A Tea Addict's Journal

Tea purgatory

September 19, 2011 · 23 Comments

Quite a few of you have the same problem – how to deal with teas that are really inferior, so that you don’t want to drink them every day.  However, you have too much of it, so you have to get rid of it, somehow, especially if you paid for the privilege.

These teas are often acquired with the best of intentions – you bought it thinking it might be good, and end up being a disappointment.  You bought it as an impulse (say, while you were traveling) and when you got home, it is no longer so good. Sometimes you got the tea because you used to like it, but your tastes changed. Or, you got it from some other means – a gift, an accidental find, etc. Either way, now you’re stuck with this tea that isn’t really quite that good.

I have a lot of these teas, as I’m sure a lot of you do too.  Giving them away, or selling them, seems wrong, because they’re not particularly attractive.  After all, you don’t really want to give bad tea to people, especially if they’re newcomers.  The only tea I happily give away is cooked puerh, since I almost never drink teas of that genre, and I know there are others out there who will appreciate it way more than I do.  The rest of the time, however, whether it is bad black tea, bad young puerh, or bad oolong, I’m stuck with it.

One way for me to get rid of such teas these days is to drink it at work, where I’m condemned to drink such things grandpa style, for lack of proper implements (or time) to do it right. I could probably bring a tea set to work, but since I just started less than a month ago, bringing such things, even in Asia, might be a little off.  So these days, I’m drinking some terrible, terrible work tea – a box of very run of the mill Assam, an old can of cooked puerh from Mengku that I had stashed away for no reason, and some 4 years old baozhong that I’ve been aging myself.  The baozhong is probably the most interesting of these teas, seeing as it was purchased fresh in 2007 and now approaching five years old in the same bag.  When I opened it it smelled distinctly like a slightly aged oolong – a little of that slightly plummy, sour fragrance, but when I brewed it, grandpa style anyway, it was still mostly like a duller green baozhong.  It clearly needs some more time.

I suppose this is a good thing, in the sense that I’m drinking some of these leftover teas that I’ll never otherwise touch and which will forever linger in tea purgatory until I fish them out for some reason. Now, they’re being consumed in a willy-nilly manner at work, purely for the caffeine effect and not much else.  I do need to find a more permanent solution to the work-tea problem though, because otherwise I’m going to be stuck with bad tea for a long time, and then my good teas will be in tea purgatory.

Categories: Teas
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23 responses so far ↓

  • flo // September 19, 2011 at 9:27 am | Reply

    “how to deal with teas that are really inferior”
    that’s easy. act like a sensible investor. if you know nothing about the fundamentals or if some of it is not clear, you stay away. A good opportunity will always present itself anew, so in case of doubt what is to fear ? you don’t buy, you lose nothing, buy if you make a lousy purchase your palate may have to pay for a long time.

    I have a simple way of dealing with teas that are really inferior : I do not buy them. It does not mean I buy “ideally”, it just means I reduce to zero the risk of being in possession of 10kg of crap (or even 1kg for that matter). “tuition fees” some say ??? come on : there is nothing like “tuition fees”, only a splendid amount of nonsense.
    We all are capable of nonsense : apply nonsense to small quantities.
    We all have to decide w/o knowing the risk sometimes : then, small quantites ans small money.
    We all do things on impulse : impulse is fun and necessary. but then again, small qt, small amounts … and not too frequently.

    I like very much your metaphoric use of the notion of purgatory : yes, we are all sinners, even in tea consumption 😀
    My thing is not “never sin”, but “sin as reasonably as I can”. then my palate does not have to expiate for too long.
    (that said you may also send the crappy tea into the hell of trash can, which from a theological point of view may prove very convenient)


    • MarshalN // September 19, 2011 at 9:35 am | Reply

      Ah, but the delights of a random purchase gone well is quite enjoyable. So the sword really has two edges.

      Besides, one does not know what a good tea is until one has tried a worse one.

  • gingko // September 19, 2011 at 9:56 am | Reply

    There should be some experiments designed and bad tea used in them. Any people can share some ideas? I’ve thought of using some bad sheng for micro-wodui experiments, but eventually thought it’s too gross to carry out :-p

  • Stefan // September 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Reply

    Funnily that’s how I began my journey into tea – with really ugly, bad green tea – and also almost ended that journey right at the beginning.
    Fortunately I discovered that the bad stuff can be made drinkable and even enjoyable by adding some orange juice, which kept me going (caffeine-wise and tea-wise) until I found some decent teas and the places where to get them. Unfortunately that recipe works only for green teas and maybe oolongs from the very green side. So that’s probably not much help to you.

    For the other bad stuff I’m still looking for a good solution;-)
    Peach juice might work for black teas. There has to be a reason why that flavor is used so often for ice tea. But since I dislike that flavor even more than bad tea I can’t comment further.
    Another option for Assams, that I sometimes like, is too use milk or cream. But that’s only an option as long as your stomach can process milk and you can conveniently store it.

    Pu erh again seems to be completely different. So far I have managed to turn bad and ugly pu erh only into something even worse and more ugly.

