Tea Drinking Reflections 2017

2017 has been a transitory year for me with a few significant life changes. Part of this involved the very painful process of packing up all my tea-related things and moving from my apartment of five years. This is the first time since my tea-obsession began that I’ve moved. It also forced me to reckon with how much I had accumulated (maybe I can just get rid of more sweaters to fit a few extra cakes?). This year has also been quite different from 2014-2016, with both my consumption and purchasing shifting significantly downwards, a shift I consider to be both positive and healthy..

Less Sampling, Less Tea, More Clay, More Fun?

There were a couple goals I had coming into the year.. I’ve significantly reduced the amount of sampling I’ve done, mainly by being a lot more selective. I also began logging my own consumption of tea. The spreadsheet excludes some tea consumption, (i.e. sampling, tea with others). The idea is to remove the exploratory/homework/hosting elements where I’m not necessarily dictating the tea by my own preference.

Unlike a lot of tea people, I do have the time to have at least a session daily and am able to drink consistently. Even still, I find I don’t really have much of a desire or capacity to drink more than a session or maybe two, and feel less forced to when I have five samples instead of 300.. An additional perk to this is that I now regularly use slightly larger vessels (~100ml), a bit more leaf, and more of my pots.

What’s In My Cup?

I’ve now logged my tea drinking for a little over a year .. My habits have remained similar for the year as when I posted my original drinking log post. The most consumed category are semi-aged raw (44.3%) and aged/traditionally stored raw pu’erh (23.5%). I also consume aged oolong (15.2%) and ripe pu’erh (14.2%) regularly, but to a lesser extent. All the other categories such as young pu’erh or wuyi oolong are more or less a blip.

There are things excluded from the log such as the teas I serve for guests. Depending on the person and their tea nerdage levels/preference, I’ll brew other teas like Wuyi oolongs and Taiwanese roasted oolongs or gaoshan. These are consumed in small enough quantities and I have enough laying around that I don’t need to go out and buy anything. My wife also drinks ripe/aged pu’erh (probably the tea that we cumulatively drink the most of), which has allowed me to keep that stash down with steady consumption.

If you’re wondering why we don’t review young pu’erh as much as the past, the answer should be pretty obvious from the spreadsheet (given choices, it isn’t something I turn to).

Categories of Tea & Consumption

Category Amount of Tea
% of Tea Consumed
Semi-Aged Raw 493.95 44.30%
Aged Raw 262.25 23.52%
Ripe Pu’erh 160 14.35%
Aged Oolong 171.5 15.38%
Wuyi Oolong 23 2.06%

I Drink Maybe a Tong Per Year & Projections

If we’re to look at my drinking log sheet we can see that all the consumption summed up, isn’t very high at all (1125.1 grams). If we limit it to what’s coming from my stash, it’s much less than a tong and only a couple cakes worth! Even if I just stopped sampling altogether, my self-imposed 15 raw pu’erh cake limit is probably an overbuy.

I’m in my early 30s and if aged tea is a goal, it makes some sense to buy more tea than I consume. Buying 15 cakes is a lot less than what I’ve bought in any of the three previous years but it doesn’t change the fact that — I’m buying much less tea, and it’s still probably too much. I’ve also have had the great fortune of being gifted a number of good quality tea cakes. I certainly won’t be having the ultimate pu’erh nightmare like Matt anytime soon.

  • As of 12/30/2017, 660.55 grams were consumed directly from my stash (essentially things I own a fair quantity of). This composes 58.7% of the total tea logged.

15 Cakes is Now 12 & A Lil Rule Fudging.

I have a tea friend who set a rule for himself to not buy any 357g tea cakes. When I talked to him, he said he’d abided by the rules.. But… Had also done just about everything he could to get around them. 200g cakes, 400g cakes, etc… I can relate to this.

For a certain personality, rules like these can be fudged and we can rationalize our way through. I set these 15 cake rules and while I’d say I succeeded in following it by buying quite less tea, I’ve also succumbed to things that “don’t count” against my cake limit, i.e. samplings, cake splits, 2x 250g cakes = 1 cake, etc.

I’ll be continuing with a similar buying model for 2018, except moving it to 12 raw pu’erh cakes (3/quarterly). I will also be trying to buy a bit less boutique pu’erh and a bit more factory teas to round out what I already own.

Most Consumed Teas of the Years

A few of my favorites and consistent teas in my pot. These teas tend to be moderately expensive, but not pricy enough to dissuade me from consistent consumption.

  • 2001 Yiwu Buds (a traditionally stored tea) – Finished off a cake.
  • 2007 YQH Lingya – Over halfway through a cake. There’s a few other YQH I drink regularly, but this is probably the one I crave the most for its consistent quality.
  • 2003 WS Qingteng – Had to buy a couple more cakes, since I enjoy it so much.

A consistent pleaser that I often serve for guests (doesn’t show up in the log) is Cindy’s Qidan (Wuyi Origin). I made a one pound purchase (Qidan and Laocong Shuixian) from her about a year ago and am slowly working through it.

5 responses to “Tea Drinking Reflections 2017”

  1. Hi James,

    I’m curious, for your boutique cake purchases do you usually acquire those through one of Emmet’s group orders or something like taobao?

    • I have not got any of these cakes through Emmett and suspect we have the same source. Emmett has been kind enough to provide a few samples to me.

      As far as the boutiques… The XZH ahd BHYJ Yuema Wangong were acquired via a FB auction vendor. CYH was from a tea friend. The Wistaria and YQH were direct from the label. Hope that helps!


  2. That’s pretty wild you only drink 1100 grams but purchase, what, like 3000-5000+ grams/year. I guess that’s among the reasons I don’t buy cakes; I’d never drink all of that.

    And then looking at a 400g $165 cake like the 2007 YQH you mentioned, if you’re only drinking like 3g/day at that level, you’re spending like $1.25. Seems extremely sane when so many people blow $5/drink at Starbucks at least daily.

    I mostly like finding teas I can repeatedly steep over the course of a day. And I like having an arsenal of such options so that I can have something different every day. Whether it’s 10 cents/gram or something silly/gram, all I want is for the tea to tell me a good story about the tree’s life.

    Anyway, I’ve been enjoying your videos this last year. Always entertaining and informative. Here’s to a good 2018.

    • Hi Adam,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, exactly. Frame of reference can make stuff seem insanely cheap or expensive depending.

      I was surprised at how little it was too. I really thought it would’ve been at around 2.5kg or a tongs worth.

      It’s fairly similar for me, I’ll usually do one tea and steep it out throughout the course of the day. I’ll also often serve something a bit easier going for my wife, usually ripe, and have a cup or two of that in the day.

      Cheers to a good 2018!

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