Buy less, buy better

These days I’m not doing much buying – there’s just no good reason to. Part of it, of course, is the slow realization that I no longer need anything. There’s only so much tea one can consume – assuming 10g a day, you’re talking 3.6kg a year, which isn’t that much more than 1.5 tongs of tea, roughly. That’s 15 tongs for ten years, or 60 tongs for basically 40 years. You really don’t need that much.

Of course, this is coming from someone who already has a lifetime supply of tea, so I suppose it can come across as one of those posts where someone rich is telling others to live simply. However, looking back, I think there’s something to be said about buying less but buying better, for the simple reason that the crap, the stuff that isn’t very good, will never be revisited. If you’re buying and storing puerh, and are holding onto that cheap tong of whatever that you picked up hoping that it’ll turn into something better, chances are it’s not going to happen – it will stay terrible, and you’ll never drink it, and ten years from now you wonder why it’s still there because it’s still bad and you have other better teas to drink.

I know I’ve talked about hitting hard with a hammer, but there’s a big caveat with that – you only do that when you know something is good and something you’d want to drink. Having a whole bunch of stuff that you hope will turn into something you may want to drink years from now is a terrible proposition – and will usually end up with just wasted space. There are warehouses full of crap in places like Guangzhou. Those will eventually have to come to the market. The price for old but mediocre tea will never go up much, even if it’s old.

Getting rid of the tea also presents a problem – I have no idea what to do with the tea that I don’t really want. If it’s something I wouldn’t want to drink, chances are I wouldn’t want to sell it – because it feels wrong to sell off tea that I know is no good. Tea also costs money to ship, which is not great. What exactly does one do with unwanted tea? Compost? It’s a problem and there isn’t even really a good solution.

The same logic can apply to teaware, which, of course, I also happen to be sitting on a lot of. My normal rotation of yixing pots, for example, consists of only about half a dozen pots. The rest of them just sit there to look pretty. It’s fun collecting, and I enjoy every piece. However… there comes a point when you have too many. I probably long crossed that line, so these days, only stuff that is really special are worth collecting. Otherwise….. forget it.

So, when choosing something to buy, buy less, but buy better. Better, of course, is the hard part. But eventually that will pay off in the long term.


Buy less, buy better — 4 Comments

  1. Again, it depends on what you mean by better, good or crap tea. Good puerh tea does not have to be expensive. If you buy genuine puerh tea, then it should turn into something drinkable provided the storage is good. I suspect that some western / Chinese sellers just rewrap aged cheap cakes that turn out okay to resell at high prices. On the other hand if someone buys expensive young green or even oolong tea from Yunnan, no telling what will happen with age.

    I suspect that dry-stored tea from Guangzhou or Hong Kong that don’t turn out good usually gets dumped to tourists or restaurants after some kind of wet storage & re-wrap.

  2. Thanks for an interesting post. Your original post was very influential and I would often hear the “hammer it hard” command when I was asking for advice 2-3 years ago, and even now. I think it has a certain machismo to it, which may partly explain its appeal, but it also rings especially true for people who were introduced to puerh before the inflation during the 2000s. I think that if someone has an inkling that they may be into tea for the long haul, then hammering may just not be the way to go at this point in the market. I can only say that over the past 3 years, patience and being cautious has been much better for me than if I had hammered away. To anyone who is thinking of buying that tong… or that jian… don’t buy out of fear, there’s no reason to assume that good opportunities will not present themselves in the future.

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