Five things I like & dislike.
Cheap Short-Term Pumidors & Storage
I’ve realized there’s a group of enthusiasts those using a humidified pumidor or mylar setup for immediate drinking. Their whole purpose isn’t collection building or long-term storage, but is driven by the idea that pu’erh tastes better when it isn’t stored on a shelf in a dry environment. As someone that’s found this to be the case and what Matt dubs as shelf fatigue, it makes perfect sense to me.
The other thing I admire is that this group tends to be particularly cost-conscious. A pumidor for under $20? No problem. Some second hand shopping, a week or two of airing it out, and home-made saltpacks, and you’re ready to go. This is basically the cheap college student equivalent of a pumidor. I appreciate not only the resourcefulness, but how it removes barriers from what sounds intimidating and challenging to set up. It’s also inherently less risky (you’re drinking from it regularly) and easy to do simple tasting comparisons to ensure it is having a positive impact on your tea.
I have way too much tea to qualify for this group, but I do have one pumidor that behaves a lot like the short-term one. It’s not filled to the brim and is used in a way to maximize accessibility. It’s unlikely any of the teas in there will last longer than 3-5 years. My other, larger pumidor I don’t drink out of regularly.
Badger & Blade & It’s Patron Saint: Shah
Bizarrely the Badger & Blade wet shaving forum has the longest “Sheng of the Day” thread I’ve ever seen. The thread was started over 11 years ago, and earliest contributors included a number of known people including Hobbes of Half-Dipper and TwoDog. Despite, what doesn’t exactly seem like a very obvious crossover with wet shaving, the thread is still going. This is largely thanks to the steady and consistent work of shah8, a long standing member of the western online tea community. The thread is more active early on, with the first 200 or so featuring a number of different posters in the first two years. Eventually shah becomes the author of 90% of the entries.
If you are someone that wants to read the tasting notes from a long-time western drinker, I highly recommend scrolling through the 375 pages of this thread. Shah’s notes are not simple or basic ones. They are descriptive, unique, and substantive. He’s had a lot of teas from western vendors as well as other sources, like Taiwanese auctions. Thanks to his consistent contributions the last 50 or so pages can also be read as a bit of a personal tealog. It’s a worthy contribution that deserves to be scoured over, just as you would a long-running tea blog.
I came across this thread as many did, through the wonders of google.
Erroneous Belief: Sealed Tea Does Not Age
I’ve seen this belief on and off, that sealing tea basically puts it into a stasis chamber and it will not change. It’s just not true and there’s examples out there that easily disprove it. Take Marco’s heated hotbox where the tea is put in mylar. The tea has changed markedly quickly both visually and in taste. There’s also teas like the Naked Yiwu sold by Teas We Like, which was sealed in Taiwan or sealed teas that Kyarazen sold.
Tea does age differently when it is sealed up, and you may not like how tea ages, but arguing that the tea is trapped in time and does not change is inaccurate and lazy.
Undervalued Big Cakes
I’m a big believer that the cake price plays an inordinate role in how we perceive the price of cakes. Sticker shock is real and it’s a big reason I do my best to follow $/g calculations when comparing teas or buying. I think if I didn’t follow this calculation I’d end up with a whole closet of 200 and 250 gram bings.
I think this can result in 357g cakes and larger being undervalued in the current market. Vendors may not be able to crank up the price as they would’ve otherwise if a cake is large. Sticker shock is real and a $300 price tag will scare most people away regardless of cake size. But a $300, 357 gram cake is 55% of the $/g price of a $300, 200 gram cake.
The most common example I can think of are Yang’s cakes. These teas have cake prices that can make you faint.. But many are 500 grams. That is the equivalent of 2.5 of these modern 200 gram cakes! That big price certainly looks a lot more reasonable if you divide the overall price of 2.5 when comparing it with these modern mini-cakes.
Buying Pu’erh on Amazon
I see this get asked a lot on facebook groups or other gatherings of newer drinkers. I suppose I understand why. What can you not get on Amazon?
But…. Do not do it! Amazon is just not a great source for pu’erh and you’d be much better off going through one of the oft-mentioned pu’erh vendors, Yunnan Sourcing, White2Tea, Crimson Lotus Tea, etc.. I searched pu’erh on amazon just to make sure. It’s a mix of overpriced teabags, mediocre tea, and likely fakes. You may not get two day shipping, but the tea will be much better if you have a little patience and order from a pu’erh specialist.