mtchyg said

State of Steepster

(Cross posted from a review I just left)

First off, hi to any of you who are still active here

I don’t get a chance to sit down and drink tea and review it too often anymore. Having a toddler and two other children tends to interfere with having downtime to yourself.

But what this looks like it will turn into is a comment on the state of Steepster. The first thing I noticed was all the spam on the discussion page. Yikes. I joined Steepster around 4 or 5 years ago, I think, and was entranced by all the constant reviews and vibrant discussions that seemed to be continually going on. Not to mention all the tea swaps and other sources of information and entertainment. I was very sad to see the state of the discussion board. I decided to check out my dashboard and found much of the same. A very low amount of activity. Then I went to the people I’m following and checked in with their reviews and it seems a large majority who used to be super active haven’t posted much in the last year, if at all. I’m definitely guilty of this myself but it seems about a year and a half ago when I stopped coming on as often due to a new baby situation, everyone else decided that was when they would step away as well.

I’m kind of sad to come back here and see the state of it. This was the first place that introduced me to the wide world of teas and all the knowledge that could be found here through reviews and discussion. But it seems no longer. I’m sure that is just a natural progression but it still makes me sad. I don’t know of another place that is quite like this one.

Le sigh.

118 Replies
LuckyMe said

Man I feel the same way about the state of Steepster as you. People still continue to post tasting notes which is good but the discussion section is quite frankly depressing. The spam problem has gotten out of control and puts off would-be posters. Why would anyone want to post to a board where the first 3 pages are nothing but ads for escort services and shady companies? I’m baffled as to why they won’t implement simple anti-spam measures like captcha to stop the spam bots like every other website does.

Reddit Tea is good alternative, but isn’t the same and I feel even less inclined to post there. Also, a lot of the discussion has shifted in recent years from Steepster to social media. Many of the OG Steepsterites are quite active on Instagram as I am. I like seeing them in my IG feed, but its not really the best medium for focused discussions.

mtchyg said

I hear you on all of this. I follow some on Instagram but don’t use it enough amd it’s not really reviews or ways to search new teas and if they are any good or not. And yeah, the reddit site… I have reddit but, you’re right, also not the same. I’m gonna miss looking up teas and finding the recommendations for them
It’s such a unique and wonderful site. Nothing quite like it. A shame it’s not being kept up by whoever is running it

There’s definitely still pockets of active people here on Steepster; but more so in terms of flavoured teas versus straight/traditional ones (not to say there are people who post about those either though).

Agreed that part of the shift seems to be people gravitating to reddit and instagram (for various reasons, some of which I’ll talk about below) – I’ve done so also in addition to being quite active here. I do miss the community aspect though quite a lot – things like tea swaps, travelling tea boxes, etc. They are definitely less of a thing than they used to be.

I sort of feel like the group of people here on Steepster from 4-5 years ago who initially were a bit more into flavoured teas/blended teas eventually “graduated” to straight teas and then to things like pu’erh/heicha/aged teas – and at that point, there just wasn’t really much knowledge/resource for that category of tea drinker here on Steepster: the majority of tea companies still posting/active/promoting their teas were flavoured teas and other sites were able to offer better vendor interaction or knowledge pertaining those types of teas, and thus people went to those places…

From what I can remember, the bulk of very active Steepster people around 2 or 3 years ago were around the age group of people getting married/having kids/etc (like yourself) – all of which equates to less free time.

I still hold out hope that a new ‘cycle’ of tea drinkers will venture to the site (a replenishment of flavoured tea drinkers, if you will – before the ‘graduation’ cycle begins again) – but with the amount of spam going on it seems less and less likely…

mtchyg said

That all makes sense. It was just a huge shock to see such a mass exodus within a years time. Because I absolutely still want to be a part of the community

Yeah, if the Steepster team doesn’t use advertisements on Steepster, I highly doubt they are promoting the site anywhere else either. So hopefully tea fans are spreading the word. I’m not even sure how I found the site initially…though that was a WHILE ago.

