In order for OTTI to continue ...


"Official Tea Tasting Initiative" Teas shared & discussed.

In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Chip » Sep 18th, '12, 18:57

I think I need to express my thoughts and concerns as I see them regarding OTTI tea tastings. I greatly enjoy OTTI tastings even though it is a huge challenge and a ton of work. I hope you do as well. If they are to continue, a few things need to be clarified.

As you read, please remember that the reason I enjoy OTTIs so much is not that I personally get to try more teas ... no, it is in the sharing of the opportunity with others to try many new teas.

So, please do not take any comments personally, not my intent. And I may not be 100% right, but there are certain realities of OTTI, practical aspects that may take precedent over other factors if OTTI is to continue indefinitely.

I am breaking the points down into several posts, hopefully logically.

Before I begin, a cornerstone of OTTI is to build relationships on varying levels that can be in conflict at times. We build our relationships with each other. We develop relationships with vendors who we may not try otherwise.

Also I apologize for the long winded nature of my posts. But I have given much thought to what I wanted to say.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Chip » Sep 18th, '12, 18:58

1) I consider the featured vendor(s) to be our guest(s) in a manner of speaking. We invite them to share their tea with us. This often comes at great risk, anxiety, expence, time ... and work on the vendor's part. I believe we need to endeavor to show them a level of respect and courtesy ... even if we find their teas are not the "best in the world." A degree of civility and tact is called for ...

I consider this much different than if we independently go out and buy some teas. However even in this case, responsibility in posting needs to be a top priority.

2) It is natural to judge selections, comparing to best or favorite examples of the same or similar selections. However, I view this differently. At the beginning, Adagio was pushing for comparitive tastings, sort of competition. After a great deal of thought, I rejected this platform and continued with my on going independent program of sharing teas.

Then OTTI was created, Official Tea Tasting Initiative. We are simply trying new teas, new perspectives, new vendors. OTTI was never designed to be competitive in nature.

For instance this OTTI 15 we are dealing with a grower/vendor, not a vendor who has the ability to go all over picking and selecting as they choose. A grower vendor does not have this luxury.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Chip » Sep 18th, '12, 18:59

3) Negatively comparing selections to others costing much more per gram is simply not fair to the vendor. You may note that I avoid doing direct comparison reviews and will often factor cost in and will even offer a cost adjusted/value rating. I do not expect a 12 USD sencha to compare equally or favorably to one costing twice as much, and I therefore do not judge it in direct comparison.

If you find disfavor with a selection, please offer your comments in a constructive, tactful manner just like if the vendor was sitting at the TeaTable with you as your tea-supplying guest (which he/she often is indirectly) ... and with all due respect and courtesy to our guest vendor.

Actually, yes ... if you are able to do this, all other concerns would likely be nonexistant.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Chip » Sep 18th, '12, 18:59

4) OTTI is a LOT of work for yours truly along with help from Mrs. Chip. It is both challenging and rewarding at the same time.

First a relationship with a vendor needs to be forged ... it needs to "click."

Then OTTI is pitched to the vendor, not easy.

Then all the planning and promotion involved.

The topic requires work as well.

Communication and payment processing. Packing and shipping takes hours.

... and the work is volunteer. There are no cash sponsors, etc.

Therefore, casually throwing a tea under the bus on first tasting is going to be met with some consternation especially if I feel it based on unfair comparisons, or something is drastically wrong besides just the tea itself as it was when it left here, etc.

5) Intentionally or purposely throwing a tea under the bus burns bridges. Here is definitely one of those I may be right or not things (though I feel I am right in the case of OTTI), however:

a. Vendors will simply not want to take the risk of participating.
b. I place my reputation on the line for OTTI tastings, much more so than basically anon members. In essence, I have to answer to vendors, nobody else does. My relationship with vendors is tied in part to OTTI. I will discontinue OTTI before I have others burn my bridges with vendors.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Chip » Sep 18th, '12, 19:00

6) OTTI must be mutually beneficial in order to continue. Our benefit is pretty obvious. If vendors see no benefit or even the contrary, they are likely to decline participating ... whether it is a first timer or a potential repeater.

