Five More Things I like & Dislike. Pu’erh Vendors on YT, Seattle, Gambling on Dayi..

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

Pu’erh Vendors on Youtube

I can’t say I saw this one coming but I’m not complaining. There are a few active channels providing quality content done by western facing pu’erh vendors. These range from Jingmai farmers/specialists Farmer Leaf to local tea friend and vendor Crimson Lotus Tea to old-hands like Scott of Yunnan Sourcing. Maybe these vendors all realized making videos is a lot easier than writing a tired old blog post. Maybe videos are the best way to showcase Yunnan. Regardless, this is a thread worth embracing and these three are all making some very nice content. Please continue.

Seattle Tea Scene

This one isn’t relevant to the majority of the people that follow us.. As with any city, there are parts of it that I am a fan of and parts that I am not.. I am overall very thankful to be a small part of an active community of tea drinkers in the Pacific Northwest..

For the uninitiated.. There’s Floating Leaves up in north Seattle that hosts regular tea classes, on Taiwanese teas and pu’erh. A local filmmaker also is teaming up with Shiuwen to make a documentary on Dong Ding. I’ve also been a regular at tastings hosted by Crimson Lotus Tea at a local tea shop just south of Seattle, Phoenix Tea Shop opened up by an old school tea blogger. There’s usually a pretty good showing and we drink through a lot of pu’erh. There’s also plenty of drinkers, such as Oolong Owl, meeting up at each other residences to drink tea together. It’s not common to find many communities out in the western hemisphere, but if you’re a local in Seattle — don’t be a tea hermit and go meet some other tea folks!

Gambling on Dayi

If you want to try out Dayi you need to be at the bare minimum, confident of your sources. This is extremely commonly faked tea (yes even the cheap ones and ripe productions) and not the sort of tea where you should ever be buying the cheapest thing you find on taobao or ebay. Buy from a vendor where someone (who presumably has some idea what they’re doing) vouches for them. And even then, you still need to grapple with the possibility that the person vouching for the tea or vendor made a mistake. And just because you like the tea you ordered or think is good doesn’t make it bona fida Dayi.. Fakes come in all different shapes, sizes, with varying degrees of quality.

  • Also.. I’ve seen the logic of some Dayi cakes being too cheap or too rare to fake. This is untrue  and should never, ever be assumed. There are many, many fakes of both cheaper and off the beaten path Dayi..
  • I typically buy my Dayi ripes from Scott’s US site. These are sporadic buys for me and while I can get the tea cheaper on taobao, it’s not really worth the hassle for me and I find Scott’s markup reasonable.

Good Qi & Bad Qi. How Does it Feel? Keep it Simple.

I sat down with a sample of a mid 2000s tea made by a Taiwanese boutique. I had come across the tea from a source, which was selling for a fraction of a price of what a collector was selling purportedly the same tea for. I was also going out of town soon and tried to pay particularly close attention to the tea to figure out if I wanted to purchase it.. I can’t remember the taste but I felt a discernible qi that hit me quite hard, particularly in the first half of the session. The tea died a bit fast, but I left the session feeling pretty interested in the tea (even though it wasn’t cheap), thinking it must be the real deal..

I chatted about the tea with a few tea friends and then tried it again on the next day. This time I took a step back from detailed tasting notes and tried to answer two questions. (a) Do I like this tea? (b) Do I like how this tea makes me feel? The tea failed.. It was not comfortable or soothing at all. In fact, I found it to be unpleasant. Was it interesting? Yes.. But not in a pleasant way and also something I’d likely never want to drink..

Trying to conceptualize the qi or the energy of the tea isn’t easy. In the west we’re often drinking solo, without experienced tea people to help guide us. Sometimes I feel like we can get in our own heads about specific notes and feelings, and talk ourselves into certain teas. Feeling the qi or energy (or whatever) doesn’t necessarily make a tea the right purchase for you. Some teas with energy may create fairly uncomfortable body reactions (independent of overconsumption). This can of course vary person to person, as our own internal body chemistries and what we look for or feel in tea differ.