AJ said

Heh, I still remember: Librarything. I know Steepster is still active on Twitter, and Jason is still around diligently clearing out the spam people link. For a while I was just sitting in the Explore tab deleting every new, obvious spam-account before they could post, but.

I will admit, yesterday seemed like the SLOWEST day on my dashboard.. I counted only a handful of tasting notes from people I follow in about 12 hours. And if less people are visiting Steepster, it means less people taking care of spammers (I try to when I’m on). Some of the Steepsterers have the ability to take care of spammers, so maybe it’s time for Jason to allow a few more people to do that. Though I agree, there should be a captcha or something to stop spammers… I mean… it’s the same usernames over and over again signing up for Steepster!

mtchyg said

Yeah, or maybe if the person running the site has lost the interest, hand it to someone who wants to keep up on it.

Ubacat said

Yes, I only pop in intermittently these days. I remember all the tea swaps and travelling tea boxes. They were lots of fun. I think Steepster really needs changing to keep peoples interests. Over time some of my old reviews started disappearing so it forced me to start keeping my own notes on my computer.

mtchyg said

I miss those times. I was just so shocked to see it have fallen so far. I’m not sure what the people who run the site could do. Maybe get better at spam blocking as others have mentioned. It’s really a great and unique site. It’s a shame.

YuNow said

Well, we “all” use phones these days, so the FB or Isnt. ( which we “all” also have ) , it’s much convenient to “troll” or show off there. Hope this sentence will be understood correctly;-) When I follow steepster Inst. I believe they heading to the their own tea biz, so maybe that’s why don’t bother even invest 10$ for captcha module. This website not making money anyway and if should ( so can even bother to maintain it ) , it would probably turn to the Tea Chat concept, which owner probably doesn’t want to. Also people more watch than read , so pictures, videos are more followed than just text. I might be wrong in statistics but my feeling about it anyway. Sure MLF is a proof of that ( their YT channel ). How many followers steepster has in all those years, right?
Anyway, my whole point is that future is in the phone.

This might be why I’m still a Steepster fanatic – I don’t use smartphones or facebook, so I love Steepster as it is (just without the spam).

mtchyg said

I mean, yeah phones are the future but I’m posting and responding to this on my phone right now so it can be done but the reviewing and rating bit is probably more difficult. Maybe I’m old school but I rather enjoy reading people’s descriptions and journeys with the tea rather than the stylized photos. Though I’m also still the person who refuses to read books on electronic devices. Oh well.

mrmopar said

Old school here too. Not much on most of the other medias as much.

I don’t have a cell phone. So there is at least one person on the planet who isn’t using them. I actually loathe how much stuff is “forcing” SMS verification and other such stuff… like, really, you expect me to have to pay for cell service to use your software when I just want to run it on my DESKTOP computer? No thanks…

I am really not a “social media” type person. I’m not on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/any of that stuff. I do lurk Reddit, but rarely post on it… but I think it’s because it reminds me more of older forums in its style, perhaps. shrugs Just to really date myself, I will still chat on IRC. Anyone remember that? No one? Didn’t think so…

I remember IRC. :-) But then I remember CompuServe…

YuNow said

Well I have noticed that mostly the tasting notes are written by beginners ( no offense please ). So people who already drink long time have no reason to read or write anything about the tea ( unless the real enthusiast ) , since they have their own opinion on taste and methods how to buy good tea without need to check from some beginners ( who they were before as-well so they know the value of those notes ..again ..no offense please ) on steepster. Yes , there are few advanced drinkers here as well.
What I’m trying to point it here , why steepster looses “naturally” the older audience.
The phone issue is the “naturally” not gaining the new audience.
I found rather than inconvenient to type or navigate in this website via phone, and I have big screen one. Nowadays the phone apps are well adjusted ( size of buttons, menu simplicity ..etc ) , sure u all know.
My eyes are good, yet I have to zoom +/- and shift the screen with finger…that’s really old school and I go on those type websites when I really really have to. I’m in my 40’s , and not the high tech guy, just simple natural choice of using something more convenient.
What I enjoy about the steepster ( without the spam and vendor/s promotions ) is the small active community dedicated to the tea. That’s the advantage from the FB.

