Find Tea Worthy of Hitting Hard (Aim High, & DO NOT CHEAP OUT)
Repeat that five times… Here’s a few buying scenarios…
- You buy too much of truly great tea and run out of money and tea. You end up in tea exile quaffing some crappy sea dyke or *gasps in horrs* teabags! We’re all deathly afraid of this but it almost never happens. I’ve yet to hear a single instance of this is happening.… it is also really not too hard for most of us, except for the most picky, to find drinkable tea for a not too ridiculous price.
- You hit it right and have a good chunk of tea to drink and a good chunk of tea to set aside. Good work!
- You buy a lot of cheaper tea. WARNING WARNING!!!! Not only do you have to worry about space but there’s a very good chance you’ll grow tired of your purchase.
From what I can tell scenario #3 is really common and about 1000000x more likely than scenario #1.. One danger with hitting hard is becoming attracted to the idea of buying lots of tea for the sake of buying. Wanting to buy a tong, because well it’s a effing tong! There’s bamboo.. And seven cakes.. Good shit.. This is where the risk of cheaping out is high for people choosing quantity over quality, especially for newer drinkers. Before impulse buying loads of pu’erh, you should think long and hard about the quality and availability of suitable replacements for pu’erh.
- Despite indisputably spending a lot per gram on tea, I probably still fall into a combination of scenario #2 and scenario #3.
What should you reconsider?? Big brands post 2004 are mass produced on high levels. Menghai, Xiaguan, Mengku, Changtai, principally work in big batches (peruse taobao using babelcarp if you’re not sure). Nearly all modern ripe pu’erh is also done in huge batches. There’s no shortage for these sorts of teas and scarcity should be a non-factor in the purchasing decision. There’s the exception of special productions, but there’s really very little reason to feel any sort of urgent itch to buy up standard factory tea in massive quantity.. Buying a cake will be more than enough. What about storage? There’s a lot of teas being stored all around the world.. In Guangdong, Kunming, Malaysia, blah blah blah..
Keep in mind. You are not buying for what you want to drink now… You are buying what you will want to drink in the future. Things like young pu’erh might hit the spot but are inevitably going to change.. Tastes change throughout the years and you should NOT CHEAP OUT. What does cheaping out look like?? In most all of these cases, the person will cheap out and buy too much of something that they will not want to drink in a year or two . Remember that the first tenet is Walk Before you Can Run. This is extremely, extremely important. You need to be able to judge the tea’s character as something you’ll want to drink for a very long time.. Many of us already own several year’s worth of pu’erh consumption. There’s very little point in padding our collection with an increasing number of mediocre $20-35 cakes. If you can’t actually stomach spending the necessary money to tong up or buy several cakes of a $150 tea (or even better, higher), I’d argue that it is still better to buy a cake or two of the $150-200 cake than a full tong of $35 cakes even if you don’t get tong bragging rights.
- One of the most annoying excuses is It’s too expensive or I can’t afford it said by someone who is opting for quantity over and quality.. A person clearly on track to buying a lifetime’s worth of pu’erh in a year or two.
- Another way to think about your own purchasing is Marshaln’s speed test.. For my own drinking, young pu’erh and ripe pu’erh do terribly. Almost as poorly as oolongs or blacks, teas that I spend $0 on yearly. This tells me that my money is best spent on teas that are at least 5-7 years old.
- This post is more or less a letter to myself.. I have to constantly remind myself of all of these and still often find myself being tempted by these traps.
Chinese vs. American Buyers & Thoughts on Impulse Buying & Big Pu’erh Orders
I have a friend (DW) that works at Amazon on the check-out system. I’m able to drink tea with him on occasion and it’s always interesting discussing buying patterns. At a company that operates at extremely high volume like Amazon, a few milliseconds of downtime costs the company $$$$. Extreme volume days like Black Friday (~6x the volume of Monday, a normal peak day) are the most stressful, and require him and his team to be on call 24/7.
DW is also exposed to some pretty interesting buying patterns. For instance… Black Friday was recently surpassed by the Chinese shopping holiday (Singles Day), 11/11, as the largest sales day of the year. One key difference between shoppers from China and the US is that while American shoppers spend more money on shopping days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday than normal days the buying curve tends to be much flatter when compared with Chinese consumers. Chinese retailers have a far more difficult time getting their customers to buy regularly or consistently. Their consumers tend to wait, wait, wait until the biggest sale (i.e. 11/11) and make huge purchases.
This wait, wait, wait approach can be taken to varying extremes but there’s something to be learned from it, especially when it comes to pu’erh. It makes sense in terms of raw shipping costs and overall savings. For most pu’erh-heads there’s a secondary incentive as shipments from Taiwan, China or Malaysia can represent a serious amount of $$. If we spend, $15-20 shipping/month on one order monthly we end up spending ~$200 in sheer shipping over the year. If we combined it all into a couple orders, we’d end up saving a tidy sum. Yes.. even if we have to pay a $50 shipping charge. At least enough for a nice $200 cake.. This also doesn’t include whatever bulk discounts, perks or savings we can get if we toss everything into the same box.
While saving on shipping is nice, I find the most valuable aspect of the bide your time and place big order approach is the prevention of impulse buying. There’s a lot of teas that I consider at first but don’t hold up well when I have a second session. If I bought everything that I fancied initially I’d end up with a big ol stamp collection and a lot of paid shipping. It speaks well for the tea if it’s still lingering in your mind after trying it.. Breathe… Slow down… Finish your sample and think about it..
You might say, what about teas selling out or going up in price?? Well with a few possible exceptions… teas really don’t sell out that fast.. Remember Hobbes original review and the craze that accompanied the White Whale? That was about as much hype as I’ve seen in the western market for a pu’erh and there were a lot of whales that moved quickly.. but.. It’s ~1.5 years later and the tea is still around. You had a couple months (and a warning) to pick up more before the price went up from $15 to $23. Not really enough of a price differential to justify another order unless you were buying in huge quantities. In the end, buying from a place of scarcity can be a way to spend a whole lot of money for no reason at all. Online offers a whole ton of buying options.. Waiting and avoiding impulse buying encourages self-discipline and is a good way to remove yourself from the buying craze, and properly evaluate how much you really want a certain tea or not..
- You might be asking if I’m suggesting that you start doing $600-800 orders regularly when you are ordering internationally? Yes, I think it’s worth consideration.
- Ever wonder why vendors never really announce their sales until it’s actually there or why the sales tend to be short? It works well and helps to induce a scarcity mentality. “Oh shit, oh shit. I gotta buy in the next 48 hours.“
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