Grams Consumed: Grams Bought. A Relatively Simple Ratio to See If You’re Buying Too Much Pu’erh

Cakes upon cakes. Filling up fridges by the tong.. Filling up apartments by the fridge. We’ve all seen that instagram. Some may buy a pair of cakes, one for aging and one for drinking.. There’s also the stamp collector who owns 250 different cakes including the entire 2015+2016+2017 White2Tea & Crimson Lotus Tea line. The tong (+1). The two tongs (+1). For the obsessed mind, it is all too easy to buy and accumulate lots of tea.

It’s quite common in the tea community to hear someone remark that they are buying a lot or too much tea. But how much is too much? When you are buying many years worth of pu’erh, your perception can get divorced from the reality of your buying. Are you buying 1.5 years worth of tea in a year or is it 5 years worth of tea? Do you own five years worth of tea or is it a lifetime? People in both scenarios might think it is too much but in practicality there is a big difference.. Here’s a pair of simple calculations, inspired by my own habits and self-analysis to help figure out how crazy you actually are.

Simple Calculations
Scale & Tea.

First Calculation: Consumption

Tracking consumption is very easy.. Figure out how much you’ve consumed on average per day and what that cost is. We want to look at what a typical week (or even better month) looks for you in drinking quantity. Not sure or bad memory? Try logging your tea and how much it weighs, like I’ve been doing (James’ Drinking Log). No need to do it for a full year like I have or even a month, just long enough to capture your habit. The goal here isn’t to do a complex problem, more to create some perspective from simple math you can do on a receipt or napkin.

Optionally, add a separate column(s) to calculate the $/g and $ per session of the tea. This gives you an idea of your consumption rate in both gram and monetary terms.. This also makes it easy to frame sessions in terms of cost. For example, the 2007 Yangqing Hao Jincha I drink often costs me ~$1 per 6.2 gram session.

Tea Consumption Spreadsheet Example

Date Tea Grams $/g $/Session
1/1/2018 2015 YS Year of the Goat 7 $0.07 $0.49
1/1/2018 2015 YS Huirun 10 $0.11 $1.10
1/2/2018 2007 YQH Lingya 5 $0.30 $1.50
1/4/2018 1990s HK Stored Ripe 7 $0.10 $0.70
1/4/2018 2013 XG Love Forever 7 $0.24 $1.68
1/5/2018 2017 W2T Lumber Slut 5 $0.10 $0.50
1/5/2018 2017 TU Manzhuan 7 $0.40 $2.80
1/7/2018 2016 Crimson Lotus Hidden Song 6 $0.19 $1.14
1/8/2018 2015 YS Year of the Goat 5 $0.07 $0.35
1/9/2018 2007 YQH Jincha 6 $0.17 $1.02
1/10/2018 2016 W2T Poundcake 5 $0.25 $1.25

Second Calculation: Purchases

If you are one of those poor fools that has no idea how much they spent these past X amount of years on tea, I have great sympathy for you.. Still I am in the camp that you are better of with some idea of how much you buy. For recordkeeping purposes, I’d personally recommend using  the past year or so of purchasing history. The two key things here to track are the total quantity bought (in grams) and $ spent.

Tea Purchases Spreadsheet Example

Date Vendor Quantity (g) $ Spent
1/5/2017 Essence of Tea 175 $100.00
3/6/2017 Tea Urchin 300 $100.00
5/10/2017 Essence of Tea 400 $120.00
5/17/2017 White2Tea 350 $110.00
7/10/2017 Yunnan Sourcing 400 $60.00
8/2/2017 Crimson Lotus Tea 125 $45.00
11/11/2017 Steve (Tea friend, taobao groupbuy) 714 $80.00
11/24/2017 White2Tea 200 $50.00
11/24/2017 Yunnan Sourcing 1750 $225.00
11/24/2017 Crimson Lotus Tea 600 $200.00
12/1/2017 Yunnan Sourcing 1171 $100.00
12/15/2017 White2Tea 600 $200.00

Total $ spent for 2017 = $1,390. 6,785 grams, ~$0.20/g.

Even the Timescale & Calculate Projected Yearly Consumption

Now you just need to put them on the same timescale.. To calculate your total consumption over 365 days, take the consumption in your log and multiply by 365, then divide by the # of days you used for the log.

Total Consumption = 70 grams over 10 days. This is 7 grams per day.
Across 1 year, this is 365*7 = 2,555 grams. Add 10% to account for cake loss. 2,810.5 grams.

How Many Years Worth of Tea Did You Buy Last Year?

This now tells us the total $ and total grams we have consumed, projected out over a year. It also tells us all kind of interesting things, like: I bought about 10kg of tea last year and consumed 2kg. That’s a ratio of 5:1, implying you bought five years worth of tea.. Maybe you don’t want to broadcast out publicly, but is in my opinion informative to know.