Possibly I love tea too much, but I’m always willing to read what beginners have to say even on a tea I’ve tried before. And I might have been drinking tea for 14 (or so) years now, and drank thousands of different teas, but I still consider myself a beginner? I guess it all depends on each person and where they think they’re at. I think that is one of the purposes of Steepster, to see what others find in tea. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to tea (and no offense taken).

mtchyg said

What you say is probably mostly true.

I wouldn’t really consider myself a beginner (though of course not an expert either) but I suppose I continue to write for two reasons. The first is that I find joy in it & I like having a five year record not only of the teas I’ve drank and how my thoughts on them and own taste preferences and abilities have changed over time, but also on my own life over the last five years that I’ve incorporated into my reviews…

The second reason is because I know that seeing the reviews of other people here on Steepster that I deemed experts (at the time) when I started drinking tea five or six years ago was what helped me navigate my first few tea purchases and eventually start writing reviews myself. So, I suppose I’m hoping that I might do the same for someone else and continue that cycle.

Over on the DAVIDsTEA Fan Page on FB, there was a post not too long ago asking if anyone had tea themed instagram accounts – and I mentioned mine (which shares basically the same username as my Steepster account). I was shocked when someone commented back that they had stumbled upon my Steepster page a few years back when looking for things to do to pass the time while undergoing chemo treatments. She said, to paraphrase, that reading my tea reviews during treatments created something to look forward to during an otherwise difficult time period. That was INCREDIBLY inspiring to me, and filled me with so much motivation to continue writing – just seeing how those reviews might impact people who are (perhaps) not really active members of the Steepster Community but still silently there and learning from reading the tasting notes or just getting amusement from them.

mtchyg said

That’s amazing, Roswell! Thanks for sharing that.

LuckyMe said

I agree with Roswell Strange, people’s reviews on Steepster have and continue to be an invaluable resource for me when shopping for tea. There’s no other tea review site quite like it and the reviews are basically Steepster’s bread and butter at this point. There are so many amazing teas I drink now thanks to Steepster reviews that I would never have discovered had someone not taken the time to review it here. And I’ve avoided a lot of bad tea due to Steepster too. And that’s why I try to pay it forward by sharing my tea insights with others.

BTW, Roswell you are, by far and away the most prolific reviewer here on Steepster. If they ever start making money you should get a commission for the sheer amount of tea reviews that you’ve contributed to the site. You’re an inspiration to us all!

Haha – I get plenty just from the satisfaction and ritual of writing reviews/notes: it’s as much for me as anyone else ;) Though, if Jason wants to pay me I certainly wouldn’t complain.

I dunno, I think whether I find a note valuable has less to do with whether someone is a beginner or not and more to do with whether the way they express their experience helps me understand it. It’s like movie or book reviews — there are some reviewers who I know if they like something, I’ll like it because our tastes and aesthetic values are similar. Others, I know that if they hate something I’ll like it. I agree that a lot of people follow a progression from drinking highly flavored things to drinking straight teas — that’s what I did, because I learned how to make a decent cup of tea on the flavored stuff. So naturally, the plain teas tasted better to me once I’d learned to do that. But I still enjoy a good flavored tea because I’ve tasted enough not so great ones to appreciate how hard it must be to blend something that really fires on all cylinders. Variety is the spice of life and all that.

mrmopar said

I am still around. late days at work don’t allow me much posting time but I still try and keep up.

mtchyg said

I appreciate that. I’m going to try to get back in it now that my kids are a bit older.

