Ralph had a schedule conflict
We've talked to some interesting and amazing people as a part of that social meetup series but this moved on to someone I consider to be a tea expert. No one is a deeper-level expert than someone with half a lifetime's experience in making tea, or a background in helping found a unique nation-specific tea tradition, as people we've talked to. But the conventional sense of someone putting in long years of study, training, and communication, first learning and then giving back to a well-grounded local tea tradition, all evokes a unique type of respect.
For people exploring tea a decade ago Stéphane Erler would've needed no introduction; Tea Masters was one of those classic blogs that helped define tea experience and culture. And it still is active; that's unique. I suppose the multitude of social media channels and the current high level of focus on pu'er as a preference end-point might've diminished that standing, as being one of relatively few points of focus, but not as I see it in relation to the solid foundation and value of the reference.
I'll add a short introduction here of who I see Stéphane to be, and a bit on how he came across to me (we've never spoken by video call before now). Then this will move on to a set of tangents, for the most part topics we only barely touched on. These meetups have evolved to be more personal introductions than explorations of tea themes, which is fine. When a participant has so much to offer about a subject matter, spanning the entire Taiwanese tea tradition in this case, or how Wuyi Yancha is produced and sold, in an earlier example, it can feel like not much was covered for dwelling on personal background, but those life stories and details ground the rest. There is no tea tradition without complex individuals having and sharing the ideas and experiences.
I don't have a good intro for Stéphane handy, and didn't turn up one in his own words on his Tea Master's blog or Youtube video channel, or on his blog Facebook page (with his vending page here). Somehow that seems appropriate and positive, that there is no main 50 word summary version out there. This will mainly draw on my own impression then. With some positive bias, kind of a given, but I think that's fine, and warranted in this case. His own words in a recent blog post about blog anniversary context at least clarifies the context:
The decline of text blogging
Penn State tea club
Sheng pu'er in relation to oolongs
Relationship between Taiwanese teas and other sources as imports
the focus then was on family travel, not so much tea themes