Monday, June 28, 2021

Tea evaluation template

first published in TChing here

Just mentioning a "tea evaluation template" implies that analytical evaluation, a conceptual breakdown, is a positive thing, so let's start there.  I think that tea experience works just as well without translating experiential aspects into a list of concepts, or probably even better skipping that.  But evaluation could serve a few different purposes:  for a vendor to keep track of detailed tea impressions, for purchasing reasons, or communication, or for a tea enthusiast to track progress and history in working through exploring tea types and versions.  

From Josh Linvers posting thoughts on tasting notes (here)

Of course writing a blog about tea experience involves use of concepts, and even in video raw experience doesn't come across much without use of supporting concepts. I'll need to settle on a level of analysis here, to not keep jumping back and forth between placing experience versus just having it, or how useful this would be.  So I'll move onto discussing an approach soon enough, since this is headed towards describing a template for categories and notes that I made up.

Setting that aside, I've considered and written about evaluation and rating themes before, quite early into writing about tea.  Five years ago this week, also published to TChing; it's about time for an update.  This reconsideration relates to discussing this with a vendor who is evaluating teas (more or less), the same context cited in that post.  Two of the more interesting vendor reference-source related citations in that post seem to relate to businesses that aren't active now, based on web pages being offline.  Maybe the approach didn't really help them. 

used with permission from Temple Mountain Tea, with more on tasting wheels here

Breaking experience into parts and rating the parts and the whole them seems like one obvious approach; "scoring" body / feel, aftertaste, taste / flavor, flaws, match to a standard type, quality evaluation...  One of those cited sources (now missing in detailed form, since the links aren't active) used a half dozen such weighted categories to get to a final tea score.  An opposite approach would be to try to map out aspects instead, to make the project about ending with a flavor / aroma list, mouthfeel description, and such.  Doing both might be possible, detailed description and also rating.

The "final score" idea is problematic, because different teas are positive, negative, or just limited in different ways.  It might work better to map that out per tea type, eg. to value a Wuyi Yancha oolong version in relation to a weighted set of factors, and black teas or young sheng pu'er differently, related to differently weighted sets.  Then one pronounced flaw or unusual strength really could throw off that evaluation, making a tea very desirable or all but undrinkable based on just one aspect input, limitation, or flaw.  Sweetness being all but missing can really throw off a balance in a lot of styles, for example.

The record template based approach I drafted (available here) works to collect notes into categories, without really being geared towards a combined and weighted score (although that would be easy to add, tweaking the form to include a couple more final evaluation rows and a weighting system and summary there).  Let's skip past tea type details and preparation documentation, which are in that form, and consider a tasting notes section:

 Feel, aftertaste, taste




Body / feel




Aftertaste (length, type)
















Sourness (note if positive, negative, or neutral)




Intensity (also for aroma)




So far a bit straightforward, just a lot to include in one short set of notes for many of these.  Some people value those first two categories (line-items) so much that a few words of notes wouldn't really do that justice.  

The idea of including rankings and separate description and notes aren't clearly required, or a best approach, it's just one way of arranging that.  As I see it splitting a summary and then also second-level additions about that summary might make sense (eg. describing form and level of sweetness in a "description," then placing that in relation to how it balances with the rest in a "note"). Skipping putting a ranking / score for most noted sections would work; the form doesn't clearly imply how it is intended to be used, and use could vary.

Tasting details (aroma)








Fruit (/ dried fruit)
















Sweetness / nut / dairy




Wood / hay / grain / malt




Roast effect / char








This puts a lot of work onto a taster to split out an overall evaluation in this breakdown form, and it's a given that no two people would fill out this section in the same way for any tea.  All the same it's a decent starting point for arranging aroma / scent based flavor range into categories.  For most typical reviews saying a bit about basic tastes (the first section) then settling on a half dozen aroma inputs is enough.  

