Posted by happygaiwan

Dear Mr. Walker,


From one tea-lover to another, Mr. Walker, let me start on a positive note. You’ve done a lot for tea over the years. Regular video reviews, a consistent scoring system, one of the founders of the ATB. Very nice, well done. Lots of us who love tea inordinately would love to make a career out of it, and not only that, be considered a “big player” in the industry, who feels they can charge money to the public to read “exclusive content”. I know I would, except maybe that last part.

So I’m coming at this letter from a position of respect, albeit respect from a distance without actually liking you very much. That respect has since evaporated, and I certainly don’t like you any more now, due to a recent blog post of your yours. The one where you called TeaTrade, quote, a “clusterfuck”. I have chosen to omit your original censoring because I believe sentiments this strong should not be sugarcoated. My own sentiments in this letter are not going to be sugarcoated, either, so I hope you can handle a little salty language directed at your own person.

Where to start with calling a website a “clusterfuck”? Let’s start with this: how utterly and completely unprofessional. You sir, who have made a living in the tea industry, should know better than to talk about fellow professionals in such a manner. I’m not opposed to strong opinions, I have them myself, and believe they should be voiced more often. But not in the way you did, not by being an asshole, on a professional website. Some degree of tact would have been called for, at the very least. Not everything has to be wishy-washy and sanitized to avoid hurting people’s feelings, but the website you so “wittily” called a clusterfuck is somebody’s professional livelihood. Imagine if the CEO of Google called Yahoo, say, a “complete fucking disaster”. Of course, Google stands to benefit from that statement, just as you, I would argue, would stand to benefit from people going to your site instead of TeaTrade. Remember those Apple ads where the Apple Dude made fun of the PC Schlub all the time? Funny, but it made Apple look like complete dicks, and didn’t really endear them to people who maybe didn’t like Apple to begin with and might have been won over by good advertising.

I can afford to be an snarky asshole sometimes, Mr. Walker, because I am not a professional. I can be catty about, say, David’s Tea or Teavana as much as I like because I don’t stand to benefit from that criticism. Should I enter the tea business as a vendor, you can bet your sweet bippy that I would NOT call them what I call them now. It’s just not good business to call your competition horrible. It lessens you. Best to play the positive game.

The above wouldn’t apply to you if you were just a blogger, Mr. Walker, but you charge money to folks to access certain content on your site. That makes you a kind of business, and that means you play by different rules.

Let’s move on to your criticism of TeaTrade itself: It’s not a very good marketplace. Well, maybe it isn’t, but that’s not the point of the website. I joined TeaTrade on invitation from the site owners, and I liked what I saw: a good community of tea bloggers and tea friends. The marketplace is a secondary thing, which might explain why it’s not in the best shape. Yes, TeaTrade’s tagline is “Tea’s Social Marketplace”, and maybe that should change. But the key part there is “Social”. We get together on TeaTrade and talk about tea, that most social of beverages. Yes, there is a marketplace on the side, much in the same way that some blogs have sales. If the marketplace isn’t the greatest, well, so fuckin’ what? I haven’t seen TeaTrade primarily as a place to sell tea in quite some time. At all, in fact. Which makes your criticism of the whole site quite myopic, and frankly more mean spirited than it already was.

Now, I said before that I didn’t really like you. That wasn’t entirely true. I simply wasn’t a fan, which is not the same as outright hating you. I find your videos to be dispassionate and boring, and your blog posts to be terse and not particularly well-written. Is this mean-spirited of me? It might be, but I always tempered my criticism with a fundamental respect for what you were doing. Certainly your business wasn’t affected, and not a lot of people really care what I have to say, anyways.

For some reason, people DO care what you say. And your comments about TeaTrade may have very well affected the business of two very hardworking people who have kept this site afloat on not that much money, and until very recently without advertisements (advertisements being something you openly ask for on your own site). TeaTrade may not be the slickest website on the internet, it isn’t perfect, but it’s my home, it’s where my friends are, and I will defend it from pointless slander to the best of my ability. It’s a clusterfuck I love.




Christopher Gibson, AKA Happy Gaiwan

5 Responses to “An Open Letter to Jason Walker”

  1. Profile photo of lazyliteratuslazyliteratus said:

    I echo your sentiment…to a point. I can’t criticize the marketplace on this site one way or the other. (I’m here as a broke blogger, after all.) However, Walker’s business is giving his opinion. Professional or not, it’s an opinion he’s entitled to – no matter how hyperbolic.