7) Face it, we are TeaSnobs. And we have big "tEaGOs." However there is a time and place for TeaSnobbery to reign supreme on TeaChat, and I propose that OTTI is not the place. Not if OTTI is to continue ...
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Chip » Sep 18th, '12, 19:01

I know many of you take your tastings very seriously! And your reviews as well. I applaud you.

I hope you are all able to appreciate my PoV which is likely different from your own. Please keep in mind that I appreciate and respect your PoV and hope you will mine.

... lastly, finally.

Alternately I could just go out and buy teas, paying retail, passing the higher cost on to members, and then whatever happens ... who cares.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Remick » Sep 18th, '12, 19:59

Chip,

Concerning the numerical scoring system, is its use still encouraged? If so, in what capacity?
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Chip » Sep 18th, '12, 20:06

Remick wrote:Chip,

Concerning the numerical scoring system, is its use still encouraged? If so, in what capacity?


BTW, The numbers in my last OTTI 15 post above indicate a ratio of leaves in grams to water in ounces. So 2:1 indicates 2 grams leaves per 1 ounce water.

I created the numerical grading scale so we could endeavor to rate teas ... umm, better. Before one person's 3 might have meant fair to middling while another's may have meant very good.

I am considering changing the scale again ... A - F like a school grade. What do you think? :idea: :wink: :?:
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Remick » Sep 18th, '12, 20:46

Chip wrote:BTW, The numbers in my post above indicate a ratio of leaves in grams to water in ounces. So 2:1 indicates 2 grams leaves per 1 ounce water.


Now, you didn't really think I was referring to that, did you? :wink:

Chip wrote:I am considering changing the scale again ... A - F like a school grade. What do you think?


After your explanation of the tenuous situation you find yourself in, I understand your sensitivity to sharp negativity in tea reviews. Vendors are hoping for potential future sales in exchange for their participation. With that in mind, I'm thinking it would be better to use a "softer" grading system. Back in my elementary school days, teachers would use outstanding, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory (or something very close to that effect). Perhaps words --instead of numbers or letters-- should be used. It may serve to temper some of the harshness inherent to a grading system when combined with "constructive and tactful" comments.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Chip » Sep 18th, '12, 21:51

Remick wrote:
Chip wrote:BTW, The numbers in my post above indicate a ratio of leaves in grams to water in ounces. So 2:1 indicates 2 grams leaves per 1 ounce water.


Now, you didn't really think I was referring to that, did you? :wink:

Actually, I thought that I was first replying to that topic, not realizing that you actually replied to this topic. :shock: My mind is faltering due to missing a fallen TeaFriend. :cry:

Thank you for your input on the ratings ... interesting idea.

This entire topic is touchy as TeaChat has always been pretty much about free speech as long as it was factual and not distorted for whatever reason (we do run into this). However OTTI somehow needs to be a bit friendlier in its approach, like we are sitting with this new friend Tea Vendor.

We want to show that we appreciate his willingness to be a vendor participant, especially if we want their continued partication.

So I like the notion that they are sitting at our/your TeaTable! Which in part they are since the vendor is given a link to the topic, and they often are invited to join TeaChat during the process. This should not be intimidating for members, but an opportunity to potentially develop a relationship.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby AdamMY » Sep 18th, '12, 22:03

Chip wrote:I am considering changing the scale again ... A - F like a school grade. What do you think? :idea: :wink: :?:


While this could be good, on the face of things, I have had many discussions with people on the face of scoring/ rating items lately. Oddly with consumable items things can be very personal, as there is no real way to quantify a right vs a wrong like there is in certain school subjects. In regards to what you said about for some people 3 being decent to good, and others it being not that great, comes from the fact that some people feel that when they have a rating system you should be able to use the entire rating system. Basically what is the use of scoring out of 100 if you are only going to use the numbers 70-100?

From the standpoint of a teacher, I feel I have a bit more of a unique view on scoring systems. In theory a tea or basically any other consumable is a sort of finished product. Like a project or other in theory polished homework assignment that a student turns in, it shouldn't be something someone wrote up in streaming consciousness in a few minutes trying to just turn something in ( doesn't stop it from happening though). So in my opinion the grading scale for these finished products should naturally be tilted towards the higher score end, if you take the view point you are grading a tea on its merits.

