Too much tea

A universal problem among my tea friends, if it’s a problem at all, is the issue of having too much tea.  Everyone I know has a lot of tea — varying from a few kilos of ready supply, to having half a ton of tea sitting at home (BBB, I’m looking in your general direction).  Now, this is not terribly surprising in and of itself, since we tend to buy teas we like, and we almost always tend to buy tea in larger quantities than we can realistically consume.  I’ve done the math before, and if I drink daily, by my normal drinking parameters, then I would only drink about 1.5 tongs of tea a year, if even.  That’s about 4-5kg of tea a year, max.  Not all that much at all.

A less obvious problem though, at least in my case, is that sometimes even though I have lots of tea (and yes, I have lots of tea) it doesn’t actually mean I want to drink them.  So sometimes, on certain days, I might have the peculiar problem of having a lot of tea, yet nothing to drink.

There are really three reasons for this, and generally speaking they are mutually exclusive

1) I don’t want to drink X yet — this usually applies to puerh or oolongs that are meant for aging.  If I only have a few bings of a tea, then I might not want to consume it all now, hoping that I can consume them later at a better stage

2) I don’t want to drink X because it’s too precious — this applies to a lot of things, varying from rare oddities that friends have given me in the past, tea with particular memories, or, in some cases, just really expensive stuff like longjing, which, in my case at least, invariably go bad before I actually get around to drinking them.  Two years old aged longjing aren’t so good.

3) I don’t want to drink X because it’s terrible — this happens more than you think, and sometimes can be masked with reason 1 or 2 (more often than not, 1).

The end result of all this is that oftentimes teas are actually consumed very slowly, and some things don’t move at all for years and years.  Today I just finished a bag of aged shuixian I bought from Beijing about four years ago.  When I bought it it was already aged four or five years, so this is really now an eight to ten years old tea.  I packed my pot with what’s left of it, and am drinking it right now — giving me a comfortable caffeine buzz and a nice, full mouthfeel, despite its humble origins.  It’s got the beginning of an aged tea feel — not quite the sweet taste you might find in some aged shuixian yet, but it’s getting there.

I also opened a “new” bag of roasted Taiwanese oolong a few days ago, which I also bought from Beijing in 2006.  That was one of my first purchases from Beijing when I arrived, and has been sitting around ever since.  It was vacuum packed when I bought it, but the vacuum lost its seal a few years ago, and has been that way ever since.

Trying the tea — very pleased, aged a little, lost all the roasty/charcoal flavour, but retaining the spiciness.  Why didn’t I open this sooner?

This gets me back to my original point though — it’s easy to forget some of the old oddities you have stored up, and once consumed, they’re gone forever.  That makes me not want to drink some of these things, because they are little pieces of memory.  However, I learned my lesson — I now buy in bulk when I meet a tea that I like.  One or two kilos is a small purchase, a few kilos is a larger one.  That is the only remedy to “I don’t want to drink this now”

Which, of course, leads to even more tea.


Comments

Too much tea — 4 Comments

  1. LOL at your last three sentences!
    I have problems 2 and 3 and am working on them.
    Number 1 is not a problem for me but instead an excuse that makes me feel not guilty for stocking up 😀 But probably because I am not a puerh nut. Most puerh lovers I know don’t have enough space in their houses, no matter how big the house is.

  2. A very nice post that I can relate to as I buy shu puerh cakes much faster than I drink them but it works out in the end. While I don’t age my shu on purpose it gets aged a bit before I drink it but I am sure I am pretty good considering that I only have 2 cloth tong bags filled with mixed cakes, a few bricks and bags of nuggets. For me #2 is not so much of a problem to me as I scrapbook my puerh wrappers so my puerh scrapbook is where I hold my tea memories and the artistic beauty of the wrapper designs. For #3 I try to give away the teas that I consider not to my liking to those who are able to enjoy it with the exception of teas that are either clearly bad or come off to me as tainted like the one bad cheap oolong that smelled and tasted of chemicals so out it went after one cup. Luckily that is becoming less common as I’m finding myself shift more toward puerh and roasted oolongs (especially wuyi) which age well so I don’t have to worry about them going bad on me like I did when I drank more blacks and greens.

  3. Thanks for this thoughtful post! You say:

    This gets me back to my original point though — it’s easy to forget some of the old oddities you have stored up, and once consumed, they’re gone forever. That makes me not want to drink some of these things, because they are little pieces of memory. However, I learned my lesson — I now buy in bulk when I meet a tea that I like. One or two kilos is a small purchase, a few kilos is a larger one. That is the only remedy to “I don’t want to drink this now”

    Actually, I think that when it comes to making sure you can remember the experience of a tea years later there’s no substitute for recording it in writing. Tasting it again after years have gone by doesn’t work reliably because both the tea and you will have changed.

    On the other hand, I completely agree with buying lots of what you like if you can afford it. There are enough disappointments in life without asking for more!

  4. gingko: Yes, well, tea collections will always expand to take up all remaining free space in a house. This is MarshalN’s First Theorem of Tea Ownership

    John: It’s good to know what you like, and what you don’t — even better that you can part ways with what you don’t like.

    Lew: Indeed — so no I have tongs of stuff that I love.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.