Five more things I like & dislike.
China (& Asia) as a Monolith
Chinese drinkers never drink young pu’erh….
As an unimportant and minor community, sometimes I see western gong-fu drinkers treating China as a monolith. Anything you hear from there must be the consensus or correct.
Of course there is conventional wisdom that comes from these places that we should take seriously. But.. China is an enormous place. And it’s very well-documented in places like Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans & Urban Chic that there are substantial differences in tea preferences, opinions and storage even within a single province like Yunnan. Expand that world to Guangdong, Beijing, etc. and that opinion gap widens. we should take advice that comes from the more developed and experienced China seriously, but don’t take it as a monolith and try to understand the context and perspective the espouser is coming from.
If you are someone that dislikes negative, polarizing and crude online behavior, I think the online tea community in general ranks pretty well. I’d place it well above the average online community. It exists in fairly disparate spheres, on places like facebook, reddit, steepster, teaforum.org, teachat, private chats, etc. One platform that I think is even more positive than all of the above is Instagram.
If you are someone allergic to negativity and want to root it out of your life, give tea Instagram a try. There’s a lot of crossover with other platforms and the discussion isn’t always substantive, but it’s hard to argue that it’s overall not a very positive place.
Small Pu’erh Vendors Selling Semi-Aged Teas
If you’re reading this you’re probably familiar with the big name pu’erh vendors like White2Tea and Yunnan Sourcing. While these more established vendors sell some semi-aged tea that is worth trying (Scott in particular has a decent amount of semi-aged tea), a huge percentage of their products tend to be younger tea. Over the past few years, there’s been a few operations that have picked up the slack. If we include hybrid hobbyist vendors like LiquidProust and Emmett that list gets even bigger. Even though some sell a majority of young tea, they have some semi-aged options worth trying.. Here’s a few worth checking out..
- Teas We Like
- Tea Encounter
- Adventure in Every Cup
- Liquid Proust
- Emmett’s Tea & Yangqing Hao
Boiling Water for Brewing Tea
I’m of the opinion that oolongs should be able to take boiling water and taste good. Now and then you’ll see the advice being thrown around that you should brew it at 195F or even lower. I’m almost always skeptical of such advice. If it’s a purportedly high-end tea I get even more suspicious. When a vendor recommends using lower temperature water, they could be trying to obfuscate some not so good tea.
On the subject of young raw pu’erh, I’m a little more open to others brewing at slightly lower temperature when brewing for enjoyment. My preference is to use boiling all the time and regulate the strength by steep time, especially when it comes to testing a tea.. That being said, I can understand why some may like to brew it at lower temperatures to mellow the strength for themselves and others.
- Semi-aged and aged tea in my opinion should always be brewed with boiling water in my opinion.
Banding Together to Take Larger Risks on Unknown
A handful of my purchases in the last few years have been through myself or a friend scouring the internet (taobao, TW) and finding what seems like a decent source. These sources will typically not be western facing vendors. The process sounds rather sketchy, and in many cases there is some amount of unknown or uncertainty. Here’s where the group buy aspect comes in.
One advantage of banding together for group buys is that when it comes to places with large amount of uncertainty it spreads the risk around. Rather than gambling $500 blindly on six cakes. A gamble becomes 15 people sending $35 to sample get 20+gram samples of six teas. This lowers the barrier to entry significantly and you have a bunch of other people to exchange opinions with.. If these sorts of opportunities materialize for yourself, you should consider joining in!