A though F could help fix that, but at the same time the same people that want to set 0 to be the worst item they have tried in a similar vein, would probably also set F to be the worst item they have tried in a similar vein, even if it is perfectly drinkable, or just contains flavors of which they themselves are not fond.

Not to mention I have been around higher education long enough to hear of some weird grading styles. While I tend to prefer the grade on merit approach, where points are given for good things, and only if something is not quite right do they loose points, I have heard of some scoring systems where every mistake results in the loss of points, the more points for how sever the teacher considered a mistake. In the later grading style, its not unusual for students with very strict teachers to get back a test or a homework assignment with a negative score on it, as in if out of 100 points they lost more than 100 points.

So I guess this is a very long post to say that every rating system is nearly pointless. The only way they can ever make some sense is if you understand a persons ratings well enough, and how they relate to your own personal ratings, to be able to naturally translate them to your own rating.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby debunix » Sep 19th, '12, 01:05

AdamMY wrote:The only way they can ever make some sense is if you understand a persons ratings well enough, and how they relate to your own personal ratings, to be able to naturally translate them to your own rating.


This is how I use criticism and reviews of subjective things like books and movies as well as foods. I start my personal scale at undrinkable, and go up to peak tea experiences at 100, and am good enough at avoiding the really foul ones by now so that my ratings tend to be between 70 and 95 for most teas, because I avoid the ones that are likely to be 20s, 40s, 60s. And when I occasionally get one that is really down there, it's usually because I've stepped too far outside my comfort zone, and there's not much point in my rating assams or lapsong souchongs 30 when it really won't help anyone who actually likes them to pick the better or worse among them.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby jayinhk » Sep 19th, '12, 02:05

Chip, I salute you for taking on the monumental task(s) involved in the OTTIs and agree that we should be polite with vendors. Then again, I'm sure they're used to people either loving or hating their tea. As a vendor myself (not of tea or anything remotely related), I get a wide variety of opinions on the products I offer. We don't all like the same things, and our methods of expressing ourselves vary widely. Rating something like tea is very much subjective.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby hopeofdawn » Sep 19th, '12, 11:54

It's an interesting consideration--how best to give feedback that both makes the vendors feel welcome, but is still honest about one's assessment of their teas. I guess for me, the driving question would be--what are the vendors hoping to get out of these OTTIs? Are they simply hoping for more sales/exposure, or are they looking for more detailed feedback about their offerings--what works and what doesn't work at the price points they set, at least from the perspective of dedicated tea drinkers?

From my perspective as an artist and occasional businessperson--I had to learn early on to be able to accept critique. Admittedly, there's a vast difference between the mannerly art of constructive criticism and simply bashing something that isn't to your taste--but I haven't seen too much of the latter here on Teachat. Have you received any feedback from vendors stating that they believed Teachatters' commentary to be too harsh, or an unfair assessment of their offerings? Or is the worry that bad reviews will make future vendors less willing to participate and be judged?

I do appreciate all the hard work and effort that goes into these OTTIs, and I'd hate to see them go by the wayside. On the other hand, however, I'd also hate for these to turn into Steepster-like reviews, where only the people who love the teas comment, while the rest stay silent--IMHO, that makes the OTTIs less useful for those readers who might not have participated, but are still looking to their fellow Teachatters for guidance on future tea-explorations.

Anyway, that's just my thoughts on the matter.
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Re: In order for OTTI to continue ...

Postby Chip » Sep 19th, '12, 12:25

Good points, thank you for posting.

I agree 100% that I too do not want this to simply turn into a Steepster kind of rubber stamping tasting/review (along with the distortion in the ratings). This will not happen.

Just trying to find a balance, perhaps.

I keep coming back to envisioning the vendor is at your tea table. There would be a degree of tact, civility and the comments would still be constructive and honest. Good and bad, positive and negative. (though hopefully mostly positive :) )

I also would like to see posters endeavoring to be responsible and careful in what they say. It is one thing to say that a particular selection is "not my cuppa tea." It is quite different to say a tea "sucked" ... it is how you say it.

OTTI 15 had such varied selections that what occurred is most participants had selections that were to their personal tastes and then those that were not. Perhaps when they are "not" that is the time to reconsider with another attempt at the same tea.

OTTI is also about openmindedness and trying new and/or different selections.

More to come ... time to brew some NOTTI Tenryu! :mrgreen:
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