In the end, I think we can get a bit too into our own tea star-gazing and fall for teas that do indeed make us feel, but perhaps not in a good way.. Take a step back and try not to overthink it. Do you like the tea and do you like how it makes you feel?

Grumpy Pumidor Naysayers

There’s a group of grumpy old-schoolers that regard the simple thought of storing pu’erh in a pumidor with outright disdain. There’s nothing wrong with being skeptical but I find their argument often boils down to the idea that it is not how the tea experts in Hong Kong/Taiwan/Malaysia do it.. Sometimes you’ll also be treated to certain reasoning that are difficult to disprove and in my opinion lack evidence (i.e. the necessity of significant airflow in dry conditions).

The conditions we live in much of Europe and North America are very, very different than Hong Kong, Taipei, and Malaysia. The solution for us is likely going to look different than those that reside in those environments. I’m certainly much more comfortable with my tea sitting at 65RH in a wine cooler than sitting at 30RH in my natural ambient environment. Perhaps in a place like Florida naturally stored tea will do quite well. But for the most part, natural western conditions are dry and cold for pu’erh storage when put into direct contrast with what has worked well in east Asia. I’d challenge people who hold negative views on pumidors to offer an alternate suggestion.

While they’re not necessarily grumpy, this rule can also extend to eastern-based tea folks that aren’t familiar with western conditions and get pretty mystified when you explain why you’re storing your tea in an unplugged refrigerator. I’ve heard of a Taiwan-based eastern tea seller who sells some pu’erh exclaiming how 15% RH in the west is perfect for naturally storing pu’erh. While I don’t doubt this advice is sincere and well-intentioned, it is also in my opinion irresponsible, unsubstantiated, and frankly terrible advice.

Tea Friends

A couple sessions with tea friends.

This entry was posted in Article, Raw Pu'erh, Storage, Tea Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Five More Things I like & Dislike. Pu’erh Vendors on YT, Seattle, Gambling on Dayi..

  1. MattCha says:

    James,

    If those kids walk across my front yard and trample my grass one more time….

    🙂

    Peace (and love)

    • James says:

      Hi Matt,

      Very much appreciate your presence in the online tea community. Believe it or not I had this written and scheduled from ~2 months ago, didn’t intentionally refer to our comment exchange in the “Indoor vs. Outdoor” post.

      Cheers,
      -James

  2. shah8 says:

    I don’t like pumidors, from the abstract perspective, mostly because over the years, people make *very* expensive mistakes with pumidors. They have to be kept up with, and over the time horizons we’re talking about, this gives plenty of time for screwups.

    Of course, I have the luxury of knowing that I enjoy the aging of my own rather natural storage. –To the point that I now realize that I literally can’t buy my teas, even if they are for sale. My storage is too unique and seemingly material. 2005 Dayi Mengsong Peacock does not have much in the way of material differences (between mine and Donghe version, the Donghe is a bit deeper in taste and mine is a bit more floral). However, most XZH have very material differences, and recently I found that the Dayi An Xiang shu can be substantially inferior to my own storage.

    That’s going to be a big issue. Nobody is really paying that much attention to the quality of storage of aughts tea, but this is going to be a big thing. And in general, people should really rather thoughtful about their storage strategy–and at least get ahold of a don’ts list. That also goes with purchases, as well. If your collection is too stamp-collect-y, then ten years from now, if your storage is decent or better, you’ll find that your material will become precious–because you can’t find that tea again. I bet the vast majority of teas sold by vendors (and big time high volume collectors–sold on FB auctions) are not stored all that well, because they don’t have the attention that you can give to your own, smaller stash. And good examples of that precious tea may only be available from other collectors, who everyone presumably knows about already, due to the overall quality of storage. You ready to give up that kidney? You can do it now by buying a tong, today, of something you truly like and are sure of liking in the future, and with reasonable aging prospects. Or you can do it later, buying one more cake of that precious, and being miserly about treating yourself to some good tea.

