It’s been a rough semester, to say the least. Road blocks and disasters left and right, and things not going as smoothly as I planned.
But let’s start with the actual plans.
From the beginning, I wanted to do something that incorporated my passion for food and love of cooking. The original idea was to make an information website about tea, and have recipes that used tea as an add-on, but I wasn’t excited about the prospect of repeating what has been already done numerous times. Most websites where you can buy tea have all the information about the different types of tea, how to steep the leaves, the health benefits, etc., and some sites had recommended recipes based off of the teas they sold, so I struggled to figure out how I could make my project stand out and be different without it being something solely about the website design.
It then hit me as I was mindlessly watching cooking videos on Youtube: there are people who run cooking channels or blogs that focus on vegan dishes, healthy foods, or recipes from different cultures, but I hadn’t seen one that focused solely on making different things with an ingredient as a common thread between all of them. People know about tea as a beverage and a cultural influence (most obviously in China, Japan, and Great Britain), but not as many know about using tea in a culinary sense. With this focus in mind, I chose a total of nine different recipes that used a variety of teas in different ways. They are:
- Sugar cookies, using tea-infused butter
- Dark chocolate Earl Grey truffles
- Matcha mug cake
- Chinese marbled tea eggs
- Ochazuke, a simple rice dish from Japan
- Green tea roasted salmon
- Chamomile tequila sour
- Two Earl Grey cocktails: one with Earl Grey-infused gin and another with chilled Earl Grey
With each recipe, I’m experimenting and modifying a bit to see if I can deviate from the source. That way, I’m adding a personal twist to what I’m doing.
Since I want to show step-by-step how to make each recipe, I’m taking two different approaches. Due to their simplicity, for most recipes I’ll be making a photo essay with captions to describe the process. For the truffles, tea eggs, and sugar cookies, though, I’ll be making videos instead due to specific steps in the process: specifically the formation of the truffles, the cracking of the eggs, and making the tea-infused butter. My idea is to model the videos off of a popular editing style used by channels like Hungry AF: having words in the video reinforce the visual.
At this point (March 10th, as I’m writing this post), I’ve completed three recipes (the mug cake, ochazuke, and roasted salmon), filmed for one but need to edit (truffles), am in the process of refilming and taking new pictures for one (eggs), and started on another (sugar cookies). While this feels like good progress, I still have a ways to go – and because I have yet to try to work with text in the videos, I don’t know how well my shots lend to that. I tried to be conscious of that while filming, but when you’re trying to fiddle with the camera while cooking there’s only so much you can do. I have a feeling I’ll need to have lower standards for myself when going into editing because everything I do is 100% self-produced on virtually no budget, while other channels have different people handling the filming, the cooking, the editing, etc. and have the means to make extremely polished and stylish videos.
Money, I’m finding, is a frustration here: because I have to buy all the ingredients myself, having to redo the eggs and the truffles was a huge set-back for me. With the eggs, I wasn’t conscious enough of my angles so when reviewing the footage I didn’t feel like I could work with it in the way that I wanted to. For the truffles, I ended up using the wrong kind of coconut milk, which meant I ended up with a delicious dark chocolate earl grey pudding that’s still sitting in my fridge instead of dark chocolate earl grey truffles. Also because my camera is older and hardly professional quality, I feel that’s showing in my photos – which is a big concern when a huge component of my project is visual. (I’m hoping that’s just me being overly critical of myself, though.)
I’ve also been grappling with everything outside of media production – because of the way my priorities have been set (media production first, then piece it together with the website), I haven’t started on the website design at all. I know, though, that I want it to be simple, since the focus should be less on the design of the site and more on the content. Legibility, clarity, simplicity, and user-friendliness are going to be my big focuses going into the construction of the website.
In addition to the recipes, I will also be discussing the cultural influences of tea in different parts of the world. Besides what I’d consider to be the obvious three (China, Japan, and Great Britain), I also talk about tea in India (chai tea) and the United States (iced tea and the growing popularity of tea in our melting pot culture). When researching, I found some but not a lot of information about tea in Morocco, Egypt, France, and Russia – once I’m ready to shift gears from media production to website construction, I will be looking more into these countries and see if I can find enough to write about.
I initially wanted to do a Tea 101 page – that is, a basic rundown on the different types of teas, how to steep them, their health benefits, etc. – but now it feels out of place to me because my project goes beyond tea as a drink and uses the tea leaves as a flavoring for other recipes. At this point I would prefer to cut that out entirely, but I’m not 100% sure.
I left myself open to adding more recipes to my project if I saw it fit, but right now I can’t imagine doing so. While I’ve made a lot of the recipes at this point, I might have to continue going back and remaking them, which will take time, effort, and more expenses. Ideally, I would wait until I finish building this site and the portfolio website before taking this on. A lot’s been done despite computer breakdowns, migraines and continued light sensitivity, and personal drama of the “my life is falling apart” variety, but I will have to continue working hard in order to finish everything I want to accomplish on time.