Missteps & Regrets on TeaDB

In the five years of TeaDB, we’ve made plenty of mistakes and said countless of dumb things in our hours of airtime on TeaDB. This is a list of areas where in retrospect I feel like I would’ve done stuff differently.

Naming Ourselves TeaDB

For those that don’t know, TeaDB stands for Tea Database.. Our name has always made me a little uncomfortable and personally I wish we’d chosen something else. Our strength isn’t in branding or name creation so I’m not sure what I would’ve named us instead. My issue with our name is that it implies a sort of factual, objective organization, which really isn’t what we are (we are two guys making videos drinking tea and BSing).  A good version of steepster or a tea wiki would be more aptly paired with a name like TeaDB.

I’ve seen us been deridingly been mocked as “so called experts” on tea forums before. While I think we’ve been pretty good overall about being honest about our experience or lack thereof I suspect this criticism is rooted in the implications our name.

  • I suppose this one can’t be too big a regret either, since I lack the energy to actually change it.

Starting Too Early & Repping Some Bad Vendors

We’ve done over 400 episodes on the show, so this one is somewhat inevitable.. Our very first TeaDB episode were Verdant Tea. Three of our first five episodes were Verdant.. I don’t really think it’s going out on a limb to say that we probably would’ve saved ourselves some embarrassment if we waited half a year before starting TeaDB. There’d certainly be a bit less regret on vendor choices. But then again, it is also kind of fun and a little interesting to look back at the early episodes..  Our tea journeys also likely would’ve been dramatically different and likely slower. Avoiding public embarrassment can be a powerful motivator, even if we don’t always succeed in this department.

I think after a year or so we improved at filtering teas and vendors. You could argue that this has resulted in us covering the same vendors over and over (YS/W2T). I also suspect once people have settled into more steady tea routines that they will end up settling on just a few sources, rather than trying 20 new tea sources per year.

Another specific vendor mistake that I think about are the Tea Classico episodes, a vendor I now consider to be meh at best. We reviewed a bunch of their teas over a year into the show.. Another thing that these episodes highlight is the learning curve for something that isn’t well-represented in the western scene, more aged/traditionally stored pu’erh.

  • One frustration is that new viewers will go back to our initial episode to start. I would much rather someone jump randomly in the middle of our episodes than go back to that initial episode on Verdant’s Tieguanyin, which at the time of this writing has 7,500 views (over 10x the average episode view count).

The Early Episodes of TeaDB. Silly & Bizarre Choices

If you start from the beginning and watch some of our early episodes it’s pretty easy to find episodes where if we filmed it now the episode would’ve turned out different. There’s also some pretty silly episodes. We were extremely new to pu’erh in the beginning and we made such brilliant decisions as brewing 2009 7542 with 12 grams in 130ml (this was my decision).. My stomach curdles just thinking about that episode. We’ve re-reviewed that same tea twice recently, once with Denny and once with Emilio.. The tea is older, a bit smoother, and in my opinion a little nicer. I hope that we’ve improved as well.

Not all of the early vendors we reviewed are bad. We also reviewed Floating Leaves and Yunnan Sourcing twice within the first ten episodes, two vendors I still consider to be very good and heartily recommend. Strangely we also reviewed a fair amount of Japanese tea early on, including an episode of me making Matcha while Denny is in a sling. Even more bizarrely, these are some of our most viewed episodes. If you are a Japanese tea person considering a channel, I think there is a real audience out there..

Another thing that has got me scratching my head were the episodes from a couple years ago where I decided to review a series of teas in my pajamas.. I don’t think we’ll ever succumb to the frequent criticism to be significantly more professional or dressed up (TeaDB is for fun). But geez dude. Get dressed before you hit that record button.


  • 2009 Menghai 7542 901, Episode 6
  • Ryu Mei’s Matcha, Episode 9

Overreaches in Written Content & Objectivity

Most of the truly embarrassing stuff is well-preserved within the confines of our Youtube Channel. The signal to noise in my opinion is much better for written content. I’ve always tried to be ambitious in the written content, and there are certain posts that make me uncomfortable in retrospect. For instance, one of the earliest articles was a post on the Price of High Mountain Tea. This article puts a lot of trust into vendors to be smart and honest. I’ve also since been to Taiwan and seen some of the real prices (they’re lower) and recognize that the prices on the article are a poor representation of the actual Taiwanese market and really just show what is available to westerners. If I were to redo these articles, they’d probably be structured far more similarly to the numerically-driven pieces on pu’erh I’ve done recently and contain more caveats. Similar mistakes were made in Wuyi Special Regions where I used unreliable information in a table on the ages of LCSX bushes.

