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.