A Tea Blogger in Vendorland

Back in 2008, I started writing about tea. Not exactly professionally, but rather as a hobby. I started out as many a tea person with a ‘puter did. I wrote reviews. Originally, I contributed to a review site, and then I went on my own with Steep Stories in 2011. Around the same time, I figured, “Hey, I’m tea knowledgeable-ish enough, now. I should apply for a tea job!”


And I did so, figuring I would be a shoe-in.

I am job!

I was wrong.


The first two outfits I applied for didn’t even grant me the courtesy of a rejection letter. And those who knew who I was – either through my blog or through my visits – had a million reasons to not bring me on board. The most common rejection I heard was, “Well, you’re too talented a writer. This job is beneath you.”


For the record, I clean toilets for a living. Nothing is beneath me. Not even the piping.


I swallowed my pride, whimpered a little privately, but continued doing what I normally did. Writing about tea . . . and not getting paid for it. A year or so went by, and one of the companies I applied for posted a job inquiry again.


This time it was for a delivery driver – two days a week. At the time, I was mostly driving shuttles at my, then, job. Running boxes to clients all around Portland, and not saying a word? Surely, I was a shoe-in for that.

deilvery boy

NOPE . . . again.


The reason this time? “You’re too close of a friend to the teashop.”




That was the first time I was ever friendzoned by a tea company. It felt weird.


A couple of more years went by. In that time, major things happened. Like, professional-type things! I was on various panels at tea festivals. I did guest-blogs for other vendors. I had written SEO copy for other companies – both tea-related and non-tea-related. Heck, I even helped curate a menu for a new tea bar.


One day this summer, I brought a charming lady friend of mine to one of my favorite tea shops. We met the owners, and a few of the other employees. They recognized her from a resume she had sent them. Then . . . proceeded to bend over backwards to try and hire her. What do you call it when a teashop interrupts your tea date? Being teablocked? Yeah, I was teablocked by a teashop. Super-awkward.


A couple of scant, heat-waved months after that, one of my other favorite places posted a job opening. And I matched every qualification, save one. Something to do with Photoshop. (I’m still at MS Paint levels, yo.) Before leaving on a trip, I submitted my resume.


I didn’t get a reply back for well over a week. The reason THIS time? “You’re such a talented writer, we wouldn’t feel comfortable making you push papers around.”


Refer back to my earlier statement about toilets. Add toilet paper to that. Nothing is beneath me!


nothing beneath me


Even now, after seven years as a tea writer and quasi-professional, I’m still on some sort of black list with tea companies. (Black tea list?) Sure, vendors love me writing about them, and adore getting my advice for free. But if I *LE GASP!* actually applied for a job with one of these fine brands, all of a sudden I’m looked upon as a pariah. Like I’ve stepped over some invisible threshold I shan’t cross.


What makes it further aggravating is that I know fellow tea blogger compatriots who have received job offers within the tea industry. Full-time ones. Lucrative, in some cases. Granted, some of these folks are more socially acceptable, charming, and Google Analytically popular than I am. But I’m still cut from the same tea-stained cloth as they are.


So, tea vendors . . .


I love you all. You know I do. There are no hard feelings – honest. I just want a straight answer for once.


What exactly is wrong with me? What do I need to do to be recognized? What do I need to become in order to be considered a serious candidate?

tea girl

Touché, tea industry . . . touché.


  1. As (a) a tea writer, (b) a former tea shop owner, (c) an online tea vendor and (d) a HR professional, I’m scratching my head to answer you.

    The electrical business I work for does not often hire electricians for counter sales jobs, and the main reason is it’s against the law for people to offer electrical advice over the counter in this state, so we prefer not to hire people who might do so. That doesn’t apply here.

    Sometimes, the “keen amateur” who wants to break into a market is not the best fit, but for crying out loud, this is TEA. I can’t think of a person we’ve ever hired that would have got the job if up against you.

    And finally, exactly how was working in tea going to stop you writing? Worst excuse ever.

    Let me state publicly that if we ever opened a tea shop in Portland, you would be top of the headhunt list. In fact, it’s one reason to open a tea shop in Portland.

    And on the subject of reviews, let me say that your one sentence review of Finbarr’s Revenge: ““I can sum up this Irish Breakfast variant in one sentence: This stuff actually gives you the courtesy of a reach-around before punching you in the junk.”” is one of the most memorable we’ve ever had.

  2. The way I always approach the job search is to do informational interviews to find out how things are done at a particular company, match a skill set with a need and then offer a proposal that will either bring in more business, solve a problem either will make they more monies or improve their operation.
    and ask for advice. I am surprised by the response you have got, I would think “the I love ya” honey aspect would get you in. Maybe just talking with some folks and ask for their advice…might be something to do…find out what their challenges are and see if you can help them solve the challenge.
    Just ideas…..

  3. As a former hiring manager I totally agree with Margo’s approach. I see your situation as similar to a film critic who is trying to break through as a director, so I especially echo the “asking for advice” part – maybe your favorite tea shops where you apply for jobs are intimidated by you and your (intense but awesome) tea reviews? And maybe this would help break the ice a bit?

    Or maybe you could start at a tea shop you don’t often frequent or don’t even *really* love, and work your way over and up from there? Everybody’s got to start somewhere, right? (See earlier statement about toilets.)

  4. No idea at all – if i could afford to pay myself and not lose money you’d be next on for a gig.

    but that last picture? thats why i purchased teaandtits.com – still need time to work that project

  5. Friendzoned by a tea company! Teablocked! What in the world is wrong with these tea companies? They’re missing out, yo. They should hire you.

    • Nothing’s wrong with ’em. You know that old saying, “There’s always one weirdo on every bus. If you don’t see ’em, it’s probably you.”?

      Yeah, it’s probably me.

  6. Ooof I feel your pain and bewilderment where you have so much love for tea and just want to work around it in any capacity but have been blocked for mysterious reasons. I think you got some good advice above about some investigative work by humbly seeking the truth. Wish you the best of luck.

  7. Hmmm, not sure if you should want for to work for people that who use excuses not to hire you. Because that is what these reasons not to hire you sound like.
    As said they might be intimidated by you or they might think that you will be bored soon at the position they have in mind. With as a result that you either get boreout problems (sister of burnout) or leave after only a short time so they have to find someone else and start all over.

    As Margo said talk to people in the industry. Let them know that you are looking for a job in the industry (rule of thumb: the more clear you are about what you are looking for the more they can help you find it).

    Furthermore (as Margo pointed out) you can talk about problems a company has (not from a negative point of view and not forcing to talk about it) and show them ways in which hiring you can be the answer to that problem.

    Good luck!!

  8. Maybe you do need to show some kind of experience, so perhaps getting a job as a waiter, or in a hotel?

    Keep applying to different tea companies and don’t give up. Also, if the tea companies that you mention are your “friends”, then ask them to let you have some sort of part time internship at their store. That way you can use that in your resume and apply somewhere else.