SpontaneiTea

A casual tea blog by Alex Zorach

SpontaneiTea

What Makes Tea Articles Hit It Big? Keurigs, Astringency, and Tannins

January 30th, 2014 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

I never know ahead of time which articles on RateTea are going to blow up in popularity, vs. which ones will fall flat or languish in obscurity.  This post is a bit of a case study, comparing three recently published articles on the topics of Astringency, Tannins, and Keurigs / K-Cups.

A graph showing a sharp spike and then gradual up and down following it

This graph, from Google Analytics, shows the typical shape of a newly published article on RateTea. The spike corresponds to when I share the article on social media and move it onto the site’s homepage.

Astringency vs. Tannins

I published two articles in early January, first one on astringency, and later one on the tannins in tea.  The astringency article attracted roughly twice the interest / audience of the tannins article, which was unintuitive to me, given how often I see and hear the general public discussing tannins, and how little I see or hear people discussing astringency.  In retrospect, the disparity of interest may make some sense, however, as the people who would be reading RateTea are more focused on tea tasting and tea reviews, and astringency is a key concept for these–arguably a little more fundamental than the topic of tannins.

Massive Unexpected Interest in an Article on K-Cups

One thing I absolutely did not expect, however, was the massive success of the article I recently published on the topic of Keurig K-Cups and Tea.  It’s barely been out three days and it’s had almost five times as many views as the other two articles combined.  It also got reshared on Facebook and retweeted on Twitter more than the other two articles combined, and on the tea subreddit, it got massively upvoted.

One user on reddit commented on this picture in the article:

The internals of a Keurig coffee brewer, showing numerous colorful tubes and electronics.

The internals of a Keurig do resemble The Terminator. Photo by Charles (CakeAndTea), licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The user noticed that this pic bears an uncanny resemblance to The Terminator, and this remark started a thread of bad Terminator jokes.  I must say I agree, and was thinking the exact same thing when I first saw that pic.

But, besides the amusement factor of the “Terminator” pic, I suspect there may be some deep reasons for the unexpected popularity of this article.

Could it be that there is a latent anti-Keurig sentiment?  One of the reasons that I wrote this article is my own latent anti-Keurig sentiment.  I’ve lately become frustrated with the degree to which Keurig machines have become mainstream to the point of being ubiquitous in office environments, and even in many people’s homes.  I find myself having such thoughts as: “This is so sad.  Why can’t people be taking an interest in loose-leaf tea instead of something like this?”

I’m frustrated because I see Keurigs as a symbol of fast-paced, instant or fast-food culture, and disposable consumer culture in general.  I am concerned about the waste they generate, and the way they push the culture of coffee and tea away from whole foods and artisan food and drink.  And I also think it’s sad because people are pumping a lot of money into these things–K-Cups are darn expensive as my article explores.  I think this symbolism has been there for some time–I even explored it in a dream I had back in 2012.  I’ve been processing these thoughts for a long time, and talking about them with others, and that grew into the RateTea article.

What do you think?

  • Do you have any theories as to why there would be more interest in the astringency article than the article on tannins?  Do you think this trend will continue to play out in the long-run, or do you think that it may reverse, given the obsession in the broader population with health properties of tannins in tea?
  • Are you surprised, or not, by the massive interest in the article on Keurigs?  Do you think it’s explained by latent anti-Keurig sentiment?  Do you share this sentiment yourself?

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Avatar of thedevotea thedevotea

    My own recent experience is that I ran two list articles back to back: A smug “All You Non-tea drinkers can stick it” and a “All the lovely things about tea” one.
    The first one was much more shared!
    Also, I have never seen a Keurig, but they sound appalling.
    What staggers me is the pod delivery of tea through an espresso coffee machine. You get the sort of rubbish tea you would get in a 2c teab*g in a 55c pod as it’s “more convenient”.

    • Avatar of cazort cazort

      Haha…yeah…I think it is an unfortunate fact that in our society, negative rhetoric or negatively-presented topics sometimes attract more interest.

      That’s something I struggle with a lot, for a lot of reasons. One, some forms of negativity (especially when they become irrational and untruthful) both go against my value system, and I think can be associated with serious or deeper problems, like conflict between or within groups, or depression and other mental disorders. (Depression is something I’ve struggled with myself.) So like…when I see an incentive to publish negative or disrespectful rants, I feel like there is a bad system of incentives set up, like a sign of a deeper problem.

      I totally agree with you though about how the idea is, as you say, staggering or appalling. The difference in price is ridiculous, and you’re still paying for an instant product. From talking to coffee drinkers, I’m pretty convinced too that the difference between the quality of coffee and tea is pretty stark, it’s like tea is an afterthought, an attempt to capture additional market share even though their product doesn’t really work well for tea.

  • Avatar of xavier xavier

    Perhaps it has something to do with what people are looking for in articles or on the number of articles written on that peculiar topic?

    • Avatar of cazort cazort

      I definitely think it has something to do with what people are looking for–but that’s the magic black box, right? If I knew that, I’d know what articles would be a big hit before I wrote them.

      I’ve found it hard to gauge by the number of articles written on the particular topic, though. In general, I don’t like to write an article unless I feel like I have a fresh perspective to offer–otherwise I will just link to or share existing articles.

      Usually what I feel I have to offer is better research skills and more thorough citation. I think those strengths tend to lend themselves more towards articles whose interest grows over the long-run, rather than ones that make a big initial splash.

      I think this post alludes to the fact that I’ve been trying to push myself get the best of both worlds. Like, if I can make an article a bit more “sexy” without compromising my values or integrity, like more engaging or captivating, I wouldn’t mind doing so. Sometimes I feel like the articles I write can be a bit dry. But…I still care most about the truthfulness of the article.

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