Five Things I Like & Dislike, Obsession with Value, Tea Shaming…

Things that have been occurring in the tea world that I like and dislike..

Over Obsession with Value

I’m very guilty of this at varying points of my tea journey. For obsessed tea people who are always tea hunting and sampling for things to buy in higher quantity, it can be difficult to divorce tea cost from a tea. Maybe a tea is good but is more than you’re willing to pay. Don’t let that hamper your enjoyment! Not everything is about transactional utility. Certain teas, i.e. most anything famous, are almost always going to fall into the bad value bucket. At a certain point we’re better off just drinking and appreciating a tea for what it is rather than taking out our calculators to figure out the price per gram and how it compares with other teas.

As an example — this is an attitude I specifically wanted to avoid for my session with the BGT black. If I spent the whole session thinking about how “overpriced” it was it probably wouldn’t have been as fun as just enjoying the tea. Purchasing decision and judging value should make up just a small part of our tea appreciation.

Tea Shaming

I’ve seen tea shaming go both ways, both up and down.. One case is the otherwise pleasant tea folk spewing venom on people who spend “a lot” on tea or even simply have access to famous or expensive tea. There are also others who stick out their pinky fingers and talk down to those who buy “inexpensive” tea. In the end, this is just tea and people shouldn’t have to worry about being tea shamed whether they bought something cheap or expensive.. There is no need to be a jerk and talk patronizingly down to someone who is drinking some cheap ripe. You may argue that you’re doing them a favor by calling out what they’re drinking, but there are almost always better ways to go about it than condescending remarks. There’s enough shittiness in the world, something relatively innocuous like tea doesn’t need to devolve into that.

BGT Black Ticket

1999 BGT Blue/Black Ticket. A famous tea.

“I Wouldn’t Appreciate This Tea Yet…”

I dislike this excuse. This is usually used as a rationalization for someone who has not tried the tea avoiding sampling more expensive tea or hoarding a sample. There’s really no way to know if you will enjoy some of these pricier samples without trying it. Duh.. Some people will get it immediately even without much experience. Maybe you do need the time. Even then, the tea can still be helpful in giving an early reference point. This is exactly what a sample is for!

I find this is a way for people to put off consuming something that’s simply more expensive than your average tea. The sample isn’t getting any better while it sits in that bag. Maybe you won’t appreciate that tea yet, but you can always have the option of reordering another sample. Even the most expensive sample from a fairly pricy W2T’s 2017 line is $27 for 25g. That’s under $5-10/session. Maybe not everyone can afford it (which is fine) but it’s around the level of stuff we spend money on everyday. Trying to learn about young raw pu’erh? Buy it and try it.. There’s no better day to drink your best tea than today.

There are often real cost barriers to trying expensive tea. There are also ones that are predominantly psychological and shouldn’t stop us. This in my opinion, is the latter. Don’t mindfuck yourself into not trying tea that you can actually afford.

At Least I Can Give This Cake to My Ancestors to Drink

I’ve heard this said quite a bit. If you’re saying it as a cute joke, then cool.. But if this is a real rationalization to overbuy a high quantity of tea than you really should be rethinking how you’re spending your money. Still want to spend that money on tea? No problem.. Pool your money and buy better tea. Or save it.

Pu’erh has a tendency to invite hoarding tendencies. Avoid this unless you’re actually serious about investing and reselling. If you are a pu’erh enthusiast, do everyone a favor with a list of inventory and some contacts to sell to. Your family and friends probably don’t want your slowly composting pu’erh stash, give them an easy way out.. A bit morbid, but a real consideration for some.

A Tong (+1 Cake or a Cake Split)

People will naturally have different ideas about what hitting hard actually means. For some this means a few tongs. Others, maybe it’s a tong or maybe even just a few cakes. Our age and consumption rates all vary. I personally like the tong + 1 cake approach of buying tea, for things you want to be around for a very long time. This helps form the core of your collection. You can drink from that single cake and have some idea how the tea is going, while keeping the tong intact for the long term.

There are also varying camps on stamp collecting. Personally I prefer a more heavy-handed approach (buying less stamps), especially if you are buying for your lifetime. Having a bunch of single or double cakes, might seem like you are cultivating variety but aging half of a cake or a partially consumed cake is kind of a pain in the ass.

Tong.

A tong of tea + a cake.

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9 Responses to Five Things I Like & Dislike, Obsession with Value, Tea Shaming…

  1. Pete says:

    Well said, James. Thank you.

  2. Jeff says:

    I like your comment regarding obsession with value. I’m a cheapskate, and it’s easy to forget that a hobby should be something that brings happiness and new experiences – not a penny-pinching obsession like clipping coupons for the grocery store.
    However, while I get myself to branch out and get samples of expensive and exclusive stuff on a fairly regular basis, I have often found myself being disappointed at how ordinary a lot of the expensive stuff is. From 1990s puerh to gu shu to Lao Ban Zhang – I’ve been scratching my head over why people pay what they pay for some of this stuff. It’s been hard for me not to assess teas based on their price when the best teas I’ve had have all been very reasonably priced. In fact, the more I keep sampling expensive teas, the more I keep turning to the cheaper stuff – not just for their superior price, but for their superior flavor as well.
    Or, maybe I just have the palate of an ogre with a sinus infection. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.

    • Doug says:

      I tend to agree, Jeff. I’ve been buying and drinking $60ish 2014 raw cakes from YS and I haven’t felt that they suffer in comparison to much more expensive stuff. I’m more likely to splurge on black and green teas, where the difference between $5/100 grams and $20/100 grams is night and day.

    • James says:

      Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for the comment. You bring up good points.

      Without knowing what teas you’ve tried it’s difficult to comment very precisely. There are a number of teas that cost more, some for good reasons. Others for not so good reasons.. I guess I would argue that getting some sort of experience with these “higher-end” teas and trying to understand them is worthwhile. My personal belief is that for most tea people that what is generally considered premium tea is worth trying, which it sounds like you’ve done.

      In the end, most of the teas I purchase also end up in that sort of mid-rage category ($0.20-0.35/g) but I’ve appreciated the experience of many higher-end ones.

  3. Deven says:

    Good read, when I get samples I think the excitement of a new experience boosts the positive aspects of the experience, but it is at least good to say to yourself this is/isn’t worth it. You’ve paid your tuition now its time to have fun.

    • James says:

      Agreed and yeah that’s probably true. There’s a place for evaluating the value of a tea, but also a (IMO higher) place for enjoyment and appreciation.

  4. Aardvark Cheeselog says:

    > If I spent the whole session thinking about how “overpriced” it was it probably wouldn’t have been as fun as just enjoying the tea.

    This is really good.

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