2019 Tea & TeaDB Reflections

2019 may be one of the more boring years from TeaDB to write about. I drank tea, bought a little, Denny and I continued our episode per week pace, and I wrote a bit. My habits are more settled, a steady trend at this point. I know what I like and tend to follow predictable patterns.

Cakes
Cakes.

What I Drink

My own drinking falls into the three categories I outlined last year:

(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.

This has not changed at all and as a lover of data and spreadsheets, I’ve continued to track my own drinking for another year (category 2). Here’s the spreadsheet for those interested.

Types of Tea & Consumption (Category 2)

CategoryAmount of Tea% of Tea Consumed
Semi-Aged Raw676.562.71%
Aged Oolong125.511.63%
Wuyi Oolong106.39.85%
TW Oolong71.46.62%
Aged Raw43.84.06%
Dancong Oolong32.83.04%
Ripe Pu’erh00.00%
Young Pu’erh00.00%
Yiwu (Sub-Cat)339.931.51%

The most consumed tea has continued to be semi-aged raw pu’erh which similar to 2018 was a little over 60% of my consumption. This makes sense as it’s the category of tea I’m most invested and I have a large amount of variety of teas I enjoy to choose from.

Two tea types that are neglected in my drinking of category 2 are ripe pu’erh and traditionally-stored raw. I used to drink traditionally stored raw far more regularly and while I still enjoy the genre it doesn’t show up for this exercise. In 2017 when I did a similar exercise it was my second most frequently consumed tea at ~23.5%. And while ripe is not something I’ve ever drank that often it was at ~14.4% in 2017. In 2019, traditionally stored raw moved all the way down to 4.8% and ripe did not have a single entry..

So why have I slowed down? While I dispute the notion that traditionally stored raw is the same as ripe, both of these teas share some commonality and are on the more fermented end. Have I stopped drinking highly fermented tea in general? Not at all. If anything I consume it more regularly than ever before. It just fits into category 1, the casual brews I drink with my wife.. With a pot of ripe always nearby in my house, there’s less of a reason to reach out for these dark brews when I can just do a quick cup and be drinking something else in a different category.

Return of the Wu(long)

Unaged oolong has also made a bit of a comeback in my rotation. When I need something that brews out fairly quickly and is enjoyable, I often look to it. Yancha has always been one of my favorite types of tea and my own consumption of it has been curtailed by the availability and price. I’ve found a happy medium with Wuyi Origin and a mild rate of consumption at 100-200 grams a year. I’ve also started to drink Taiwanese oolongs again, where pricing tends to be kinder.

Tea Consumption & Sample Gaps

People have noted in the past that my tea consumption seems awfully light. In theory it should be between 1,800-2,200 grams per year, but it’s always been a bit less. One reason for this is that there’s usually at least one day a week where I don’t have time for my normal gong-fu session. On these days I drink ripe in a fairly hurried fashion that fits closer to category 1.

If you look at my log, you’ll notice that there are often gaps between sessions. There is essentially no gap in my tea consumption except when I travel. These gaps usually mean I’m working through samples. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by samples and looking at the data implies that approximately 40% of my tea consumption was samples. The opportunity cost of drinking samples over teas I own (and enjoy) is a big reason I no longer do massive samplings like the tea of the month reports.

Most common teas consumed in category 2:

  • 2002 (Small Brand) Yiwu
  • 2004 Mengku Rongshi Qizibing
  • 2005 Purple Yisheng
  • 2007 YQH Lingya
  • 2007 YQH Qizhong
  • 2016 Wuyi Origin Laocong Shuixian

Buying & Future Projects

This is probably my most responsible year. I think I even inadvertently hit the 15 cake challenge. There were essentially two big purchases. I bought a bunch of 2010 8582 (mentioned here) and a few cakes of the 2004 Biyun Hao Manzhuan (my fanciest purchase). I’ve also done a couple oolong purchases from Teahome and Wuyi Origin for some respectable drinking teas. Will probably be featuring these teas on TeaDB at some point.

Moving forward, quantity of sheng is an important marker for my buying. I’ve moved at least 80% of my tea storage into one spot, and a simple glance at it is an effective buying dissuader. I own a lot of tea and don’t need to aggressively buy. I am just one tea fanatic and have a relatively mild rate of consumption (Oolong Owl consumes much more!).

In 2020 I may buy a bit of oolong and maybe white to set aside. Aging oolong in particular has been something I’ve thought of for the past half decade and I’d like to try exploring more.

Favorite Session of Tea on the Show

2006 Yangqing Hao Chawangshu [Episode 300] – This is not the highest-end tea we’ve brought onto the show, but it’s a good, robust enjoyable one and in a relatively low-key year it’s probably my favorite session of the year.

Unexpected Destruction of Worlds

2012 Yangqing Hao Yegu [Episode 337] – This tea came with the alluring and familiar scent of Yang’s storage. And then proceeded to murder us.