YuNow said

Reddit lately is going trough some adjustments / improvements and it’s a question of time when they make some tasting database platform , if not have any made yet. It has an app and can stick the pictures as well, just shame it uses 3rd party platform , which I don’t bother to register. Also have to use vpn because it’s blocked in China. (steepster not).
Well just expressing my opinion, don’t take me wrong please. For example this afternoon I’m invited to some vip pu-erh club in Kunming because some Taiwanese lao cha vendor came over and want’s to have cuppa&chat. There should be also old pottery , teapots etc. I’l be taking some pictures and writing impressions about that. Well, will post on Instagram which I’ve connected with FB , because it’s handier like that and feeds my purpose. When I get home , no mood or time to download – upload images somewhere and type some story. I post via PC usually when have time after meal with tea or morning when having b-fast.
So just giving an example of behavior on of the xxxx ? steepster users.

jamin said

Thanks for starting this thread. As a relative newcomer (about a year) it’s given me some insight on my own experience. I’ve honestly felt some embarassment looking at some of my earlier reviews and it has led me to be less active on here. That and the fact that I’m not a flavor describer (i.e. notes of cut hay and strawberries), and my reluctance to post negative reviews has led me to question weather I have much to offer when reviewing teas.

This thread has got me thinking that any amount of participation on steepster is a good thing and can be helpful to someone. I think I’ll be participating more.

Welcome! I’m excited to read some of your notes :)

Also, regarding some of your points, don’t worry about not being good or accurate about describing flavour – flavour is a subjective experience so there’s no incorrect way to do it. What one person tastes may not be the same as another, and that’s totally ok! I also feel like sometimes it’s helpful for people to see that diversity as well – it can indicate so many things in a tea, like inconsistency or flavour changes over time. The “vocubulary” in terms of tasting is also a skill that definitely develops over time; I don’t think anyone is good at doing it when they first start.

But also, if it’s not your jam and you just don’t want to comment on things like flavour there are still plenty of other worthwhile things to say in a review. Plus, some people use their reviews as more of a personal log – I know I like to make note of things like preparation differences when they change how I perceive a tea (either positively OR negatively).

Also, I personally don’t have issues writing negative views. I mean, just reasonably speaking you’re never going to like everything and to expect that of yourself or others is just crazy. But also, sometimes I find negative reviews can still be constructive. Some vendors who are active on Steepster have stated that they like to see negative reviews so they can improve future blends if there’s a consistent trend of things that people dislike. Also, it can help you learn and be able to reflect on your own taste preferences – for me, having a record of things I didn’t like definitely helped me realize some trends in terms of flavours that weren’t doing it for me. Finally; what might be a negative to you could be a positive for someone else! As an example, you might post a note that says something like “I really didn’t enjoy that the ginger was the strongest flavour in this blend; I was hoping that I would taste the pear notes more” and someone could read that and go “Oh, I was concerned the pear would be too strong but now that I know the ginger is the strongest flavour I want to try that!” – as I said, taste is subjective. All good reasons to post negative reviews! They can totally still be done tastefully!

Jamin – PLEASE no embarrassment! If you are tasting snozzberries in a tea and no one else is, you aren’t wrong! Teas can even be completely different to me depending on the steep parameters, so what I’m tasting this time could be different next time. You can’t really write a wrong tasting note. :D
And I agree with everything Roswell wrote.

mrmopar said

Jamin is one I have come across. Excellent swapper as well.
No worries on what you taste or note. Some get things I don’t and I pick up other things as well. We all have our unique taste buds.

mtchyg said

Thanks Jamin! I remember being very intimidated when I first started reviewing here for the same reasons but the community was very helpful and supportive. I say write what you feel or are thinking while drinking the tea. Don’t worry about accurate pinpoint flavor descriptions. That’s really not my strongest suit either. I try and sometimes it feels repetitive but I still think it is worth it. Thanks again Jamin. Looking forward to your posts

jamin said

Thanks for all the comments and support. I really appreciate it. Looking forward to more good Steepster interactions.

derk said

Hey jamin, nice to see another newer member posting in this thread. I told another “fellow newb”, Kawaii433 once: “Do ya thang, drink yo tea, all things blurry will come to be.”