In my blog post reviews I tend to rank them, mostly in terms of what comes across as dominant, and then in relation to more vague or transitory aspects.  Evaluating form of transition comes up, for Gongfu brewing, and this table wouldn't capture a cycle so easily (aroma range changing over rounds). But the "notes" could be used to cover that (eg. cinnamon only in later steeps).  That form would also work for noting that bitterness declines following a certain pattern, in the last subset.  For a reviewer inclined to write a lot about transitions, as in Mattcha's blog, this category and list form just wouldn't work well.

Flaws / limitations








Storage input (negative)




Contaminant (eg. smoke)




Off standard type range




Atypical feel








There are a lot of potential flaws, with this only intended to map out some standard categories.  Per two different evaluation preferences this could be expanded and developed, or it could be narrowed down to just one line item instead.

Overall evaluation




Match to standard type




Most notable attribute(s)




Quality marker related




Most notable limitation(s)




Quality Level




Aging input (level, type)




Aging potential (estimate)




Subjective preference match








Again I'm not really going to explain or justify a lot of this; inclusions like "match to a standard type" or "quality marker related" would be best explained by a few hundred words of write-up.  I probably mean those in my own way, and others would see those concepts differently, or wouldn't prefer to use them at all.  There isn't really one standard type for any given tea version, since they all vary within a stylistic range, but it is possible to assess if a version falls outside a typical stylistic range.  I see certain aspects as identifying quality level in some cases (eg. mineral flavor in Wuyi Yancha or sheng pu'er, smooth and full feel in some rolled oolongs, aftertaste length in some types but not others).

Hopefully the meaning of "quality level" and "subjective preference match" are clear.  Those are intended as a judgment about objective overall rating of the tea, surely partly in relation to match to type, and the same thing but in a subjective form, how much one likes a version.

The idea here was to start a discussion about such a tool and approach, but in practice writing anything about tea experience doesn't typically lead there.  I'll add this early template draft version in the group I moderate (International Tea Talk) and in my blog-related Facebook page, to make it accessible, but I don't expect that much discussion.  If you want to pass on input there will be links to this post in both places, or I can be reached through that blog page.

For strictly personal use I think it makes more sense to just drink the tea, and to stay on the opposite extreme in relation to breaking down the experience conceptually.  The old Steepster-form approach of adding a few thoughts (aspects that stand out) and a short summary works, to the extent one ever would need to discuss a tea.  Writing a 1500 word round-by-round blog review of a tea is definitely overkill; so messy, and too long to read.  Copying that Steepster summary form to an Instagram post seems to strike a better balance. But really who even needs that, unless it works as an actionable purchase recommendation, or the author is using it as their own organized notes.  Which reminds me; I didn't initially add price information to this.  Other inclusions like that would depend on the intended use.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Monsoon and Tea Side Thai tea discussion


Kenneth lower left, Valeri upper right (photo credit Ralph)

Kind of strange to put it off for living in Thailand, but we finally had guests join from here during an online meetup.  They were Kenneth of Monsoon Tea Company and Valeri of Tea Side, two of the main tea sources in Thailand, as I see it (both based out of Chiang Mai).  There is one main mall shop here in Bangkok, Tea Dee, and beyond that Chinatown shops stand out most. 

Since this was kind of an introduction a lot of what I'll include as summary here I will have posted before, but it would've been scattered over about four years of writing about both of these sources.  I'll go ahead and repeat it, and link to some of that.

Kenneth and Monsoon

Kenneth promotes tea production from wild forest sources, the sustainability theme that ties to that (as he summarized in a Tedx talk here, and written up in this blog here).  It's a great idea, and it's odd that it's not more common a theme than it is.  Tea (variety Assamica) has been growing throughout a very broad region for a very long time, throughout Yunnan, Assam, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.  It's "wild" in the sense that no one is farming it, but the ties to earlier agriculture aren't completely clear.  People almost certainly played a role in that earlier spread, so it could probably fairly be regarded as feral instead of wild, in terms of naturally occurring.  The full history is still being discovered.

