I basically did the same thing for two years, until one time in my junior year in college…
I was visiting New York City. I remember distinctly I went to Great Wall, a Chinese market in the Chinatown there. I was really just browsing around, but then… I saw a small display of the teas they sold. They put them in glass jars, and one of them stood out. First, it had a non-standard sticker on the jar, saying “Lion Peak Longjing — fresh from Hangzhou”. The other was its sticker price…. which was something in the area of $160 USD per pound. Not all THAT much in retrospect, but at that time, I thought it was a lot.
Despite that, I thought I’d try it out, to see why the sticker price is so high. As those of you who’ve been reading this blog knows, I still do that these days. It’s a bad habit.
Anyway… I went home and tried the tea…. and….. obviously, the tea bug bit me. The tea was GOOD. Very good. Much better than the “longjing” I was drinking a lot at the time. I started demanding better tea. Since Ohio wasn’t exactly the greatest place for tea, I only got better teas once in a long while when I visited a real city. I was still using my Republic of Tea teapot. I also remember buying some crap tea from the local Chinese market. They even gave me a tuocha for free. I obviously didn’t know what to do with the tuocha at that point (from what I can remember now, it was a raw tuocha). I should’ve kept it. Instead, I think it got thrown out in one of my many moves since then. Sigh.
I got my first gaiwan in my senior year. It was bought from the TenRen (gasp!) in New York, of all places. It wasn’t cheap, but I really, really liked it. It was one of those red gaiwans that has a sort of metallic glaze. It was broken within a year. I was mad, very mad, for quite a while.
I also started drinking oolongs and tieguanyins more at that point. I remember distinctly trying out different kinds of tieguanyin, and I thought I was getting a little more knowledgable in drinking tea. I still drank a lot of longjing, but I was starting to get bored of it, not to mention the astronomical prices of good longjing. Tieguanyin, in comparison, seems much cheaper….
Sometime around then, I discovered the Best Tea House in Hong Kong. They had a branch in Causeway Bay back then, not too far from Times Square in Hong Kong, and that’s also where I met Tiffany. I remember one summer when I was on my vacation, I went there a lot drinking tea. I also took my first and only tea classes there, learning the basics of gongfu brewing. I also got my first dip in good, non-restaurant style puerh at that time….