2005 Nanqiao Bulang Double Lions [Episode 346] – I knew this was strong stuff and it didn’t disappoint. For my record I enjoyed this a bit more than the 2012 YQH Yegu tea, but it had the benefit of not ambushing us.

The Future of TeaDB

The future will be mostly the same in terms of video-making. One thing that was well-received and I’ll consider doing more of was the Storage Explainer episode. It was a major challenge to put together, but in the end I found putting it together to be rewarding and worthwhile. The issue here is that it requires the right topic that deserves the extra attention.. If you have any suggestions, I’d be happy to listen to them.

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

9 Responses to 2019 Tea & TeaDB Reflections

  1. Martin says:

    Daft comments on your videos with Denny will inevitably continue in 2020. Apologies in advance… 😉

    But I wanted to say that I appreciate your posts here and enjoy your take as you navigate your own tea journey. Happy 2020 to you and here’s to seeing you buy (and drink) more oolong. I’m taking the reverse approach where I concentrated mostly on oolong and wish to buy (and drink) more semi-aged raw puerh.

    While I can’t get close to Oolong Owl’s impressive 6.5kg of tea consumption, I got through 4.5kg in 2019. I was so reliably consistent that my daily average was practically always hovering around 12g a day. I won’t be documenting the amount I drink this year, but it’s a great exercise for anyone who wants to know what they get through on average.

    • James says:

      Thanks for the comment and following Martin!

      I think if you summed up all the tea that was consumed in my household, it’d probably be a bit more substantial, ~3-4kg. Alas, I lack a real justification to go ham on my tea buying.

      Cheers!
      -James

      • Toby says:

        Given the large variation in the number of brews you can and do get out of different teas I’d love to see some comparisons of the number of litres of tea drunk over a year.

        Off the top of my head I think I probably average 1.5L a day, so about 547L a year.

        A bit harder to measure accurately, since you’d have to record how many brews you got out of a tea and the vessel volume (and account for leaf swell etc.) but if someone wanted to do it properly it would be really interesting to compare.

        • James says:

          Interesting thought. Considering I already have some idea of the total tea consumed, I could probably do some measurements of times brewed per category of tea and extrapolate it out to give some sort of estimation.

          • Toby says:

            It does seem like a much better comparative measure to me (probably not that useful just for yourself though). If I regularly stop brewing pu’er at steep 6 or 7 because I have other things to do, but you keep brewing to steep 13 or 14 then you could be consuming double the amount of tea I am with the same grams of leaves. On the other end, if we both regularly brew with western pots (I do quite a bit) then we might be getting around the same volume (say a 700ml pot a couple of times a day), while using quite different amounts of leaves if I like a 1g/100ml ratio and you use 1g/70ml.

          • Toby says:

            One personal use of this sort of thinking is in thinking about value of tea. I think we should be a little careful when comparing the cost per gram of different teas. The cost per litre would probably be a better measure if it was easier to work out: most of us, I assume from my experience, will tend to drink a given volume of tea per day, rather than a given number of teas. If I have a really long lasting pu’er that might be all I drink in a day, but if I’m drinking shorter lasting black teas I might drink two or three.

            Pu’er actually looks really good on this score: it tends to keep going for a lot of steeps, given its comparatively low price to quality ratio this makes it a bargain compared to Dancong or Yancha, which frequently cost a lot more per gram but also give less volume per gram of tea. A pity that I’m so addicated to Dancong at the moment!, but cost per unit of valuable experience is gonna be even harder to calculate…

        • James says:

          I think grams consumed and liquid consumed are both interesting in different ways. Essentially depends what you’re trying to figure out. In the case of informing future purchasing, I think the grams measured is more informative. This way, actual drinking can give information on how much of each tea (in weight) we drink. The total amount of liquid I end up drinking doesn’t seem as relevant.

          The liquid consumed seems interesting more as a way to look at value (as you noted) and just learning how much tea you actually consume. You could probably get better caffeine estimates off of that as well.

          I’ve added a column to approximate the amount of liquid I’m actually drinking. It’s easy enough to measure in my case, as my pot size essentially makes one steep. Will see what it tells me a year from now!

        • Martin says:

          One thing I noticed was how some teas at half the price would only get half the number of infusions in a session. In essence, I’m paying the same price, so I can reasonably justify buying more expensive teas yet get the same value as I would a cheaper tea.

          There are exceptions where cheap tea goes on forever and an expensive tea doesn’t represent quality. However, I know which vendors are most reliable for me, making for a good general guide.

          I haven’t considered how much water I get through. But with my average number of brews per session being around 8, and with roughly 100ml per brew, I can make a pretty good guess!

          • James says:

            Good point Martin. I think it kind of depends how much you value getting more brews. For me the circumstances of my drinking are very important to what tea I’ll drink. I often just don’t want to waste teas and not steep a tea all the way out. So if I have a short amount of time, I’ll brew a short lasting tea, regardless of cost.

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