  • Leaf // September 19, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Reply

    Why don’t you cook with it? Use the bad teas as you would a bad wine — a bad wine still makes good boeuf bourguignon. 😉

    Try “cooked puerh and ginger” roasted beef ; “young sheng and citrus” sauce for white fish (cod or hake) ; “wulong, herb and butter” mashed potatoes. And so on… there’s so many possibilities. ^^

    • MarshalN // September 19, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Reply

      Indeed — cooking may be able to help me reduce some of the teas, but then, I’m not usually very fond of tea leaves in my food…

      • Leaf // September 19, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Reply

        Nah, you don’t need to put the leaves, just the brews. ^^ Easily replaces water in any recipe.

        And if you don’t have a large teapot and don’t want to take an afternoon to brew a tea seven times to get the right amount of tea you need for your recipe, a coffee filter and a saucepan might do the job.

  • ira // September 20, 2011 at 2:14 am | Reply

    my favorite is to make tea eggs ( cracked hard boiled eggs/3 or 4 different teas/salt/spices – Japanese cooking bag helps prevent the mess); the less desirable ones i throw in when boiling the new teapots; the undesirable ones i leave in the refrigerator to absorb odor. then there is the garbage can for the worst.
    i’d like to say life is too short to drink bad tea – enjoy it while here. 🙂

    • MarshalN // September 21, 2011 at 1:26 am | Reply

      Tea eggs, then wouldn’t your eggs come out looking like it’s growing mold?

      • ira // September 21, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Reply

        hard boiled the eggs first, then plunge them in cold water, cracked them all over before you put them in pot of water with teas/salt/spices – bring to boil, then medium low for one hour. let sit overnight and you have the best breakfast food to go. they are beautifully marblelized too. usually people use lipton tea but if we have a variety of teas it just makes it more interesting.

  • John Grebe // September 20, 2011 at 11:09 am | Reply

    My favorite method of getting rid of less than ideal teas is to make batches of ice tea with them. I find that one can get away with using lower quality teas when they are being consumed cold instead of hot. Another alternative is to just give them away to people that do not really care that much about tea. Sure some people might think that is an evil thing to do but the reality is that especially in the USA there are a lot of people that have no interest in loose tea so it makes them the idea people who will enjoy the teabags that I get as gifts from well meaning people at times.

    • MarshalN // September 21, 2011 at 1:26 am | Reply

      Indeed, giving it away to people who otherwise don’t appreciate loose leaf might be a way to go, although they might also just toss it. I try to give away teas that I know I won’t drink (when I receive black teas, for example) but other times it’s harder. Nobody really wants bad shu pu, for example.

  • DM // September 20, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Reply

    Purgatory is an interesting choice of descriptors. Purgatory, classically, is where slightly tarnished souls who died in a state of grace suffer just enough to redeem themselves, after which they can move on to the good place. Etymologically, the root concept is cleansing. Throw out the old junk, suffer just a few pangs, and move on to better brews. Or for a real purge, drink it strong, and (in the words of Monte Python on Australian wines), clean out the sluices at both ends.

    On the re-purposing front, I use bad tea to pre-season new ceramics and to neutralize residual bleach after a pot-purge. Also makes a good stain for wood (I used cheap cooked pu-erh on my pine meditation bench to avoid solvent odors), leather, cloth, and even jade. And though I’ve never tried it myself, lesser tea might still work well for smoking duck. Can’t get much more redemptive than that.

    • MarshalN // September 21, 2011 at 1:27 am | Reply

      Indeed. For a lot of bad young sheng, sometimes purgatory is the correct term. For other teas, perhaps the only solution is the compost pile.

  • Alessandro // September 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Reply

    Why don’t share tea among us? It would be a nice experience 🙂
    I have a Xu Hu Long Jing (2010) I don’t like any more,
    and F.F. Darjeeling (SFGFOP1)… :))

  • Jared // October 4, 2011 at 6:56 am | Reply

    What is your work preparation like? I use a travel mug with a built in French press (I don’t drink coffee at all, so the mug is clean) as a teapot, and a separate mug to drink from. I kind of hash the measurements and am stuck with one temperature of water, but the end result is a lot better than what I was drinking before switching to loose tea.

    I’m kind of new to the finer side of tea, and I’ve been able to form a good process from various bits of information on the web, but is there a more in-depth resource to learn about what you call “the right way”, the “right” implements”, etc?

    Thanks, and I’m enjoying your blog very much!

    • MarshalN // October 4, 2011 at 7:44 am | Reply

      Right now – not much. I use a cup that basically I use for grandpa style. It’s really just a way for me to get rid of terrible teas atm.

      As for “the right way”, no, I don’t think there’s such thing as the right way.

      • Jared // October 4, 2011 at 8:43 am | Reply

        for lack of proper implements (or time) to do it right.

        I guess I meant more along these lines, what you would do if you were at home and had all afternoon to enjoy a good tea- what I’m assuming you meant was some form of gongfu. There’s no “right” way, but it seems that people who know their stuff all use a similar process and similar tools, and it’s kind of hard to learn the nuances of that.

  • Medsen Fey // December 22, 2015 at 11:16 am | Reply

    Sorry for adding to an ancient post, but one alternative for inferior tea is making Kombucha. You get a cold, tangy, carbonated drink that is very refreshing, and is much better than soda pop. Some claim it has health benefits, and in some circumstances it may.

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