    • MattCha says:

      I could say lots about pumidor storage and why I think its not great/ optimal but I think you touched on the two biggest reasons to not have a pumidor-

      1- past confessionals tell us that the risk of molding/ruin increases (how many more has this happened that were too embarrassed to speak up?)
      2- it requires a lot of attention/ effort/ energy/ maintenance / life time commitment/ paranoia /monitoring /babysitting /

      Peace

      • Karl says:

        I think your two points are well taken but I have an alternative view (for myself). I think point one can be mitigated by a reasonable strategy regarding storage. I store my tea at roughly 62-66% RH and 68 -74 degrees Fahrenheit year around. I have never seen mold, and I think these parameters are fairly safe. Since I drink daily, I check my storage regularly.

        Your second point is exactly right, it does take a lot of time over the years…but to me that’s part of the enjoyment of the hobby. My wife likes to garden. She spends a fortune on plants, seeds, above ground vegetable beds, soil and time, labor,etc. From this we get good vegetables…but the $$ value is not anywhere near to the cost..except for the enjoyment of doing it. I like tasting my “stash”, seeing how it’s coming (quite well btw) and managing the aging process. I’ve been doing this for several years now and I’ve enjoyed every bit of the work
        I put into it.

      • James says:

        Hi Matt & Karl,

        In regards to point 2, I’d push back a bit.. I’d say that the amount of maintenance can get pretty overrated. Maybe this is just because mine requires minimal fussing, but to me a pumidor is essentially just tossing all your tea into a bin/fridge/wine cooler and maybe or maybe not adding humidity and maybe or maybe not adding temperature. If you just do part 1 of that (which is more or less what I do), it is pretty damn simple. Sure if you are pushing the envelope a lot, you’ll want to check on them, but if you’re OK with settling it around 65/65 or even a little higher I think those are pretty safe. A pumidor does require you to check your cakes now and then, but once you are confident in your system working it seems pretty damn easy. I would also argue that any system that is effectively aging your tea, likely requires you to check on them at some intervals..

        Is storing tea in a pumidor inherently more risky than storing tea naturally or sealing it. Well, sure. Of course it is. I’m fairly convinced that natural storage won’t produce the results I’m looking for, and the jury is still out on sealing in the west..

        I’m also curious how you store your tea Matt. In the past you’ve hinted at both natural and sealed storage. In my mind, they’re quite different unless you’re doing some sort of hybrid. Would you mind clarifying?

        Cheers,
        -James

        • MattCha says:

          James,

          Have stored shrink wrapped, cave storage, pumidor, natural, ziplocked. Have done this in different climates/ countries / regions.

          Should write a blog post on this soon.

          Peace

          • James says:

            Thanks Matt. I appreciate you commenting. While we clearly disagree on aspects of storage, I think it’s important to hear from experienced people with differing perspectives in the matter. I look forward to hearing more about your storage.

            Cheers,
            -James

    • James says:

      Thanks for the comment shah. Points well taken.

      I will say as a brief note, that shah’s storage is easily the best I’ve had in the US. If I had the choice of buying the equivalent teas from shah or most sorts of Taiwanese storage I would take shah’s everytime.

      In regards to storage.. I guess when it comes down to it I see pumidors as a necessary evil for those in colder and drier climates. Sure, of course I’d rather store my tea naturally but I am skeptical of what the results would be.

    • Garrett says:

      Shah, do you run the AC a bunch in the room where you store your tea?

    • Aardvark Cheeselog says:

      Have you written someplace about this natural storage of yours?

      If not, would you care to provide a synopsis?

  3. MattCha says:

    “I have the luxury of knowing that I enjoy the aging of my own rather natural storage”

    Around here, where I live, everyone loves their grandma’s homemade perogies . Sure someone else’s grandma makes some pretty good perogies, but to be perfectly honestly I think my grandma’s perogies are the best.

