As a blogger, I get contacted a lot by tea vendors.
“Please review our tea” they say. “We’ll send you some, and you can write lovely things about it”.
This is often a very bad idea. If you’re a tea vendor, there are some really good reasons why you shouldn’t do it. However, I am very disturbed by the fact that a large number seem to be deciding against it for the wrong reason- geography.
Most often these vendors have found me, not because news of my blog has spread far and wide and they are clamouring to touch the hem of my garb, but because I am featured in the best resource of its type, Jen Picotti’s annual Tea Blogger’s Directory.
The directory clearly says “60+ bloggers in 14 countries.” My own entry starts with “Est. 2011. Location: Adelaide, South Australia”
And yet, this year alone, I have had ELEVEN approaches by vendors offering me tea, and after my agreeing to try it, the offer is withdrawn when they get my delivery address.
It’s like they have suddenly noticed that some people do not live in America, and basically, they have a hard time handling it. I feel like I have, in some small way, I have forced them to face the awful truth that there are places in the world that have some value, despite the inherent rudeness of them not being in America.
Does eleven sound like a lot? Well, I’ve had only three other approaches this year: from India, Taiwan and Italy. Yep, Italy. All three sent me stuff.
Underlying all of this is that free stuff for me is not the point of the exercise for anyone involved. It’s promotion, feedback , buzz, the vibe. It’s becoming the name and taste on everyone’s lips.
Over 80% of my readership is in the USA, over 85% is in North America. Where I live is quite a stupid reason to not have me publicly share my opinion on your tea or teaware. Yes, you eleven, I’m calling you stupid.
There are, however, some excellent reasons not to have me review your tea, and nearly all of them are actually in the very directory these guys are getting my details from:
Let’s take this one:
Currently reviewing: Tea, Tea accessories (strainers, cozies, etc.), Teaware (tea pots, cups, etc), Tea inspired health/beauty products, Tea inspired books, Tea venues, Anything tea, but I am not primarily a review site.
The last five words are a bit of a giveaway, I think.
And then there’s:
Post review on every tea/product received: No.
And yet, many of the offers are “We’ll send it to you if you promise to write about it”. Sometimes they even want to specify it must a good review.
That last factor is quite sad: it tells me that there are bloggers out there that will cheerfully wrote a good review for 10c worth of tea. In fact, as a vendor, I’ve sometimes been approached by them.
And there’s the third reason NOT to have me review your teas: Since 2012, we have had our own line of teas. So why would you get me to review your English Breakfast Blend when we have eight* of our own?
And look at the description:
“In which life’s eternal questions are ignored in favour of a cup of tea. To intertwine tea and life, and write about one by writing about the other. To be the sort of blog people make a cup of tea, and slice a cake, before they sit down to enjoy”.
Does that sound like I’m the sort of person to say “Well, I steeped this at 98.5 degrees for 118 seconds and then breathed in the heady aroma of mushroom, mescaline and jellyfish**. FIVE STARS”?
Most of all, though, what amazes me is that people don’t actually read my blog before they approach me.
Here’s just three key points:
My preferences: A search reveals the words “genmaicha”, “matcha” or “Japanese” in a total FORTY-EIGHT of the blog posts I have ever written. I guarantee that if any these words is used in a sentence, it isn’t complimentary. For example: “matcha could only appeal to a colour-blind goat with no taste buds”. And yet, I get offered teas that any quick review of my blog will indicate are unlikely to get a great reception.
My allergies: I continually whine about being allergic to citrus fruits. yet I have had not just approaches, but unsolicited samples. One company sent me a tea with lemon peel in it, apologised and sent another with bergamot oil, then went one more round with orange peel. Great work, guys.
My anti-social behaviour: I bite the hand that feeds. I question claims vendors make. I deploy tea in unusual settings to try them. I set fire to things.
And finally: what if I actually do it?
I once reviewed a direct tea farmers subscription service by writing a time-flowing-backwards dramatic piece involving the threat of full frontal nudity.
I reviewed Bingley’s tea’s “Captain Wentworth” by taking Jane Austen quotes out of context and writing my own Austen-esque bits.
I once reviewed a tea house and concluded (humourously***) it deserved to be burnt down.
I think I’ve made my point: A vendor should think long and hard about whether I am the right person to review their tea. I’m probably not. But making the decision because I am based in South Australia, not South Carolina, is just a teensy bit stupid.
Come to think of it, it’s been quite a while since I’ve published any really bad poetry, so here’s my promise: the next tea review I do, I’ll bust out my best doggerel. You have been warned.
*at one point we had 8 different blends in the English/Irish Breakfast Style. I just love that style, but Lady Devotea made me stop being so silly. Nowadays we only have 1910. And Queen Adelaide. And Finbarr’s Revenge. And I reclassified Lord Petersham and The Duchess as English Afternoon Teas.
** I don’t even like matcha
*** and with no legal liability if someone does it.