All quiet on the Hong Kong front

A few months ago, Tony, who used to run Origin Tea, messaged me this:

You know, I was thinking the other day. You’ve already got more tea than you can drink in your lifetime, and most of it are teas you do like to drink(hopefully). You’ve already got a stupifying number of pots. There isn’t really much of an HK tea scene, and what there is, you know already. ….. so these days….. what more is there for you in tea? Periodic trips to Taiwan and |Japan keeping things refreshing?”

Well, he’s not wrong. My tea life these days is very simple – drink tea, usually in the office, and often the same kind of tea. There are a few go to favourites that I drink, but aside from that – not much else. I don’t buy new tea, generally speaking, because they’re both expensive and not that great. I drink stuff that are 10+ years old, usually. They sort of hit the right spot of reasonably priced and good tasting. I even bought some ten to twelve years old Dayi and they are very drinkable now. Don’t let anyone tell you 7542 is bad.

A consequence of this is the blog has suffered. I don’t have much new to say, and I don’t really want to repeat myself all that much. What I think is already mostly said somewhere on this blog. It might require some digging (and thus my request for crowd sourcing some kind of archive – I’ll get to work on it, and thank you all for your feedback). But if one is patient enough to go through the older posts, especially stuff that were posted after I moved here from Xanga, then you will find the blog to be about as informative as it’s ever going to be.

I suspect we all reach a point like this. Unless I’m posting endless reviews or some such, there is only so much to say.


Comments

All quiet on the Hong Kong front — 15 Comments

  1. HK is never going to have an Orientalist and fetishised “tea scene” like in the West because everyone has background knowledge and familiarity with tea; nor can HK achieve a Japanese/Taiwanese type scene because it isn’t a “local production for local consumption” market. But there is definitely a network of more serious tea drinkers and teaware enthusiasts, and lots of events and hotspots for these things. Surely that counts as a “scene”?

    • Sure, there’s one, but it’s also rather underwhelming, because it doesn’t have the production base or the wide variety of vendors, etc, it’s stale. High rent doesn’t help

      • People in HK who don’t consider tea an “interest” will still buy whole leaf tea from traditional vendors; they’ll go visit tea plantations while on holiday; they’ll have a nice mug-with-strainer or glass pot on their office desk. Everyone has their go-to tea order when they go out for lunch or dinner. That’s why you see bubble tea shops 5 minutes from each other each with a dozen types of tea on the menu, specialist tea ice-cream stores, and why it’s pretty much standard to see a few varieties of tea cocktails on bar menus – high-mountain oolong syrups and puer-infused spirits, that sort of thing. Tea is not esoteric or quirky. Maybe you or your friend Tony are purists about the idea of a “tea scene”? But that’s the kind of variety I appreciate. I agree that rent is an issue though, of course.

        It’s easy to find serious collectors to drink with, but since everyone has at least basic background knowledge, I can also just invite “regular friends” for intensive brew sessions and be able to expect interest and enthusiasm; I can make good tea for relatives and family friends and know that it will be appreciated.

        There are most certainly lots of 80-後 coming together and chatting tea – 文青 types into ceramics and tea who host casual cultural events, as well as more upscale tastings / food pairings. I usually get invited to some kind of tea event 2 or 3 times a month, and I’m not even that tapped in… So actually it’s quite exciting on the HK front!

  2. Marshal’N,

    There are two statements that you have made repeatedly on your blog the last few years that I kind of disagree with:

    1- “I don’t have much new to say, and I don’t really want to repeat myself all that much. What I think is already mostly said somewhere on this blog.”

    Are you trying to say that one of the most influential and knowledgeable tea persons in the English speaking world has actually covered EVERYTHING relevant about tea?

    I doubt this assertion- there is lots of things that someone with the tea knowledge you have could say that you haven’t said or at least you can go into greater depth of the things you have said in the past. Speak about a deeper level of things. However, doing so would water down the content of the blog so maybe that’s why you wouldn’t want to do it.

    For instance in this post you drop us all a teaser, “I even bought some ten to twelve years old Dayi and they are very drinkable now. Don’t let anyone tell you 7542 is bad.”

    This statement is interesting and a bit controversial because many people out there feel that the 2006-2008 7542 doesn’t compare to previous years for a variety of reasons and maybe isn’t worth it.

    I mean you could go into great depth about the history of 7542 and your experiences with it and what the 2006-2008 7542 has compared to other teas or years or batches or compare it to other famous puerh of 2006-2008 that could probably fill a post and that information would be of great value to readers but instead you drop this teaser… hahahah You are killing me here.

    Peace

  3. Marshal’N,

    2- “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.”