    Peace

    • Cwyn says:

      So, Matt…have you actually tasted tea from pumidor storage, from someone who has been storing this way for five years or more? MrMopar is very successful at this type of storage. I have received new samples from him for the past three years running, and he has been storing more than five years. His teas are in excellent condition and coming along nicely.

      Any storage of the “store it and leave it” without checking the tea and making adjustments is asking for trouble, no matter where you live and how you store it.

      • Cwyn says:

        It’s pierogies. I prefer to just buy them nowadays, not worth the trouble 😄

        • MattCha says:

          Cwyn (the psychic),

          https://deathbytea.blogspot.ca/2018/01/when-tea-gets-ugly-and-other-2018-puerh.html#comment-form

          See last prediction.

          Thank you and James for bringing this out of all the back channels/ private chat rooms and into the public record.

          Peace

          • Cwyn says:

            While some folks might be doing some experimenting with heat pads and such in their pumidors, most of what people are doing isn’t new. It’s all been discussed at length on public forums and blogs.

            I’m a little confused as to what you are trying to say here. Your posts seem to be saying that pumidors risk mold, fair enough but that usually is situation specific (someone pushing their tea). You also said everyone prefers their own storage, fair enough. Then your parable seems to suggest “staying off each other’s lawns,” which I’m interpreting as don’t criticize people’s storage. But actually your first two comments are indeed critical of the storage of others.

            I don’t see a problem with any of the above except that the points are somewhat self-contradicting coming from the same person. Or maybe require more elaboration.

  4. Su says:

    How do you differentiate between good qi and bad qi in tea?

    • James says:

      Hi Su,

      That’s a very question that I don’t feel equipped at all to answer. What I do know is that I can sometimes get in my head about the “feelings” of a certain tea and talk myself into something I don’t like.

      -James

  5. MattCha says:

    I have two neighbours on my block with beautiful yards, gorgeous front lawns.

    The first neighbour is always very busy in the yard. His grass is thick and cut really short. He is out there every Saturday morning mowing his grass, regardless of whether or not it needs it. He is always out there doing something. Weeding, hedge trimming, fertilizing, something. It is a labor of love for him. He is that guy who even waters his grass by holding a spray nozzle in his hand and waving it around. Yeah, sure an underground sprinkler system would probably work a lot better but this is who he is and I respect him for it. His yard is awesome to view from across the street. His hard work shows.

    Then I have another different neighbour down the block and her yard is awesome too. She has one of those yards with all the different layers of wild, natural, bushes and shrubs in it. She has only local, drought and flood resistant, wild grasses that are naturally occurring in the prairies in her yard. She had done some simple, natural landscaping so she never has to water her yard- its pretty amazing. Her yard is like an open terrarium of sorts because she does virtually nothing to maintain it. I barely even see the owner at all in the front yard but when I do she is proud of it. I don’t blame her….

    Really, I must be honest, I think both yards are great and but personally I really love the second neighbor’s yard better. Last year we had a drought year. Unknowingly, the first neighbour tried to get ahead of it early in the springtime and aggressively fertilized. Unrelated to the fertilizing he fell ill and was hospitalized for some time. His partner tried to water the lawn but it was too late and the grass was almost destroyed from chemical burns. Then it got swampy and over watered- what a mess. After he got out of hospital I saw him spending enormous amounts of time and money getting the yard back to its former glory.

    My second neighbour’s lawn was astonishingly unaffected by the drought at all. I think she probably spent most of the summer at her cabin at the lake because I never saw her. I imagine her sitting in the sun reading books on landscaping/ yards and post on her yard blog.

    And as for me….

    I am just trying to stop the kids from walking across my front yard again and tramping my grass!

    Peace

  6. Jeff says:

    My first pu’erh was given to me by a family I was staying with in Guangxi province. I had no idea what it was, and after saying how much I liked it, they insisted on me taking the thing home with me.

