Five more things I like & dislike.
Tea Meetups & Online Tea Meetups
(Written before Covid19) I’ve become more aware of some different meetups happening. This is very good. Chinese tea in the west is too often a solo venture.
- NY Tea Society.
- The Bay Area Meetups (I think there’s a north and south?)
- LA Tea Meetup
- Liquid Proust’s Columbus Meetups
With the exception of LP’s Columbus meetups, these are all located in big, coast, urban hubs. This is where people have the most options, but you may be surprised at the level of accessibility on the local level..
When I was in Spain this past Autumn I had the pleasure of meeting with a local tea drinker there in Madrid. My wife and I were able to swing by on our final full day of Spain and enjoy some raw and ripe pu’erh in a place not known as a tea drinking culture. During my half a month there, I saw very little visible indication of Chinese tea. And the person I met also gave the impression there was not much of a community. Finding tea culture and other tea people who share the same interest, you’ll often have to dig a little beneath the surface.
Before I left for Europe, I had a quick online conversation with a pu’erh vendor. When the topic of Europe/Spain came up, they asked me if I was meeting up with anyone. I said no, and that I didn’t think there was much of a scene there.. The vendor surprised me by telling me that there was at least a handful of customers there. The point being there may be more tea drinkers locally than you might assume! Chinese tea drinking communities are rarely visible at the surface level. Make a post on a tea forum and see if anyone bites. Who knows?
I wrote the majority of this before the pandemic hit and I’ve become aware of a lot of online tea sessions. I’ve done a couple and their fun although it’s a lot easier to get jazzed up on tea since it is tea for one!
Overuse of Tea Drunk
Call this a preference (or call me a grump). I just feel like this term can be used too flippantly and get overdone in the western tea community. I am open to how others experience tea, but for myself, tea has never created the feeling of being drunk and I’d almost always rather describe whatever I’m feeling in different terms.
Non-Tea Review Blog Content
One reason I think Marshaln’s site continues to remain ever relevant and useful is that it was never focused on specific teas and instead on other topics.
If you start a tea blog, the most obvious piece of content is to make a post on a specific tea.. I’d like to issue a challenge to tea content creators. Try to make a habit of making a few more non-review centric content. It often requires thinking and stretching yourself more, but to me these are often more rewarding pieces of content to make. I’ve also found that these are the most often revisited videos/posts on TeaDB.
I’m not suggesting anyone stop reviewing teas (we’re definitely not). These obviously have their time and place, but I think it’s also the most saturated form of content.
People Experimenting With Aging White Tea
Mainly I’m curious to see where aging white goes. Oolong Owl has long been at the forefront of the western tea scene and the topic is fresh in ways that pu’erh definitely isn’t. The current conventional wisdom indicates this may be an easier tea to age than pu’erh in the west. It’s faster and humidfying the tea doesn’t seem to be as necessary, although much of this is still up for debate.
For myself, the aged white profile has never had the instant attraction that aged pu’erh or oolong provoked so I’ve been a bit slower to the scene. Still, I plan to pick up a couple at some point and see what happens.
How To Start Exploring a Tea Category (1) Go With a Specialist. (2) Start in the Mid-Range. (3) Try Multiple Examples.
I think this is good, simple advice to follow for those looking to experience just about any tea category. Going with a specialist eliminates some fairly obvious pitfalls. You’ll automatically avoid things like stinky Chinatown ripe pu’erh. And it should filter out vendors too removed from the source.
Figuring out if someone is a specialist isn’t difficult. Look at the teas they sell and if there is a common type or location to them. A quick look at Floating Leaves and you’ll know they do Taiwanese oolongs. Or a glance at Yunnan Sourcing, and you’ll know that they’re specialized in Yunnan-grown tea and especially pu’erh.
Why the mid-range? Risk going too low and you may just end up with a subpar or odd example of the tea. When trying something without a ton of experience, it’s important to get something that is decent enough quality and representative of the larger category as a whole. If you buy something cheap, it may not be that you don’t dislike the tea category just that you didn’t get a very good example.. It probably isn’t a bad idea to go high, but most people are interested in value. Others may be understandably concerned that buying something expensive will be wasted on them. So go middle.
What is the mid-range? While it can vary tea to tea, aiming for $0.20-$0.35/g is a decent place to start for most teas. For inherently expensive teas like Yancha this may be too low, but for most it should get you something decent enough to give a general idea of the tea category.
Of course it might be possible to buy tea locally and get a decent, representative experience of the tea category. But this is heavily dependent on walking into the right shop and will generally have a higher miss rate than shopping around online. We’re also all stuck inside now so buying online is a great way to go!