These sorts of posts, combined with the “TeaDB” moniker lend to an aura of objectivity that we’re frankly not well-qualified for. Many early articles also tend to take a tone of objective authority. More recent articles read more like blog posts and are more honest in their tone and perspective.

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21 responses to “Missteps & Regrets on TeaDB”

  1. TeaDB has always been a source of debate and reflection, I think you are both way too harsh on yourselves. Its light and entertaining as well as a source of information to look at our tea journeys from a different perspective. There are many who proclaim to be experts in Tea but after all its all subjective, I think by keeping it honest and open you guys allow that debate and reflection without patronizing or being condescending to both beginners and old timers.

  2. I always thought that TEADB stood for “Tea’s Excellence and Defining Beauty”, and the ORG stood for “Outrageously Ridiculous Guys”, to provide juxtaposition.

    You know I didn’t really think that. But you can use this now. You’re welcome. 😉

  3. I still laught laugh today with the jian shui joke from the 12 grams 7542 video. TeaDB is great. It really gave me a sense of how normal and casual drinking tea Gong Fu style could be. You’re just 2 normal guys enjoying tea. It made me feel that my tea hobby is absolutely normal.

  4. James,

    Ok, I always thought that”Teadb” was an odd name for a blog, and for some of the reasons that you mentioned. But so what? It grew on me. Regarding the rest, I think it is a great chronicle of a person(s) development and growth in appreciating/gathering tea in the West. It’s an over used saying that it’s the journey and not the destination that holds the value. In this case it’s definitely true. I hope the journey continues for many more years.

  5. You’re too hard on yourself! It’s all part of the journey. You’ve built an awesome community around your blogs and videos. That’s something to celebrate. My first blog posts definitely make me cringe but they also show how far I’ve come since then.

    • Thanks Nicole. Your blog is the village elder of bloggers. Makes the rest of us look like unruly teenagers.

      Cheers to blogging!

  6. Tea for me is a learning experience and if your database is filled with tea porn or topography of the five mountains… I think there are those of us that will find either enjoyable. I mean really, I haven’t seen one Om sign or posters of spiritual enlightenment anywhere so..at least there’s that. I have found the videos good and will give a “like” if you make me laugh (the main reason). The write-ups are also nice and informative. I switch between coffee and tea so it’s nice to have videos and posts I can catch up on when I come back. Even if you have to fire Stevie to keep the show going, some of us aren’t lucky to have our own video editor/engineer in our home studios, I’d say keep it going. Because you know at the end of the day, it’s usually night.

  7. Hey James – lt;ft :

    I’ve been watching you guys since the very beginning and it’s interesting to hear your perspective about your tea journey. It’s a little different because you’ve got a video documentation of your journey whereas most of us just have a pile of tea and empty bank accounts.

    It’s natural to grow and change, and we can only connect the dots looking backward. I have always appreciated your content and I hope to see it continue in whichever forms you guys continue to produce.

  8. we are two guys making videos drinking tea and BSing

    teabs.org isn’t registered yet. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  9. The 12g 7542 video with the jianshui is epic. I am impressed at how you seem to enjoy it. I had such a good laugh today. I will look my jianshui pot differently now.

    Don’t change anything guys. Unfortunately, for most of us, tea drinking is a solo activity. It is great to be part of your sessions as a friend rather than as students of a tea master.
    I would certainly not be where I am today in my tea journey without your influence.

  10. I have always appreciated the light hearted nature of your posts, and frankly, the growth and change you guys have also displayed along the way. Because really, nothibg remains the same forever. And isn’t that what sone tras are all about?

  11. Hey James,

    I only found you two back at the end of 2018, but I have to say that since then, TeaDB has been an invaluable resource to me, and I’ve watched almost everything, from your early to recent videos, and read most of the articles on the site. Your progression as a drinker and collector has been extremely helpful in my own tea journey, and I feel confident in saying that, along with many other newer puerh afficionados, TeaDB has provided for me what MarhalN and others did for you in your early days. Your honesty and humble approach are greatly appreciated and extremely refreshing. Thank you and Denny so much for all you’ve done for our community. It means a lot to have such an incredible resource at our fingertips.

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