Each tea drinker has their own approach and what they value in teas. I believe everybody should post their own individual reaction rather than following any format. It’s all subjective anyway besides steeping parameters, so no reason to worry about specific taste notes. While the tasting notes menu focuses more on specific flavors, there are general descriptors such as fruity, floral, vegetal, round, heavy, tannic, astringent, bitter, etc. that can aide in your reviews.

I hope to see some more reviews from you, especially since we’re both (I think?) in a similar timeline in our puerh explorations.

Leafhopper said

I joined a couple years ago and the spam on the discussion boards has always been bad (though I think it’s getting worse). People definitely seem to prefer posting pictures of their tea on Instagram, but like many of you, I think the text-based format of Steepster leads to more thoughtful reviews and comments.

I’m not a great flavour describer either compared to some of you, and others’ reviews have definitely helped me find new teas to buy and covet. I’m going to keep posting here in the hope that this community can stay afloat.

mtchyg said

Thanks Leafhopper. I hope some of us can help keep it relevant and running. And hopefully some admin will do something about the spam. It is definitely worse now than ever I can remember

I like to think I’m one of those people who is currently “active” on Steepster right now, but I think the “long time users” don’t really think of me because I joined back in 2017 and don’t have the “longevity” of many of the rest. I have been trying to get the access to help fight the spam issue, but there isn’t much you can do when the admins are taking their time “flipping the switch” on your account, you know? All I can do is report it to the other people that do have the ability to do it rather than just take care of it myself, and that just get frustrating for me, since I do try to do something about it… but the truth of the matter is, it’s just a game of whack-a-mole because this site doesn’t have e-mail verification on new accounts or anything more “strict” to fight against it from the “ground level”. I was basically told by someone else, “You’ll just drive yourself crazy by the massive amounts of spam accounts being made every minute.”

I do read every tea review that comes through my dashboard, even if it takes me a few days to catch up. Sometimes I have a lot and it takes me a while to get caught up, and sometimes it is pretty slow. I tend to leave a few tea postings a week, since I don’t review teas I’ve already reviewed (unless it’s been a year+ since the initial review), and right now I’m mainly working on sipping down teas I’ve already reviewed/drunk before. Ergo, my postings are slower than usual. I am just not the sort that feels the need to write about every single cup of tea I drink.

I am a bit annoyed that the Featured Members on the Explore page lists mainly people who haven’t posted in 3+ years (some haven’t in 7+ years!) and isn’t updated with those members who are currently active. It makes it hard for someone like me who joined two years ago to find the pocket of folks currently using the site. I wish that section would be updated/rotated with those members actually using Steepster right now, but that’s probably just one more thing that’ll never be updated/addressed.

Mastress Alita, you’re already a trusty Steepsterer. :D
I never thought about that Featured Members page. I’ve never really used that as I’ve been on the site for years. But now that you mention it, if someone new is clicking on those and they see that most of those people haven’t been around for years, it could make Steepster look very very dead. I think that definitely needs to be updated.

For the record, I also view you as a trusted and established part of the Steepster community!

Also – sorry for giving you a probably ridiculous amount of reading content on the weekends; I tend to “batch” my reviews (basically I just keep a list of everything I drank during the week that was a personal choice to drink and not a work related one) and then on Friday/Saturday/Sunday I just write them all up. Sometimes it’s a lot of notes… Like this weekend, which was 30+…

And agreed; I really wish that section of the site would be updated. I know that five/six years ago when I joined Steepster I found it helpful since a lot of those people were still active – and it gave me a really good starting off point for who to follow/learn from. Surely it did the same for others too, so it’s a shame it no longer functionally serves that purpose.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.