A Tea Addict's Journal

Entries from December 2010


December 30, 2010 · 2 Comments

I’m in Hong Kong right now, and one of the first things I do when I get here is to check on my tea supply.  Last time I was here things were just fine — nothing was moldy, as I checked every single tong of my tea.  This time there’s no need to be so thorough, since it’s only been half a year and it’s been the dry season, so instead of actually physically examining all the cakes, I decided to try something I haven’t had for a few years instead, specially, tea that I bought in this instance.

More than four years later, it looks like this now


The tong was never very pretty to begin with, and after a little moving around in four years’ time, it’s gotten less pretty since.  The tea, however, looked just fine.  I was trying this for the first time since I bought the tea — which is quite a while ago.  The leaves are actually on the brown side now, but still reveals greenness when I removed the outer layer.  I brewed it up using my makeshift setup



And…. the result was most satisfying.  It was a good tea — good qi, nice body, thickness, etc.  Everything I want in a young puerh, for a pretty low price.  These guys DO know how to pick puerh for aging.  I remember it was pretty harsh when I tried it in their store, but this thing is not a mistake.  I should’ve gotten five tongs instead of one.  Maybe I’ll go back for more.

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Tea gifts

December 20, 2010 · 3 Comments

It’s the holiday season, and gifts are flying.  As the known “tea” person in your social group (if you read this blog regularly, that’s you) you will probably receive some teas as gift.  You may also be expected (or at least they think) to give tea out sometimes, as what you buy will inevitably be “better” than whatever they have at home.  It’s, I think, a very interesting dynamic.

On the receiving end, I think we’ve all been there before — people buy you tea as a gift, knowing you love tea.  It’s a very kind gesture, and something that I always appreciate.  Depending on the person who gifts tea, you may end up with something quite nice (I got some decent lapsang recently) or some butterscotch vanilla peppermint lemon rooibos.  Thankfully, the latter never happened to me.

Gifting tea is harder though.  What to buy?  What to give?  Of the major tea groups, I think puerh is almost by definition out of the running, unless the giftee specifically asks for it, or you know the giftee is an avid drinker.  Puerh is just too much of an acquired taste for it to be a viable gift.  Blacks are obviously the most gift-ready, since most people are familiar with it and it’s difficult to mess up, brewing wise.  I tend not to gift Ceylon, just because they’re terrible, and will not gift anything from these newfangled tea producers (Kenya is getting more popular) unless I’ve personally tried them.  I find Assam to be quite safe — solid Indian black, and if I have access to good Keemun, I almost always choose that over other blacks.  Darjeeling I personally find them to be more fickle — they are more demanding on the brewer, and can end up horribly wrong if the person making it is not careful.  They’re great teas — but not always appreciated.

The same can be said for oolongs and greens.  If the person is already somewhat into tea, I may gift them some oolong — it’s often a good “gateway tea” for people to really get into drinking more and more varied kinds of tea.  I find Taiwanese teas to be, by far, the best in that regard — not so much because they’re necessarily better, but because I am more likely to be getting what I think I’m getting.  With teas from the mainland, the quality can vary quite wildly, and I wouldn’t give anything I haven’t tried before.  With Taiwanese stuff, I find them to be more likely to be of a known quantity.  I like to give Jinxuan and Oriental Beauty.  Gaoshan tea is more of a hit or miss — too easy to overbrew and end up in a bitter mess.

I only give greens if the person already likes tea and has a preference for greens, and I almost always give Japanese greens rather than Chinese ones — good Chinese greens cost far, far too much for any normal gift, and for anyone who’s not used to drinking these, it’s always a waste (I don’t even buy good Chinese green for myself).  Japanese greens, I find, can be nicer without the difficulty of Chinese greens and the prices are not exorbitant for some reasonable, drinkable tea.  I’m personally inclined to drink gyokuro (the two times a year I drink greens), but I know opinions differ wildly there.

I think of a gift of tea as a pretty practical gift — you can almost always find ways to use it, although in the case of people like us, we probably have already way too much tea, and so the gift needs to be tailored to the person’s collection and likes and dislikes.  For people who are not quite as enthusiastic, I think of a gift of tea as an introduction — I always try to push the boundaries of what they might accept as good tea, and perhaps convert another hapless one to the habit.  After all, if your friends all think of you as the “tea person”, you can’t just give them a tin of Twinings Earl Grey.

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Young puerh

December 9, 2010 · 2 Comments

I have been drinking a lot of younger puerh recently, from both Yunnan Sourcing and various shops on Taobao.  I think production of younger puerh has generally changed — teas these days seem more delicate and flowery, in a way that I personally do not find appealing or good.  A lot of them seem to be green-tea ish, which to me means it won’t age well.  I could be wrong, but I’ve tried cakes that were like this when younger, and a few years down, they have aged terribly.

I think some of this goes back to what puerh is actually for.  Is it really meant for aging?  Is it meant for drinking now, and is only aged by accident?  How long is the optimal age?  I think opinions differ considerably on these points.  Even though most people seem to agree that puerh is meant for aging, there are, I think, producers who are making things that are really more suited for drinking now than anything else.  A lot of the cakes I’ve tried in the 5-7 years old category are not very good at all.  Only some are, and I think if anything, the common denominator is that it was decent leaves, and also, decent conditions — not too dry and not too airy

I’ve been rethinking the whole “buy it now and store it for later” idea.  I’m not sure if it’s really wise to do so, or if the end result is really going to be that desirable.  For certain people who live in certain places (Hong Kong, for example) that can definitely be true.  Nevada?  I’m not so sure.

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