If I had bought a whole bunch of puerh at that time, around 2000-2001, I would’ve been a rich man by now. Instead, I didn’t, and kept drinking my tieguanyin mostly. I also had some greens, some whites, and some puerh. The puerh I drank was, for the most part, loose stuff (or broken bits of cakes) bought from teastores of various kinds. I remember going to Sunsing as well, and this was in their very early days. I tried some of their teas, but didn’t really like anything there. I was still, at the time, getting to know all the teas and was in the curious phase. I tried everything and anything that came my way, and was rather undiscerning when it comes to buying.
Work kept my interest in tea from developing any further. I was drinking tea more regularly by now, and chugging down some sort of oolong at work brewed in a sort of a mug, in the “throw leaves into cup, add water” style. At home, I would make other stuff, things that are more interesting — highly roasted oolongs, greens, puerh… but at this point I was still only using my oversized gaiwan (too big, but I still have it). I think by the end of the year though, I was starting to get bored.
Between my job and grad school, I obviously had more free time and I think my interest in tea took a leap. By the time I entered grad school, I had my first yixing teapot. I was drinking even more varied kinds of tea, falling in love with Wuyi teas as well as exploring my way through puerh. I also bought my first tea for aging… a brick of tea that is still sitting in the same box, scarcely drunk, and waiting to be aged. In retrospect, it wasn’t a good buy, but what can you do. It’s tuition.
I remember I would come home for lunch everyday, and if I had classes at 2pm, I would drink tea until then after lunch. Otherwise, I would be sitting there in a more leisurely manner and drink my teas. I went through lots of boxes of loose puerhs of different varieties, but raw, young puerh was not to my taste. I thought they were not very nice to drink (and I still largely hold that view). I usually only drank younger puerhs at teahouses whenever I was in Hong Kong, but it was usually because somebody else was trying stuff, not because I wanted to. I simply did not find them attractive. Of course, I should’ve probably bought more teas for aging, but again…. oh well
It was around this time when I think I cut my habit of drinking green teas. I would have a box of green at home, but I rarely touched it, instead opting for the very nice BTH dancongs or some roasted oolongs or the like. My taste was changing.
It was not too long before I started this blog when my transformation from being a mere tea drinker to a tea addict was complete. That summer I went to Taiwan and Beijing, and I think when I was in Taiwan I was exposed to more kinds of tea and a different kind of teashop culture. I didn’t really teashop in the mainland, so it wasn’t very formative (I had yet to discover Maliandao). When I visited Kung Fung Yung of Taipei, however, I had the first young puerh that I actually liked. I bought a cake of it, and now that I look at the pictures again, I think it might have been a Jingmai cake. The shop didn’t tell me where it was from, but I thought it was a good tea and would probably age into something even better. This was the beginning of a trend.
The rest of my tea experiences are well documented by my blog, and I think the very existence of the blog and the act of blogging has helped me along greatly in not only the appreciation but also the understanding of teas. Memories of teas I’ve had after I started my blog are much better ingrained in my brain than memories of teas before I started blogging. The pictures help, but the act of writing about them also helps. I think I would be confused for a lot longer with regards to younger puerh, given the dizzying array of teas at Maliandao, if it weren’t for my blogging. I also think that I would never have done some of the things I’ve done, such as tasting two teas using the same parameters with two gaiwans simultaneously, if it weren’t for my blog. Of course, I would never have met a lot of the people I’ve met over the course of this year if it weren’t for my blog either.
I suppose the next step for me is to figure out how teas are actually made, not only puerh, but other kinds as well. I may very well be making a trip to Yunnan in the spring, and if time allows me, I will try to visit a tea farm when I go back to my hometown in May or June. When I am in Taiwan in the second half of this year, I want to go see a farm there as well. If nothing else, I think it will add an important dimension to my understanding of teas. If people reading this blog get something out of it as well, so much the better.