Kenneth's intro to the others included the idea that the forest origin teas have a distinctive flavor and character, all familiar ground to me for reviewing versions for years.  They tend to include a bit of sourness.  That can be really off-putting if you associate sourness with tea spoiling due to damp storage, or a processing flaw, but really in this case it seems to tie to distinctive plant genetics, related to those mixing with taliensis or other inputs, or just genetic drift over time.  It's not as bad as it sounds; flavors can be floral and complex beyond that.

I was hoping we could push so far into discussion to get to why that comes up, if there's more cause to be cited than "genetic mixing or drift."  Tea Side sells a wild origin "Lord of the Forest" sheng version from Myanmar that's not sour at all, which was really nice.  And I've tried an exceptional Yongde (Yunnan) wild version from Moychay this year that also wasn't, and a nice Xiaguan version, and Laos and Vietnam forest-origin teas generally aren't like that.  It could just be that plant genetics vary, not an especially satisfying answer, but that's probably how cause identification is going to go.  

Kenneth mentioned that black tea, green, and oolong work out best so they produce mostly that.  From time to time writing here I bring up a really unusual (and very sour) local wild sheng version that the owner of Jip Eu made (Kittichai, that Chinatown shop owner).  I bought a second cake of that tea so that I could spread out drinking the first one over a few years and then keep on tasting it.  So far it's not changing that much.  Every time I drink it for the first few rounds I'm deciding if I really like it, and then for a long sequence of later rounds I decide that I do.  

I think adjusting to sourness relates to unlearning an established expectation, so that people not so into specialty tea could adapt quicker (related to Kenneth's input that experienced chefs love his wild-origin teas, more so than tea enthusiasts).  That would be like acclimating to bitterness in sheng; people tend to not love it right away, unless other exposure has prepared them to be open to that, for example a love of pale ales.  Then later that bitterness seems positive, a nice balancing input along with the sweetness and other flavor range.

We talked about blends, which they sell more of than plain teas.  The reason for that is pragmatic; their main customer base had been tourists, and that was in demand.  They started as a Chiang Mai tourist area cafe and shop and have expanded to here as well (Bangkok).  I don't drink much for flavored teas or blends but two of the best versions I've ever tried were from them, a mango flavored oolong (ok, that was really longan and mangosteen), and coconut flavored black tea.  I think that black tea experience reminded me of Christmas enough to draw on sentimentality as a positive input.  The quality of both was good too; you can tell when the tea is good quality and the flavoring also is.  Kenneth said that using less flavoring and higher quality tea represent a pattern previously more common in European teas, now replaced by using more flavoring and the cheapest tea versions available, for obvious reasons, to maximize margin.

Kenneth made an interesting point about how not only is tea experience embedded in a culture, but an immediate experience makes more sense there.  He said that drinking a strong and sweet gunpowder green tea with mint is a great experience in Morocco, but that it wouldn't necessarily translate, trying the same tea elsewhere.  And the same for masala chai in India, and so on; the experiences connect with the locations.

It leads to considering what the local experience should be for Bangkok (where I live).  Sitting in a Chinatown cafe, like Double Dogs, or visiting a shop there, like Jip Eu, where I first met Kenneth, and trying out Wuyi Yancha (Fujian roasted oolong) would work. Even though they're not so common a flavored rolled oolong from Monsoon could make the cut.  It would be great to visit the growing areas around Chiang Rai and try some fresh rolled oolongs in that hilly setting; I've never done that.

Doi Mae Salong (Chiang Rai area), photo from Alex Phanganovich

Valeri of Tea Side

Tea Side is on a different range of product scale, turning up the best Thai teas I've tried from any source, by a fairly significant margin.  They do sell some Taiwanese style oolongs, a main standard type in Thailand, but they focus more on sheng and shu ("not pu'er," since it's from here), and Dian Hong style black teas, including a lot of aged versions of those.  Valeri really appreciates the body-feel aspect of teas, "cha qi."  I'm at the opposite end of the scale for "getting" that, so this won't say a lot more about that theme.

