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.