The mask comes off…

I have just recently become the Seattle Tea Examiner, which is a very good thing, and will lead to me writing more articles that are shorter, regional and/or related to specific times or events, which is not generally the way I write about tea. It will also force me to document the more fleeting tea-related experiences that I have in the course of moving about the city and interacting with tea shops, tea houses, restaurants, and other stores that aren’t specifically tea stores. It will not lead to less writing here. So this is all good, but it has led inescapably to a shift in how I identify myself online.

Because requires its contributors to use real names and photos of themselves as user pictures, I am now writing about tea with my real, legal name, which might not sound like anything of consequence, but it is a big shift in my way of thinking. Over the past few years I’ve intentionally cultivated very separate identities in different places, which helps me keep track of what I’m doing, and also prevents an onslaught of irrelevant data going to people who aren’t interested in it. Of course, there’s always some bleed-through. I don’t confine my tea-related online content to tea absolutely one hundred percent tea-related topics, but I keep it close to that, and I very rarely write anything about tea in my non-tea-related interactions with people.

So with this change I feel a little bit like Spider Man, pulling off his mask at a press conference to reveal that he is Peter Parker…except that I’ll never be as cool as Spider Man, and there’s no vitally important, political compulsion to change my tactics and reveal my real name and what I actually look like. It’s all just circumstances leading to an inability to maintain an exclusively separate, distinct, pseudonymed online persona with user pictures that are inanimate objects or murky pictures that suggest vaguely what I look like. I now have to connect at least a few of the lines between my tea-related persona and other versions of me.

In addition to the exposure on, there’e also World Tea Expo, where I’ll be meeting a number of people with whom I have only interacted online, and who do not know my actual name. In this situation it’s going to be pretty useful for people to know that my real name is Virginia since I generally don’t use the name Cinnabar in the real world, and I would never introduce myself as Gongfu Girl to anyone. This whole thing feels a little strange, and even a little uncomfortable, but I’ll try to accustom myself to it. If you see someone who looks like these pictures while you’re at World Tea Expo, it’s probably me, so say “hello” if you get the chance.


  1. Congrats on becoming the Seattle Tea Examiner!

    I wish I could go to the WTE this year, but my monetary funds in order to do so is lacking considerably. I would love to meet you in person (along with the rest of the gang) as you are truly brilliant and I could only hope to gain even an ounce of your tea knowledge!

    Have a great time!

    P.S. That is my mom’s name too. So cool!

  2. Hi Virginia! (If that is your real name?) I just enjoyed your wonderful article on the Panama Hotel Tea & coffee house. What do you think is the best way for me to “follow” your Seattle Tea Examiner articles? Because I really look forward to reading more tea stories about our fair city!

    PS – have fun at WTE!

  3. Congratulations to you on becoming the Seattle Tea Examiner. The tea community need great writers like to you shed light the wonderful art of tea drinking.

    Merging of the persona; what an interesting experience that must be! Sounds like a great plot for an independent film 🙂

  4. I can completely understand how you feel. I never released more than my first name until I started writing for print publications. It was really hard and I often don’t link to those articles in my blog. Since some of my other writing is about parenting and about my kids I’m always hesitant around the identity stuff. But, I suppose it’s a necessary “evil” and I’m becoming accustomed to it.

    Congrats on the new gig. I’ll look forward to reading your new pieces.

  5. Hello Virginia and congratulations.