Purchased: 6,785 grams. Projected: 2,810 grams consumed. 2.41:1 ratio of tea purchased vs. tea consumed.

In this example the person bought 2.41 times the amount of tea they consume over a year or 2.41 years worth of tea.

Project Monetary Consumption & Quality vs. Quantity

We can do a very similar calculation in monetary terms. To calculate your total consumption in monetary terms over 365 days, take the $ spent in your log and multiply by 365, then divide by the # of days you used for the log.

$12.53 consumed over 10 days. This is $1.25 per day. If we add 10% for cake loss/misc, we project $ consumption at $1.38/day.

Projected $ value of tea consumed over a year is $503.70.

$1,390 purchased: $503.70 consumed. 2.62:1 ratio of $ tea purchased vs. tea consumed.  In this example the person bought 2.62 times the monetary amount of tea they consume over a year. This means that they have $886.30 of tea stashed away.

This ratio lets you know how many $ worth of pu’erh you consumed. If you spent $900, but only drank $300 worth of tea, your ratio would be 3:1. In our example, the fictional pu’erh person bought about 2.66 years worth of pu’erh in terms of grams and 3.04 years worth of pu’erh in monetary value.

One of my (unverified) theories is that people tend to hoard their very best caked teas and consume lesser ones. With these calculations you can find out how true or not that theory holds for yourself.. In our fictional example, the person was drinking cheaper tea on average than the tea they bought.

  • I ran these on my own consumption and buying and found that the ratios were within a couple percentage points of each other, meaning I am buying and consuming ~the same caliber of tea.

An Aside. Lifetime Consumption

If you extrapolate this data out, it’s easy to see how this compares on a greater timescale (say a lifetime). If you consume ~2.5kg per year, it means you’re projected to drink ~25kg in a decade or so. So… How many years (or lifetimes) of pu’erh do you own?

One rationalization I’ve heard is that it’s OK to buy too much pu’erh because you can just leave it to your kids or descendants or whatever. After all when retirement is concerned it is definitely better to save too much than too little. I disagree with this vein of thought. Tea is definitely not the same as money and isn’t nearly as useful. The odds are high that people won’t know what to do with it or appreciate it on nearly the same level as you. Overbuying makes sense to some degree, since you do not want to run out of tea. But significant over accumulation does not.

Tea Stash
Tea Stash.

12 Cakes/Year

The past two years in an effort to cut down on my own irresponsible buying, I’ve limited my cake consumption to a finite amount. In 2017, I did 15 cakes or 5,355 grams (assuming cakes of 357g).  In 2018, it’ll be 12 or 4,284 grams. How does this stack up? With my own consumption projected at about 1,800 grams per year. In theory I’m buying about 2.38 years of worth of pu’erh in quantity.

Of course, this assumes I buy no other tea. In actuality I bought bigger cakes on average, split some cakes, was gifted a tong and a few extra cakes, bought samples and my ratio was quite a bit above that. Well it was in theory..

Final Thoughts

Balancing both ratios to 1:1 isn’t necessarily the end-goal here. Buying more than you consume isn’t bad — but it is definitely good to have some sense how much you are buying. I find it helpful to know that I bought about X years of pu’erh in a certain year. If these ratios are very high for you, this implies you are buying tea for several years of consumption. Something like a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio of tea bought to consumed may be a perfectly fine ratio for someone just starting out (presuming they eventually slow down). That same ratio is probably not good if you already have 30 years worth of tea stashed away.

For those who truly buy too much tea… As painful as it may sound, it might be the smart move to save that $500 you would’ve spent on 10-15 different cakes and use it on a couple more expensive teas. I have tried to steer my buying in such ways in the past. Another sound deduction that will make your significant other even more happy, is to reduce buying to just 3-4 of those cakes (rather than 10-15).

2 responses to “Grams Consumed: Grams Bought. A Relatively Simple Ratio to See If You’re Buying Too Much Pu’erh”

  1. Thanks James. A very thoughtful article.

    On a personal level I have to say I’ve never regretted buying expensive, good quality teas. The trick is to know when you are good enough to recognize such teas. In the beginning many times you may think you know but really you don’t know – hahaha. Over confidence and arrogance can really blind people to the truth. I have seen really terrible purchases in my time by people with more money than sense. That said, once you have acquired that knowledge and have the means you can then act upon it. Such windows of opportunity are only opened for so long when it comes to good tea. My biggest regret has always been I wish I had bought more. Being a traditionalist at heart and seeing how the passing of time is bringing about new changes the regret becomes stronger but that’s just me 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment and insight Varat. My biggest danger has always been cheaping out and buying too many teas that I deem “good enough” rather than opting for something a little more expensive that might be higher quality. Forcing myself into that higher-quality tea bracket has always been a struggle.

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