One question I get asked is how my tastes have changed since getting into tea. I’ve consumed tea intentionally as a hobby for around 8 years now and while TeaDB serves as a nice document for looking and reflecting back it doesn’t necessarily track my own interests in tea with 100% accuracy.
First Two Years. Exploration Phase. Drinking Everything.
Most drinkers undergo some sort of exploration phase where they explore more of the breadth of the tea world, rather than diving in-depth into one particular category. For myself, this phase is pretty easy to see in the first year of TeaDB. There’s a lot of different kinds of tea being brought onto the show including probably a more diverse set of vendors. The tea of the months include things like pu’erh, but they also give equal treatment to different oolongs and Japanese green tea.
I think this exploration phase for me ended up being uniquely long. Denny and I both ended up with large amounts of samples (partly free, partly purchases) in all sorts of tea categories, most of which we were happy to drink. The tea of the month reports were excellent for exploration with a little bit more depth. But getting more than a few repetitions on a specific tea was not common and we basically ended up with an endless amount of teas to try.
The earliest episodes are unique in many ways, because we haven’t totally figured out what we’re doing with TeaDB and we don’t know the topics as well as we would later. For me this is somewhat cringeworthy, but others enjoy this for the more raw look at us. I just wish most people didn’t want to start on episode 1! One other takeaway if I look through the first year of TeaDB is that tastes changed a lot early. There are teas where if I tried it a month later I’d have a very different opinion. We were much more experienced in episode 26 than episode 12. In contrast to today, where my tastes have more or less remaining the same for several years and a month makes basically no difference in my preferences.
Last Four Years.
At a certain point, I got sick of the sampling and moved beyond it. In September 2015, I wrote one of the last regular tea of the month reports titled “Can’t I Just Settle Down?, where I detailed getting burnt out of young sheng and heavy sampling. These tea of the month reports were dictating what I would drink and forcing me to drink teas I no longer preferred to.
The drinking log was birthed partly out of this tea identity crisis, as an attempt to figure out more honestly what I would actually drink (see Speed Test). The purpose was to essentially distill my drinking down to what I liked. What I found, was that my tastes were a lot more settled than early on. I also found that I only really desired to consume tea from a few categories rather than the enormous breadth from the previous few years
Teas I Drink The Most On My Own (2019)
|% of Tea Consumed
Settling Down. The Speed Test > Liking Teas
A lesson I’ve learned is that it is possible to enjoy certain teas and consider them good quality but still rarely want to drink them. These teas are enjoyable if I have it on an episode, but fail at the speed test. The drinking log helped to iron out my own preferences for this, and eliminate any unnecessary purchases of Japanese green tea, random heicha, hongcha, and young pu’erh. In other words, the wide range of tea I was drinking at first, isn’t really my natural, settled preference. I’d prefer to be drinking a narrower selection of tea more often.
This leads me to take stances against hitting hard and accumulation early on. For me it took around three years for my taste to settle, before I could really definitively say what I’d like and would drink. Guesses at what your tastes will settle early on might not be correct. There are teas I thought I’d drink now and then, that I actually never want to drink, i.e. young raw. There are others that I thought I’d rarely drink, but manage to fit themselves into a role for my day, i.e. ripe pu’erh. This is despite my opinion that ripe is less interesting than young pu’erh. Or there are some categories I thought I’d drink more often, but end up consuming maybe once a week, i.e. aged oolong.
Tea Categories I Don’t Consume On My Own Often (2019)
|% of Tea Consumed
|CN Green Tea
|JP Green Tea
In the past four years I’ve planted my butt on the couch and while I may drink slightly different teas year to year, my tastes have remained relatively consistent.
- One point that Matt has mentioned is the psychology of the $ amount for tea. I’m not going to fully explore it here, but for me this definitely plays an impact. I tend to gravitate away from regularly consuming teas that drift much higher than the $0.50/g marker, with most of my consumption centered around $0.20-$0.30/g. It’s hard for me to say whether this is a psychological barrier that I should try to overcome or I should just live with and buy at the lower range. I’ve alternated between these two approaches.
The simplest narrative is that I consumed a wide range of tea for a few years, with my tastes fluctuating heavily, especially in the first year. Eventually my tastes narrowed down to a few categories of tea. And since those initial few years I’ve had pretty consistent consumption of those few categories with a few minor variations dictated by life changes and circumstances.