After college I started working, and that proved a horrible, horrible thing for my tea habit, because, well, it became rather difficult to sustain when you’re in office most of the time. I remember I would normally only drink tea properly on the weekends, with weekdays being reserved for bad oolongs in the office brewed in a mug or something. I would keep that cup going all day, grandpa style, and squeeze it until there’s nothing left to squeeze.
Back in those days I mostly bought tea from Hong Kong or when I made the odd trip to New York’s Chinatown. There really wasn’t much online, if I remembered correctly, but then again, I wasn’t really looking at that point. It was also around then when I discovered the Best Tea House in Hong Kong. I had already started paying attention to tea shops in Hong Kong, but I didn’t look at them very seriously, preferring only to pick up random stuff here and there. When I went to Best Tea House though, I realized that I had been only trying a small spectrum of stuff. After all, at that time I was only still a novice, mostly self taught, and didn’t have anybody to talk to about tea. Here was my chance.
For a summer I basically went there every other day or something to chat. This was at a branch which has since closed (a shame, because it was close to my home). I remember a bunch of us would gather in the afternoon and talk tea. I learned a lot from various people there, notably YP, but also other more expeirenced drinkers who have been doing this for years. I bought some things, random things that I got just because I’ve never tried it, or because I liked the ones but this was better. Sunsing’s big Causeway Bay store wasn’t even open at that point yet. They were still stuck in their small store in Tsim Sha Tsui.
It was after I got into grad school when I became more serious about tea again. Grad school, as you can imagine, allows one ample time to do things, and tea became a daily ritual, something that I haven’t dropped since. I bought my first tea tray, my first fairness cup, etc, although I kept my thermos set up for quite a while until my third year. I remember back then I would still drink green oolongs, white tea, and I would delight in their aroma. I somehow don’t think I’ll feel the same way.
One of the most important developments in my tea making since I started this blog was, I think, the use of a water warming alcohol burner. That I acquired in Beijing, along with an electric kettle that I used to pre-heat the water. I remember the water would always be warm this way, instead of cooling down (and requiring reheating) every so often. I gradually got used to it, I think, because at first I probably oversteeped some of my teas. I have also gradually used more leaves and lowered the steeping time, but that trend has sort of reversed a little recently. The glass kettle that came with the alcohol burner broke, but the tetsubin has replaced it.
Ten Tea was ditched by the end of college. A few years later, Best Tea House would be ditched too (I still go, but I don’t really buy much from them anymore). It’s a funny thing, because while I spent more time on tea, the cost of my teas actually has gone down. I’m now buying much closer to the source than I used to. Instead of paying for rent in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I’m paying people who want to unload their old inventory. On the other hand, the cost for teaware never goes down. I wonder if I will ever get so lucky as to find somebody who wants to unload their stash of old teapots on me.