Pu’erh Collection Trajectories & Regrets [Inbetweenisode 205]

This episode Garrett talk and reflect on pu’erh collecting, including different trajectories towards your pu’erh stash. We finish by talking a bit about regrets and things we would’ve liked to know earlier on in our tea journeys. We don’t drink tea in this episode but if you are into spreadsheets and the nerdier aspects of just thinking about collecting pu’erh this is a good episode for you.



3 responses to “Pu’erh Collection Trajectories & Regrets [Inbetweenisode 205]”

  1. 1) Hitting things with a hammer is only feasible when you have the sort of cash for that. When I started in 2010, I could hit all number of things with a hammer for teas that would cost over $500 a cake now (ie, most of us with reasonable discretionary funds could afford *any* Dayi going back to the early 80s, up to a few thousand dollars a cake, excepting those cakes in great condition). I’ve only ever managed to hit XZH hard, and a couple of shu tongs, but I could have bought a tong of *great*, especially factory, tea between $500-$700, and great drinkers for $200-$400 in 2010-11. Today, fresh tea that would make any sort of cut for storage is at least thirty-five cents a gram. Hitting that stuff hard is about $900, and this would be just stuff I enjoy. Anything that would make me *happy* is essentially a dollar a gram!

    2) I don’t think very many people at all would really enjoy fresh sheng year in and year out. I don’t really want to drink young sheng either, and young tea hasn’t ever even heavy in rotation at my place ever. When I started, older teas (six years or more) were probably a majority of my sampling, and today, I drink my stash and sample tea of similar ages. I’m about to try a number of young teas, though.

    3) I do think there will eventually be a crisis in terms of fresh teas, simply because there is just so much stock out there that anyone can get a good price on, and only so much warehouse space and only so much you can pay for that space.

    4) As for new tea drinkers, I mostly just pity them. The general standards of tea has risen, but the access to “aha!” teas has been steadily declining, and the hype has risen for things that the shopkeeps can actually sell lots of at a good premium, overwhelming enlightening discourse. Serious exploration is a hobby for the upper middle class or the rich today.

    5) As a result, I sort of disagree with sample widely. Doing that, and doing that on a serious level would be prohibitively expensive for most people. What we need are more of a real effort at tea gatherings where tea is shared. Puerh tea needs to move out of the internet and into people’s entertaining rooms in the West. Otherwise, I think a spirit of casualness is best. Go to a reputable vendor, buy a tea that appeals to you at a price, and drink–treat it as if you were buying a bag of Assam teas. It’s slow, but you will never learn anything fast in this hobby, and you certainly will never learn anything well if you can’t afford reasonably real samples and try to use your impressions of cheaper teas as a guide to how the the better stuff goes.

    • Thanks for the thoughts shah.

      You’re right as far as hitting hard goes and having money goes. Even during my time of drinking, the availability and price has gone up quite a bit. Buying in quantity of something decent does require significant money.

      It may be twisting the original definition a bit, but for someone working under a tighter budget (or perhaps a weekend warrior) hitting hard maybe isn’t necessarily a tong but three or four cakes of something nice. That would still be in the $500-700 range, but at least it doesn’t have to be four digits.

      The other thing I’ll mention is that mileage varies per person. Not everyone is at the $/g threshold for tea that truly makes them happy.

      As far as the sampling widely point, I’d mainly just say that it’s important to get some repetitions with pu’erh of different categories, beyond just ripe and young sheng early on. Even if it is just a handful of tries. Those teas aren’t as well-represented and I think they’re important to try even if they’re just average quality. It isn’t a good sign to me when people that have purportedly been drinking pu’erh for a while, comment on our videos confused that sheng can even brew a darker shade of orange or red.

      • For that last, I was basically thinking of Bingdao as the classic example. Bingdao ages as well as any Mengku tea does, and their aging generally retains superior qualities even if the original fragrance and fruitiness is gone. However, few people actually get reasonably good Bingdao area materials, and even fewer people have had anything even with a little age on them. Thus, there is/was a lot of “common wisdom” that Bingdao doesn’t age well–obviously generated from people drinking much lower quality Mengku (or abroad) teas that doesn’t really do much but get flat.

        With as many lies as there are in this hobby, and with as much context needed to understand whether something is good or not, I think it’s much more important to develop a singular understanding of a tea (in today’s climate) rather than try to start by drinking lots of samples. Drink one tea you like and find pleasant, and drink it the way through, 100g, 200g, and lever that knowledge to the next tea, or a small set of samples. Filling your head with lies required editing afterwards, and more than that, until you edit, you may well not appreciate many teas for their best attributes, and not get as much enjoyment as you otherwise would.

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