2018 Tea & TeaDB Reflections

2018 has been a year where I’ve continued to settle into regular habits of drinking my own tea rather than a year of exploration. I still very much enjoy drinking tea and have it at least once daily but the hobby is more restrained than a few years back. I haven’t bought teaware in several years and I drink from the few categories of tea I enjoy and not much else. Call me a grump, but I got a good idea what I like and what I’ll drink.

Tea Stash

My Tea Stash. Disorganized Mess.

My Own Drinking

Earlier this year I made a comment detailing my own drinking habits..

For me tea drinking falls into three basic categories. (1) Casual brews I drink/make for my wife. (2) Teas I drink gong-fu throughout the day. (3) Teas I drink with other people.

Matt picked this up and did a blogpost covering his own approach. Having a high-quality tea is great, but whether I drink a tea largely depends on how well it fits into one of these categories rather than absolute quality. There may be an uber quality hongcha or Taiwanese oolong, but it probably won’t get consumed quickly.

Category 1. Technically the most consumed category. This almost always ends up being ripe pu’erh I drink in the morning with my wife. She is not picky, but dislikes teas that are bitter or too harsh. Oddly enough, she almost always prefers ripe over oolong or hongcha, even ones I consider to be decent.. Occasionally I’ll brew some traditionally stored raw, which she also enjoys But ripe is cheaper, more accessible and is good enough. This has lead to the odd distinction where I’ve finished a couple tongs of standard sized ripe cakes and just a handful of standard sized raw cakes.

Category 2. This is a daily brew and is almost always a single tea that I’ll drink throughout the day. I’ll start drinking in the morning when I have time for a concentrated session. I log these brews in my drinking log. The teas I drink most often here are some sort of pu’erh, with the occasional aged oolong and less often a Wuyi Oolong. The teas here are typically higher-quality than category 1.

Category 3. Tea with people. I think I end up drinking tea with other people quite often for a person living in the west. In addition to episodes with Denny, I meet up with a few other friends regularly or semi-regularly and occasionally go to a local teashop for group sessions. It’s not uncommon for me to have a few sessions with others in a week. Tea-wise, I usually drink similar stuff as category 2 with a bit more oolong tossed in. Similar quality level to category 2.

Neifeis.

Neifeis. The carnage of the year. A surprising amount of ripe.

Types of Tea & Consumption (Category 2)

Category Amount of Tea
% of Tea Consumed
Semi-Aged Raw 356.6 64.88%
Aged Raw 79.8 14.52%
Ripe Pu’erh 50.4 9.17%
Aged Oolong 43.5 7.91%
Wuyi Oolong 11.3 2.06%
This is the tea I choose to drink when I’m left to my own devices. It excludes samples, casual brews and tea I drink with others.

My solo tea drinking leans heavily on semi-aged pu’erh (~10-20 year old) with a bias towards Yiwu tea. This is consistent with my taste in the past, and I suspect will always be true to some extent. Despite this the amount of tea consumed in this fashion is low. If I add the times I am drinking with others, I probably consumed a cake worth of semi-aged Yiwu but still, that’s just a single cake and I own plenty.

My own absolute consumption on an average day comes in at around 6-6.5 grams for a single session + a 8.5-9 grams of ripe with my wife. This sounds high, but I’ll usually just do a few cups worth of the ripe.

Most common teas consumed:

  • 2001 Spring Buds (Traditionally stored)
  • 2007 YQH Lingya/Qizhong
  • 2001 Zhongcha Huangyin (TWL)

The Opportunity Cost of Sampling

Drinking a sample means drinking less of my own teas (category 2). Since there’s no point in buying cheap samples I don’t want to drink, the threshold for sampling is naturally set to a certain mark.

Buying ten 25 gram samples, mean 60 sessions or two months worth of tea if I decide it’s good enough to drink. Having bad sessions on unknown stuff is no fun and there is a very real opportunity cost when you enjoy your own tea. Since I’m drinking less tea for education and more for pleasure, reducing my own sampling makes a lot of sense.