He mentioned an interest in seeking out the oldest teas available in this country.  Some that Tea Side list are from the 80s to mid 2000s, with historical background and more on the Hong Tai Chang productions here.  And he also covered a bit about shu fermentation experimentation, a small-batch theme, (with his process description here, a review of two Tea Side versions here, and other background on that theme here).  His results and versions are good.  

I'm partly in the "shu is shu" camp, seeing that as one of the narrowest character / aspect range tea types there is, but of course it varies.  I don't just mean flawed or not flawed, still showing fermentation related rough edges or odd mustiness; it varies within the very positive range too.  I like shu (and hei cha), I just like sheng better.

His sheng holds its own with Yunnan range tea.  Pretty good sub-theme range too; I don't mean that it's well above generic sheng coming out of China, it's a good bit better than decent, probably in the upper half of the range of boutique teas.  I say more about that in reviews here, or I think the TeaDB guys have tried some of his versions (they are reliable, and their video form content is much nicer, much less work to experience).

What else?  We didn't get so far describing the rest of Thai teas, and there isn't that much that's simple to say.  At some point the backstory only goes so far and then it's about trying teas. Valeri mentioned that the tea tradition in Thailand goes way back, I forget the year he mentioned, but around a 1940 time-frame.  Most likely that's a known range for well established production, and local and informal practices were around a very long time before that.  Kenneth would add that people have been eating tea locally for a very long time, which I take to be accurate, even though I've never given that one text covering the history of tea a close read (Tale of Tea?).

trying miang (cured tea) at the Asok Monsoon branch

We talked a little about the history of tea in Russia, asking about his take on Bronislav Vinogrodskiy, one influential tea tradition founder there, who we just met online.  That ran through scope I've covered in other posts, about older ties to China being replaced by Ceylon trade and a different style of black tea, with plenty of influence of drinking local tisanes.  Only in the last 40 years has that developed into embracing traditional Chinese teas and more formal preparation practices.

I like the history of tea, processing background, cultural considerations, and information about plant genetics, but in the end I'm more interested in the experience of different teas.  I should add just a bit about my favorites from both vendors, since this is as much about background I already experienced than that discussion (with the two not separate).

My favorites related to both vendors

To me the Monsoon "wild" teas are ok, but novelty and that story line have to factor in to add appeal.  Their flavored teas really are the best I've ever tried, which isn't much of a broad perspective, since I actively avoid trying teas from that broad category.  One forest-source white tea I tried from them was really nice before; odd those dropped out.  They've also been ramping up kombucha production; I have almost the least exposure possible to that but it seemed nice to me.  All in all they are well worth visiting, here in Bangkok or up in Chiang Mai.

Tea Side range is more the page I'm on, Chinese tea, with focus on Yunnan scope.  And it's pretty good versions of those.  Pricing could be regarded as a down-side for the higher end of their range, but that's normal; high-demand and limited availability teas tend to cost a good bit, for all types and source areas.  A gui fei really stood out, a rolled variation on Oriental Beauty.  That was most of it, thinking back to what was nice beyond sheng, shu, and Dian Hong style black (with an interesting aged range of those available).  One green tea was one of the best I've ever tried (this one); that's strange, since I mostly only prefer Longjing within green tea scope.

Other Taiwan-style rolled oolong from them is good, as I remember, just slightly better than the main plantation versions. But in general the best of that oolong range from Vietnam eclipses the best from Thailand, and better Taiwanese versions are on a slightly higher scale.  And an even higher scale for pricing too, for those seeing that as a main concern.  One might wonder if terroir issues don't complicate what I've presented as a direct comparison here, and that does factor in.

In talking to Valeri about that last issue, that the best Taiwanese oolongs are a lot better than the best Thai versions, he is inclined to disagree, and sees the best of what he sells as on-par.  I've not tried enough of his to be clear on placing that.  To be honest I'm not a great reference for the best Taiwanese high mountain oolongs either; I've tried what I've tried, and the best of those were significantly better than the best Thai versions that I tried.  To some extent preference for local terroir related character must offset the potential for making a blanket quality level judgement.  

