Five things I like & dislike COVID19 Edition…
Very Slow International Shipping
The most obvious thing and a clear dislike. We now have all kinds of time at home for tea. But unfortunately international shipping, especially from China, has grinded to a halt. I ordered tea in March from China via EMS (typically 1 week) and got it in July.
The shipping situation is already having a pretty powerful impact on the tea scene and it is unclear if the old shipping situation will ever come back and what the new status quo will be. There are murmurings of shipping price hikes. Slower, more expensive shipping is not a win for anyone.
Life Changes & Breaking the Status Quo
COVID 19 has been a status quo breaker for most everyone’s daily lives and the other three things listed could be subcategories under this. Breaking the status quo for some means more time for tea. It could be an opportunity to polish off samples and drink down stuff. Or a chance to really dive deep into a sort of tea or tea in general (provided you’re not waiting for shipping). Unfortunately for some it also means less money or less time to devote to the hobby.
One friend I drink tea with regularly for years had a one tea per day routine. Ever since we met, I’ve always consumed more tea than him. Now, forced to work from home I asked him what he’s drinking and he’s been regularly drinking 3 teas per day, far more than myself! Counterintuitively, I have actually gone the other way and had less time to think and drink about tea. Some have noted that my articles have become more sporadic. Part of this is due to a move that took up a lot of time, but also my status quo shifting in a way that I’m drinking less tea.
Getting Extra Jazzed on Tea via Zoom Tea Session
One thing I’ve seen is people getting together for a tea session on zoom. In some cases, people are even able to drink the same teas simultaneously. One side effect to this is because the tea isn’t getting split into smaller cups in most cases people are getting extra caffeinated. For instance, when I drink virtual tea with Garrett the minimum size I’ll use is still 5g/75ml. When we’re together I may use a slightly larger device 6.5g/100ml or something. But if we end up drinking 3 teas in both sessions, the end result is overall significantly more caffeine consumed in the zoom session. Is this good? Well I suppose it depends. For me, I still haven’t gotten used to it and I’d certainly prefer morning virtual group sessions rather than late ones.
Lack of In-Person Tea
Denny and I haven’t been able to get together for tea until very recently, which has resulted in a longer lapse in videos since we began. We’re finally getting back together and frankly speaking I miss it.. Drinking tea socially is a lot of fun for me and I wished I could do it more often before the pandemic. Now with the COVID situation forcing everyone back into extreme tea hermit status, I’m back to pretty much just solo tea drinking and virtual tea sessions which I like less.
The Future of Online Tea
I’m not going to pretend like I know what will happen here or make precise predictions. There’s a ton of uncertainty here and a really wide range of outcomes. I’m not very optimistic about how great the tea scene will be at least in the next couple years. While some vendors are based in China or Taiwan whose only obvious major setback is longer shipping times, and can more or less continue as is. But many also have regular sourcing trips built into their model that are compromised for at least the next year. Even just being able to get samples quickly from China to try is no longer easy. I’d anticipate at least some vendors calling it quits and the more resilient ones changing up their models somewhat. I’m also not sure if things like tea of the month club will be as popular as they were in 2017-2019. Will prices come down? Hard to say, I suppose it is possible.
Even more unknown is where this ends up settling long-term. There are a lot of unknowns globally in the next few years, and with an international product like ours that involves I don’t think anyone knows where the industry will end up.