Nevertheless, I did a few sample runs which cut into my drinking. Some of these were just teas generously sent by tea friends, samples which are usually of interest. Others are group buys. A few others were thanks to the bad influences in my life (i.e. tea friends).. In retrospect and comparing 2018 consumption vs. 2017 I probably should cut back on sampling even more.

During the course of this year, I ordered samples of black tea, white tea, and Fuzhuan to see if they have any room in my rotation. As I’ve settled into more of a routine, it’s a lot easier to figure out what gets consumed and what’s not. If a certain type of tea sample is still around for half a year and is never consumed, that’s a sign it’s probably best to avoid buying more of it. The verdict? I remain unconvinced any of these teas I sampled will ever be a part of my normal rotation.Occasionally I’ll drink these teas with friends (category 3), but they don’t do great on the speed test.

Year & Category 2 Consumption

Year Amount of Tea
2018 549.6
2017 1115.1

Buying

I confess that I’ve not done a good job with my 12 cake limit. In fact I busted it all in a single purchase.. This year started fine but I ended up buying a few teas in quantity, about doubling my limit.

Have I spent more than I intended to this year? Somewhat. The teas I bought in quantity were both under $100 which makes it a little less painful. It probably makes more sense to buy higher-end tea, but I’m by nature a bargain hunter and not a high-end shopper. Buying better is a challenge. Buying less is probably even more of a challenge for me.. Sorry guys & gals, I’m not a good role model.

What am I buying? My buys this year were pretty sporadic. This year I did not really buy any tea abroad, so I’m buying mainly via tea friends (i.e. Teas We Like folks) or other sources in Taiwan/occasional taobao gamble. I still sample occasionally from Yunnan Sourcing and White2Tea, both of whom I’ll also buy ripe pu’erh to drink.

Favorite Session of Tea on the Show

1940s 4GC Liubao – This is probably my favorite tea we drank on the show. The fact that it does not last as long makes it more ideal for an episode than a longer lasting tea that takes 20 brews to get through. The tea itself is pure comfort but also complex and deep.

Most Powerful Session of Tea on the Show

2014 Hongyin Tiebing Gedeng – Episode 292 and this pu’erh still caught me off-guard in how powerful it hit us. Despite a small brewing device and just a few grams per person, this tea hit like a mack truck. In a good way (I think).. The 2003 Bok Choy and 2018 W2T Lucky Puppy gives this some competition and win out in sheer bitterness, but this tea wins in depth and I think is a few grades higher.

The Future

Denny and I are business partners and have been friends for around 20 years. Barring something unanticipated we enjoy doing drinking tea and kicking it on camera, so I don’t anticipate any changes to our weekly episodes.

Inbetweenisodes are an area where I’m more willing to experiment. I’ve released a couple more deep dive episodes and Q&As and started doing ratings for tea types I drink regularly enough. The deep dives can be quite a bit more work, but I want them to be rigorous enough to hold up. Any feedback on these is appreciated.

In terms of more written content, I think I will probably run out of things to say eventually. I’m happy to say I’m not quite there. The first written post was published in the summer of 2013 which means I’m well into my sixth year of writing. My tentative target has been to last seven years or until summer 2020. We’ll see if I make it..

A Preview of Things to Come.

The Eurocave.

The Eurocave.

This entry was posted in Aged Oolong, Article, Oolong, Raw Pu'erh, Ripe Pu'erh. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 2018 Tea & TeaDB Reflections

  1. Karl Drewke says:

    James,

    Eurocave makes a great wine cellar….wonder how it would do as a pumidor? I assume it is non functional…right? Glad to hear that you are both hanging in there. My wife and I like watching your videos. I am working to restrict my annual purchases to higher end teas and stay on budget. ..it’s harder than it should be.

    Regards,

    Karl

    • James says:

      Hi Karl,

      We shall find out how it works as a pumidor. Not sure on how functional it is, but I do not plan to plug it in. Was a random free find from a local giveaway group. Stay tuned!

      Yeah, staying on target is hard and I’ve definitely broken my self-set rules too many times.

      Cheers,
      -James

  2. Howie says:

    If you could spend a little more time this year cleaning your tea vessels that would be much appreciated by those of your readers who are a little bit more OCD in this regard.

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