo credit)

As far as that group goes the most superficial level one could sort through just by looking around.  A lot of people's clothes did look a bit Indian, but most wouldn't stand out anywhere.  Some had evident tattoos (in that picture above a tribal tattoo would seem to work as in-group marker).  Some guys had beards, and wearing sandals fit the general look.  Most could've passed for any working Thai professional.  Doing yoga really would be central, but you can't necessarily see that in an external image.

these cultures would not overlap (credit Little Bangkok meditation group)

I'm approaching all that from a completely different perspective, considering whether I really would want to be any part of all that, not sorting out a form of participation that would be agreeable.  Given how constrained my lifestyle is for the most part it's just not an option; I spend time on kids, not other things.  Tea works as a hobby interest because I can narrow it into where it fits, or drop it for a week, beyond having the beverage with meals.

It makes me think back to what I embraced or didn't embrace when I was in my 20s, and how that played out.  I wasn't joining any groups, or following any teachers; none of it.  Then again I was a stoner into outdoor sports, doing some yoga and being a vegetarian.  Doing the occasional juice fast wasn't a lifestyle choice relating to joining any subculture; back in the 90s people just did all that.

Tea isn't part of what I was doing then (although I was into tisanes, herb teas).  I suppose some people in that event would drink tea, but it seemed to clearly not be a central theme.  Do they tend to drink vegetable juice, as we did back then?  Probably, or maybe not.

This leads to considering how much would be central as adopted practices, to joining social groups related to yoga, natural lifestyle, vegetarian diet, and so on.  What would be mandatory, and what optional?  That must vary.  One branch probably makes it mostly about religion, with others not even touching on that.  The clothing makes for an interesting consideration and marker, and tattoos.

taken far enough any subculture can seem like a caricature (credit)

All of this isn't heading towards any tidy conclusion.  As an expat (foreigner) I tend to explicitly consider how cultures and subcultures work.  Really simple themes tend not to emerge; lots of broad patterns play out in different ways.  It's interesting living in a relatively international version of a large city to have access to a higher count of those subcultures, but still I'm too busy for much exploration, and certainly for joining in. 

Back to the detox idea, what it's basically about, the strength and weakness in the implied definition is that it's about anything that's bad for you.  Even something good for you, like drinking plenty of water, or getting exercise, would be bad for you in the wrong amount.  McDonald's food and potato chips make for the low hanging fruit; of course heavily processed, chemical laden foods aren't generally positive.

Back to the subject of tea (finally), millions of people in Bangkok are drinking RTD (bottled) or powdered, artificially flavored teas every day, not that far off the problematic practice of eating meals out of a 7/11.  Brewing whole-leaf teas with nothing added to them doesn't cost more; quite a bit less instead.  Those are likely to be lower in contaminants, with a potential long list of real health benefits resulting from consuming them.  That short summary raises a lot of issues that are impossible to confirm (the risks and benefits parts), but it's clearly a case of swapping out chemicals for natural food versions.

I don't talk a lot about health issues in this blog because there isn't much to say.  Tea is probably healthy, but mapping that out in detail is problematic.  Even research study evidence tends to vary, and there's a risk of biases initiated by funding for studies affecting the outcomes.  It was interesting to consider some health issues related to the event, and the detox theme, and to think through how it applies to social themes, even though I won't be changing much about my life based on that input.

focusing on that one long term project these days, raising kids