I like to think that I can identify quality level by standard aspect parameters (complexity, intensity, sweetness, mouthfeel and aftertaste aspects, flavor matching standard type, absence of flaws, etc.), and can go slightly beyond that to pick out some aspects that act as "quality markers" for many types.  But preference and judgement factors in, and I don't see myself as an authority on that.  I tend to agree with almost all of what Valeri has expressed about his teas that I have tried (factoring in normal bias and marketing spin), so to me that's a factor, lending some extra credibility to that input.

Back on the broader scale those guys are both really nice to talk to, both very personable and genuine.  All the talks have been positive, really, but often they feel comfortable, like talking to people you already know, and this was like that.  I've met Kenneth a few times so I should feel that way, but I mean beyond that, related to Valeri and my friends' feedback.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

20,000 members in the International Tea Talk FB group


looks more like a business page than it really is

This is a good prompt for reconsidering what some social media stats mean.  It's always hard to place, isn't it, what the number of Facebook post likes means, or Instagram followers?  Taken alone nothing specific, I guess.  Facebook group membership is all the more vague, given how people tend to join a few dozen groups and then interact with few of them.  Most people wouldn't even see posts in their feed, based on that.

Let's back up:  I helped co-found the International Tea Talk group a few years ago, adding half the new members from a friends list, along with Shana Zhang, the real owner.  I'm not credited as a co-founder but that's fine; I don't put value on that official role title anyway.  I'm essentially the sole moderator / admin, which is more about workload than getting credit.  It's all good.  It's strange I stuck around that long; I helped a second online contact start a group at the same time and that's gone quiet long ago.

The group theme is about internationally oriented tea discussion.  A lot of Facebook tea groups turn into streams of ads, since vendors use the groups to post those, and it was a judgement call but explicit ads aren't allowed in that group.  I won't get into applied ad definition, moderation grey area, and daily screening practice here, but all that could fill up a 1000 word post.

Back to the theme here; what does it mean that this group has 20,000 members, versus some other group having 10 or 15,000?  Nothing at all, of course.  The count went up a bit fast because the "international" theme broadens scope.  Groups like Gong Fu Cha and the Puerh Tea Club have narrower themes, not necessarily limited to US or European membership, but it tends to relate to more participation from those areas.  "International" is everywhere, by definition.  The theme naturally led to including more tea producers as members, and plenty of vendors, and because those people are networked in different countries it amounted to a lot of Facebook group suggestions to people.

Placing other stats

I keep coming back to considering social media stats related to FB or Instagram contact count, and even more so in relation to blog reach / post views.  Facebook changed a feed routing algorithm quite a bit something like 2 1/2 years ago and the reach of this blog dropped considerably, down from 300-500 views per post to more like 100.  I couldn't fully place what it meant that only a third as many people were reading what I wrote.  Group feed posting, other FB filtering algorithms, probably changed considerably then too.  It might have worked to try to bump use of hashtags in Instagram, or post to Twitter, or whatever else, to reclaim some viewership, but I never did.  Reading over 1000 words of text is a challenge; it's strange that many people do it regularly.

It has been interesting experimenting with Quora, a question and answer themed site, and noticing how reach / engagement stats are so much higher there.  I don't necessarily interpret that to relate to any actual engagement; scrolling past a post heading isn't much of a "view."  Those stats are so interesting--to me at least--that I'll cite my personal stats and those for a "space" here:

4.2 million answer views for my personal profile and 120k for the Specialty Tea Space (my "group" equivalent; I accept content shared there by others but it's mostly what I write).  Seems like a lot.

I've seen different Facebook post or group stats, of course, but a quick reference to most popular posts (from the last month) in that International Tea Talk group can help clarify the range of reach:

So some posts were seen by 2700 to 6700 people; not bad.  I had thought group engagement would end up being quite limited since people tend to join a lot of groups but maybe not:

That count is a bit over 10,000 active members for the last month, with this three month view showing an upward trend.