    I had no idea what to do with it (wasn’t too into tea at the time – alas!), so it lived in a kitchen cupboard, with just its paper wrapping. This was how the family kept it, so I didn’t think anything of it. After trying it off and on over three years, I noticed that it got continually worse – more insipid, dull, lifeless – not the tea that I enjoyed during my session with the family.

    Once I finally figured out what I had and what to do with it, I did manage to bring it somewhat back to life by just letting it live next to other pu’erh in a brown paper bag. But it never really regained its original depth of flavor.

    So, all I can say is that pu’erh living in a cupboard in Cincinnati (with heat on in the winter and AC on in the summer), will make your pu’erh die a slow, boring death. It certainly does not equate to the humid, natural, non-AC cabinet storage it enjoyed in Guangxi.

    I now just have my stuff sitting in a big plastic bin with plenty of other pu’erh to keep each other company. Still dry conditions, for sure, but it’s all doing fine. I do notice a little drop-off with flavor during the winter (especially with sheng), but it comes back to life in the spring, and really flourishes during the summer (it lives in a room with heat but no AC, so the humid Cincinnati summers are a real treat for my stash).

    So, that’s my experience. Unless you live in humid, sweaty conditions at home, don’t let your pu’erh live in a kitchen cupboard to fend for itself.

    • James says:

      Thanks for sharing your storage and observations Jeff. I think the part about the seasonality of the tea in its storage is quite interesting.. I’ve heard similar things from people throughout the US and would not be surprised if this is quite common given the climate.

      Cheers,
      -James

  7. Jonny 山內 says:

    The grumble log is still entertaining and its nice to reflect on other people’s concerns whether you agree or disagree with them so keep it up!
    You have a very strong point on Dayi tea, I admit I have turned away from it in the last year as guarantee of the genuine article is getting far too hazy. Its pleasing that they have tried to instigate some control over this with holograms and ant-forgery printing designs, however I honestly believe recently this as only added to the problem in that very good fakes are very good at reproducing the anti-forgery devices such that the consumer is too easily lulled into a false sense of security. That saying it is sometimes an interesting pursuit to purchase such obvious fake cakes to see how bad or good the situation is. I have sometimes knowingly bought fake cakes just to test the system as I know others have done (i.e. Twodog2 AKA White2Tea )

    • James says:

      Thanks for the comment Jonny. I think my post may’ve incited some storage grumbling.. But hey! If productive dialogue comes from it then I am happy.

      With fake Dayi.. I suppose if you are treating them as white labels of sorts then there’s no real harm that comes of it. In those cases though, it’s important to clearly state expectations for yourself and if you were to write on it, clearly state its potentially dubious origins.

      Cheers!
      -James

      PS. Denny & I just filmed with your Heicha. Should be coming up in a few weeks.

  8. Nathan says:

    I really wish there was a bigger tea scene where I live which is Louisville. The closest true tea store near me is Music City Tea down in Nashville (Which has great tea btw). So unfortunately it seems online groups is where Im stuck at for good.

  9. MattCha says:

    James & Cwyn,

    I think a respectful discussion, lively debate, and healthy critique around storage of puerh is always a good thing…

    My next door neighbour thinks we should have a block party… I think that would be a real good time (a little crazy though). I sometimes have a real, nice, long tea session in my glass veranda a watching the neighbours and nieghbourhood bustle. I love that.

    Peace

  10. Jamie says:

    Reporting in from nashville, tn usa. Open air indoor storage is essentially a no go. Tea dies REAL fast from ac and lack of humidity. I keep the tea in the most humid closet with a bucket of water to pull the humidity up. The tea is kept in cardboard boxes. This is not intended for long term storage, it’s just that without a minimal fuss like this my tea dies and turns sour within months of arival. House averages bellow 45rh, seems i can keep the tea in a drinkable state at 55rh and up.

    • James says:

      Hi Jamie,

      Yes, that makes sense. It hurts my brain when I see open air storage being recommended to people with living conditions that are definitely regularly below 40RH.

      -James

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