A Tea Addict's Journal


May 31, 2011 · 13 Comments

In 2004 I bought myself a box of Dahongpao from the Best Tea House.  I told myself that this was going to be a tea that I will keep for the duration of my graduate studies, and that, when done, I’ll celebrate by opening it and drinking it.  The original plan was that I will leave it sealed until then, aging it for five or six years, and have something nice to drink at the end of it.  Since my school’s official colour is crimson, I thought it’s the most fitting tea, in many ways.  I ended up opening the box for MadameN‘s graduation two years ago, but finally, after many years of sweat and toil, I have a reason of my own to do so.


Now, owing to administrative silliness, I actually got my degree in November last year, but since it’s rather impractical to have three occasions a year that has people dressed in large, crimson coloured bags, everyone does it in May.

Likewise, the actual tea drinking didn’t happen the day of the ceremony.  Rather, it took place two days later, when I was in New York visiting the Mandarin’s Tearoom and friends.  It’s been two years since I took this tea out, and even when I was opening it, I was quite aware that I no longer hold this tea in as high regard as I used to – I don’t think it is that great anymore, certainly not for the price.  Whereas many years ago, when I bought it, it was something that I thought was truly good, now the tea seems merely decent.  The brewing confirmed it.  The tea still has nice qi, I think, which warms, but the mouthfeel is a little flat, and the taste slightly muted.  While I didn’t pack the pot to the hilt, it was enough leaves to make a decent cup.  Yet what came out seemed a little flat.

This, then, is also a graduation of some sort.  We all have moments like this at some point in our tea drinking career.  Teas that, when we were younger, we thought were great, full, and flavourful will almost always appear less interesting, less full over the years.  Some of us got started drinking flavoured teas but have long since swore off such things.  Others may occasionally return to the qingxiang oolongs or green teas that got us into tea in the first place, but find far more pleasure drinking different types.  Still others will turn to cooked puerh from time to time, but would much prefer aged teas, even though cooked puerh may very well have been the “gateway drug.”  The same can be said of vendors too.  Vendors who, early on, seem to offer great selections would often, upon closer inspection and more experience, look like overpriced teas for mediocre quality.  Drinking this dahongpao this time, some of these thoughts definitely crossed my mind.

While I don’t think I will buy another box of this dahongpao from the Best Tea House anymore, it doesn’t mean I will toss this tea — certainly not.  It’s still good tea, just not great, and factoring in the price, there are better options.  There is one more calculation involved though.  Even though it may not be the best tea, it was what I wanted myself to have all those years ago as a graduation celebration.  I have kept it all these years, hauling it around with me while I moved from place to place, and that sentimental value is not something that a far better dahongpao can replace.  Perhaps I’m overly sentimental, but even if someone offers me some dahongpao from the original three trees in exchange of what’s left in this box, I don’t think I’ll take that trade.  This is why many of us, even when we already have shelves full of teas of dubious quality aging, still have a hard time parting with them.  They are pieces of personal history and memory that, once gone, can never truly be replaced.

Categories: Teas
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13 responses so far ↓

  • Hobbes // May 31, 2011 at 1:33 am | Reply

    Brilliant – what a lot of crimson.

    Do the doctors wear crimson crimson? 🙂



    • MarshalN // May 31, 2011 at 8:26 am | Reply

      Indeed, the doctors wear crimson crimson, the masters get a bit of crimson, and the bachelors none at all.

  • bev "learning to pull radishes" // May 31, 2011 at 1:41 am | Reply

    Excellent writing, as always. And a big congratulations on your accomplishment, MarshalN 🙂 Must feel fantastic!

    • MarshalN // June 1, 2011 at 10:35 am | Reply

      Thanks! It’s been half a year since I got my degree, but it’s nice to see old friends and to feel baked in the gown.

  • gingko // May 31, 2011 at 11:41 am | Reply

    Congratulations Dr. Marshal! 😀

  • Jim Liu // May 31, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Reply


    I cannot agree more with your saying:

    The same can be said of vendors too. Vendors who, early on, seem to offer great selections would often, upon closer inspection and more experience, look like overpriced teas for mediocre quality.

  • Action Jackson // June 1, 2011 at 10:31 am | Reply

    Well done and Hooray!! Is this the shot right before everyone throws their cap in the air?

    I do like your reflection on the five-years-younger-MarshalN’s gift to you and the very personal pleasure of enjoying the DHP. And I think you’re getting old 😉

    • MarshalN // June 1, 2011 at 10:35 am | Reply

      Quite the contrary, this is a shot of us in the holding pen before we walk into the tercentenary theatre, where the festivities are held. This was shot at around 8:30 in the morning. The ceremony didn’t even start until 9:45. Besides, the cap is way too expensive for us to throw in the air!

      Am I not by definition getting older?

  • Rachel // June 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Reply

    Your tea blog is fantastic and congrats on graduating! I’m contacting you on behalf of Miriam Novalle at T Salon & T Emporium. Tonight we are participating in the Tibetan Aid Project’s 6th annual Taste & Tribute in benefit dinner in NYC where we will be pairing our made-from-scratch teas with the menu items.

    The link for the menu is: http://tasteandtributeny.com/

    Pairings include:
    Aged Puerh with Orange paired w/ Wild Mushroom Tartlet
    Green Coconut paired w/ the fish
    Peppermint Blood Orange paired w/ Lamb Loin
    Honey Bush Tea with Orange Pieces & Hazelnut Oil w/ Lime Parfait

    Let me know if you are interested in covering this or any of our upcoming events by e-mailing me.

    • MarshalN // June 2, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Reply

      Thanks, although I don’t think I’ll be in the city. Of course, maybe some of my readers might be interested. I remember buying a greenish darjeeling from you folks many years ago.

  • Jason M Cohen // June 7, 2011 at 9:17 am | Reply

    Dear MarshalN,

    I know I’m echoing everyone else,
    and a little late,


    All the Best,
    Jason M. Cohen

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