    And I don’t consider TT a clusterfuck in the slightest. His site…now THAT could use some work. There aren’t any indications of what is “premium” content and what isn’t.

  2. Profile photo of thedevoteathedevotea said:

    Hmmm, Chris, as usual you are getting excitable, so I’ve gone to have a look at the source to see the basis of your ire.
    Jason Walker is pretty well guilty of everything you say, in addition to confusing “cite” with :site” in that very sentence.
    What is more of value is to analyse the facts as presented by both Jason and yourself.
    Firstly, Jason is one of those who believes that tea should be unblended, unadulterated and preferably sourced direct from the farmer.This does place him at odds with many vendors on TT. And he gets commission on some of them if you buy them, so yes, he competes with the sellers on TeaTrade in that regard. He also has a partly subscription-based blog, which I guess competes with all the bloggers that blog for free on TT.
    The real questions here are: is he behaving unprofessionally, as you say, and is he right in his critique?
    I have to side with you on the first question, he is being rude and unprofessional. And usually, Chris, you and I are the rudest tea people there are, so that’s saying something.
    Is he right? Well, what specifics is he unhappy about? He claims Tealet is better than Tea Trade “because it connects you to the farmers”. To me that is more of a statement that Tealet conforms to his belief system, not evidence it is better. Overall, he states: “Would-be customers don’t know what to choose, how to choose, and how to easily flow between talk about teas and teas for sale. The overall shopping experience is dis-jointed”.
    Apart from the odd hyphen in the last word, the criticism appears valid at first glance.
    Or is it? Tea Trade is like a library next door to a store – you have to move between the reading and the purchasing. Individual bloggers can link their teas to their text (I get chided for not doing this enough by TT, but I always feel uncomfortable doing so too much, it distracts from the text.
    Does the customer know what to choose. Well, there are clues, but TT facilitates a journey of discovery. It does not tell you what to think.
    At the end of the day, he is ascribing functions to TT that is does not purport to offer, judging it by his own belief system, and finds it wanting.
    He’s like a TV evangelist who sees other evangelists on TV with a different message, one he doesn’t agree with, and so therefore he blames the company who made the TV. An imperfect analogy but in the ballpark.
    There is always room in the tea community for discussion, and Jason is entitled to his opinion. However, in this case, he comes out looking shrill and just plain wrong, and like any member of any community, he must expect to have that pointed out.

  3. Profile photo of riccaicedoriccaicedo said:

    I don’t sell teas either, but the TT community has helped a lot with my new blog’s traffic and learned about other blogs to follow.
    I wonder why he used such a rude expression when he could so easily express his opinion in other words.
    He might just have shot himself in the foot.

  4. Profile photo of brambram said:

    And a new word learned. Had to look it up.

    Just looked him up and found his predictions. Nothing special there considering that quality tea is a growing market and changing market.

    ATB losing old members, not weird as people are evolving, growing and moving on. Most people blog only for a few years (whatever the subject) and than move on to new things.

    I have not not really tried the TT marketplace yet (have too much tea to actively look for more online), but I did not get the impression that is was more clusterfucked than most of the internet (okay, that did not sound like a compliment, but it is)

    It could of course be a way to urge TT to improve before we are wiped out by competition. Something he tries to stimulate by urging others to do better. I.e. a psychological trick to stir things up a bit. On the other hand, it might be a trick of competition bashing, something I would not be surprised of, based on his about. I can’t honestly say which of these 2 options or which other option are part of the truth.

    In other word a clusterfucked predictions-post.

  5. Profile photo of jackiejackie said:

    And there I thought Jason didn’t know us because he’s doesn’t follow me back anywhere. Not on twitter and not on G+. Seems like he’s very aware of us after all. Oh, wait. He doesn’t know know how to spell our name. Tea Trade. Jason, not Teatrade. And he thinks we’re all about a marketplace. Err, we’re not. Yes, I know it’s in the slogan. A left-over from the early days. But everyone who spends time here knows we’re a social site for tea writers and tea lovers in general. Our tea sellers have their own websites and their own stores. They’re just hosted by us.
    I think Jason knows full well that Tea Trade is a place where many members of the tea community gather to write and talk. Did he mention that? No. Did he say anything good about the tea community which is all of us? No. Is that a pity? I think so.

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