What does it mean though?

Ok, so thousands of people really are seeing more popular posts, and 10,000 see something from that group in a month, with likes and comments varying a lot per post.  It's still hard to place.  It would almost make more sense to shift interpretive framework a little, from those stats, and try to consider what value people are getting out of the group, how the meaning varies by participant.

Advertising value is a bit limited for vendor members (and by extension maybe to consumers), but plenty find ways to work around the explicit ad restriction, adding other content instead of advertising.  And the ad posts stay up until I clear them.  After posting an ad members are placed on one month post pre-approval status, and deleted from the group if a stream of ad posts follow that, requiring daily review and deletion from that queue.

Two of those top five viewed posts are questions, two are information, and one kind of a general starting point.  I mention these blog posts there but they would draw less attention.  The post I've added that was viewed most was about US tea production, sharing a post by Jason McDonald about the Great Mississippi Tea Company growing a lot of clone plants (or seedlings, was it?).  It's interesting that in the most engaged post 300 people reacted with "likes" and such; seems like a lot.

Answers to questions probably make up a lot of the experienced value, for members.  If someone asks about physical shops where they live or are visiting, for example, related to anywhere in the world, there are typically a few good answers.  The same is true for asking about tea types, online references, or storage issues, and so on.  But it would all be equally true if there were half as many members, I think.

Limitations of that group, strengths of others

In order to make this more clearly about placing what tea groups are doing I'd like to mention a main limitation of this International version:  it has no clear central theme.  "International" is a theme, but it just means "from anywhere."  The Gong Fu Cha group narrows tea interest to a brewing approach and more ceremonial form; the Puerh Tea Club limits by tea type.  The Yunnan Sourcing Fans group makes for an unusual exception; it narrows theme and discussion down to one vendor.  And that works, although it can be a little annoying cutting off discussion at that range, since in many cases more interesting scope lies just outside what any one given vendor sells.

Narrower focus makes a group feel more like a real shared interest, like a social group form.  Narrower focus comes at a cost, beyond limiting potential membership count.  It stands out more when people's interests aren't within a perceived main part of the theme.  For a tea type like puerh (pu'er) that's less significant; there's a potential grey area related to the same tea coming from Myanmar or Vietnam or wherever, but basically it's clear what pu'er is, and isn't.  Whenever someone asks about a version of gushu from LBZ selling on Ebay that can feel a bit jarring, but it's a great place to hear why those teas may well not be worth the $10 they tend to sell for, or why drinking bad pu'er might not suit everyone.  People do post about grandpa style brewing once in awhile in the Gong Fu Cha group, and technically that's completely out of scope, but as long as topics are reasonable they'd be ok with that.

I think the Reddit r/tea group (subreddit) suffers from the same limitation; it's just about tea, in general.  Evolved consensus preference there is more about drinking grocery store versions brewed from tea bags, but it has evolved to include more loose specialty tea and gongfu brewing concerns just recently.  The r/puer group there seems narrower, but it doesn't really feel like a social group, like a set of main members who know each other.  I'm not sure why not; maybe it relates to people being generally anonymous on Reddit, with some exceptions.  That leads to a related question:  how do you intentionally build up that feeling of community?

Building a feeling of community in an online group

It's not as if I'm some sort of social media expert but of course I have some background exposure, so I'll add thoughts on this.  You build up the feeling of community in a few ways:

1. define scope narrowly enough to capture shared experience and perspective (already discussed).

2. set rules that limit problems, scope drift, and related membership turnover (applies to all groups).

3. develop a core group of main members who are familiar with each other.

1 and 2 are simple enough; 3 is tricky.  A couple of years ago there were a few main members of the International Tea Talk group who were most active (not many; two main ones come to mind), and essentially all of them participate relatively little now.  I don't think a natural active member "churn" is as much of an issue as initiating a group feel and regular participation in the first place.  One central owner can help post and set up an environment that encourages routine discussion and participation, but it kind of has to happen organically.  I suppose making a half dozen people fit more in that central role as moderators could use that role assignment step to support core group development.

I participated in an expat forum that achieved a sense of community and small group core better than anywhere else I've experienced online. I think part of that related to the natural shared experience (living abroad, being a foreigner), and to luck related to those guys getting along, and to Brits naturally embracing that kind of association.  Then the owner went off the rails a bit, eliminating more and more people for trivial violations, until it was like the Sopranos, and eventually everyone was going to be gone.  Then he pulled the plug.

#2 relates to an interesting case, maybe more familiar to Americans than others:  if any group allowed political posts a central trend for mostly liberal or conservative backing would exclude a large amount of members.  If membership was split, which could be even worse, the group could easily turn into a battleground for debating that difference.  Two examples of this come to mind.  One related to a tea group normally way outside that subject range making an exception and allowing some politically oriented current event discussion.  In the second case a Penn State alumni group really became messy as a result.  In both cases the set of issues seemed to "play through," so maybe it's not that critical a concern.  Surely some people quit both groups as a result but I would imagine most members just ignored it.

From there lots of steps I've never tried could help, like setting up group oriented online meetups, or using surveys to initiate discussion.  I post about content I'm creating, or news and events I find interesting, and that's about it.  Routine light conversation starters, like asking "what's in your cup today?" could help, but it doesn't seem like it contributes enough to make a lot of difference.  It might help to push that to a next step and ask about real current issues or background themes.  I've been considering forest or wild-sourced tea a bit lately; one might post and ask about experiences with that (and I should, come to think of it).  

With 20,000 members getting .1% together for a chat--20 people--is still too many, but hosting a podcast interview themed event might work; I've joined such a thing elsewhere before.  I've been holding a series of small-group video gatherings, that I've posted a lot about, but those aren't streamed live or recorded and posted for public viewing.

Changing to a broader scope, it's odd that Facebook groups have hung in there as a relevant format for as long as they have.  I first participated in Facebook tea groups around 8 or 9 years ago, and Tea Chat and Steepster have both more or less died since then.  Something like Discord groups could eventually replace FB groups, and Instagram already is a lot more active.  I don't love the Discord old mainframe board feel (just with better graphics, and a bit more diverse structure), and of course Instagram is mostly about pictures, short text, story clips (now reels?), and comments.  Maybe Facebook groups will last awhile.  The Quora Spaces theme always did seem like an experiment, and not one that necessarily took.  Questions and answers as a site theme only goes so far.

As in my own case Facebook works well for mixing a personally related profile, themed pages (tied to this blog), developed messaging function, and groups.  The "live" thing was interesting, while people did that, now transitioned some to more informal forms of podcasts and such.  Facebook's dabbling in stories forms and video media channels didn't seeming to have much impact.

One might wonder, why do I moderate a Facebook group, essentially covering the typical role of owner, why put that time in?  It started as an experiment, and now I'm not sure.  Partly out of force of habit.  Not everything I do is about my own benefit, and it seems like others must get some value out of it.  A lot of people have learned a lot, about background, references, and events, and many relatively specific questions have been answered.  Active participant transition limits a sense of community, but at any given time a lot of people are active there.  Maybe the true potential hasn't been realized yet, and some minor shift in form could develop more continuity and group feel.  To say that membership is truly global is a real understatement; group members are from everywhere.  There seems to be a lot of potential in that.

I've talked to hundreds of people related to participation, or in a broader sense have had limited contact with thousands, so it doesn't work to imply that I've taken limited value from the experience.  That meetup series I've mentioned included people from a lot of different countries, largely related to that contact.  It's really cool that if a question comes up about tea in a random place I can usually search back and find a message conversation with someone about there, regardless of where it is.  I think of it all as mostly not being about me though, more about the group being a positive discussion channel and resource for others.