    It always makes me cringe when I hear this statement. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure they say. This is also true because everyone has both different standards for tea and because what may be a mundane tea to someone is very enjoyable to another person. How many readers are quietly raising their hands, oh oh pick me… I know a great solution to this problem…

    Since you are an authority on puerh tea, knowing in a very detailed sense what doesn’t work for you gives us, the reader, just as much information as knowing what teas you find amazing. Just because it is tea you don’t want doesn’t nessassarily mean its bad tea. In science, publishing on a non-significant result is arguably just as important as publishing on a significant finding because it advances the knowledge.

    Anyways, if you are up for it, shoot me an email and I would happily pay for shipping costs and costs to your time to ship all these teas . And will publish detailed tasting notes on these teas that you don’t want. I think this info would be quite relevant and you never know I might actually enjoy or drink up a cake. Hahahah…

    Peace

    • Hah. Well, with point 1: the 7542 bit is really one of the few interesting tea things I’ve done recently. The 2008 one is cheap, or at least I got it for pretty cheap, because it’s some seller on Taobao liquidating their holdings of teas where the packaging is slightly compromised – the sticker having been ripped party, holes on the packaging, etc. Perfectly fine tea, just not perfect packaging. Thing is, I’ve talked about this sort of thing before, how teas that are 10+ years old, factory made, tend to be cheap because nobody’s chasing them if they’re not special editions. You can buy teas like this for $50 a cake, which I would argue is often far better value than some new make at $50 a pop.

      As for point 2, the “bad tea” problem is indeed a problem. I know, people have offered to have me send them my unwanted stuff. I did a bit of a bad tea distribution before on facebook, asking people to pay for shipping but nothing else for a bunch of samples of tea (everyone got about 250-300g of tea, I think). It’s too time consuming to do that. I suppose an easier way is just for me to list cakes and people can just pick off what they want, if I ever get around to doing that.

      • Marshal’N,

        That 2008 7542 sounds like a pretty good bargain for someone who will just end up drinking it. I hope you managed to grab more than a few. I have also been focusing on these 2006-2008 factory stuff over the last few years- great deals to be had for everyday drinker tea if you know what to look for.

        Peace

  4. The “retaste project” was interesting reading, you would still have these teas I imagine and reading of their further development would be fascinating.
    I’m with Matt. Dayi is completely ignored by western blogging, not trendy enough so good to read your thoughts.

    • Dayi is indeed completely ignored, for a few reasons. The first is cost – many older Dayi are expensive, especially if you are getting it from a reliable source. This is changing, I think, as more and more of these 10 years old teas are showing up on the market because people who bought them realize they are really never going to skyrocket in price like they thought it would. The other thing is provenance – there are lots of fake Dayi out there, and it’s a bit of work to document all this stuff. New Dayi being not great for drinking, people tend to gravitate towards drinkable teas instead, but after some years Dayi generally (with some exceptions) turn out ok as teas. Cost/benefit wise, it’s often a decent value if you buy up some of the cheaper varieties of older Dayi tea. I thought someone like White2Tea would do something like that, having moved to Guangzhou, but clearly he’s gone in a different direction. That’s fine, although I still think it’s a niche that someone could fill.

      As for the retaste project, it’s mostly a logistical problem – having moved a couple times and having stuff moved around, my tea is now in mostly a not-that-easily-accessed storage arrangement, which makes retrieving individual cakes to drink rather painful.

  5. Even with endless tea reviews, inspiration runs out 🙂 At some point, it’s no fun to talk about tastes in a tea, because it’s much easier to describe it as typical Yiwu with a little bit of XY, typical 7542 with Malay storage, etc. etc. – not a lot of fun writing, nor reading that, I think.

    Your blog is really a great resource though – I think if it just hangs online as it is, it will keep informing new drinkers. And while writing on concrete teas becomes dated quickly, as the teas change and are sold out, general things are still relevant.

    • I totally agree about the blogging fatigue but the ironic thing is this:

      Those starting out are eager to review teas but they do so with very little depth of knowledge and those with the deepest pool of knowledge and experience are the least eager to transmit this knowledge by reviewing teas.

      This is part of the problem these days.

      Peace

      • Agreed, that is pretty funny!

        I guess it’s also a sort of change in approach. When I was blogging a lot, I was really eager to taste most of the new teas available online every year, to get right all the differences between areas, etc. But then, something changed, I found that the new teas don’t add that much (except being more expensive) and I started drinking what I had already instead… I don’t think I know more about tea than I knew 6 or so years back, but I just look for different things and aspects in tea. And, one thing that became very clear is that I started not enjoying the analytical side of drinking tea, and just wanted to have tea as is, without digging into it, if that makes sense…
        Also, as sad as it may sound, I get a lot less excited by tea now, which is probably a big factor – I liked to share excitement, but when there is little, there is little to write. Lack of excitement does by no means a lack of enjoyment, fortunately 🙂

        How do you have it? I see you still write, which is great (I very much enjoyed reading your blog!) – do you see change in your motivation?

        • Jakub,

          I also really enjoyed reading your blog and have read it front to back, I think.

          There are 4 factors influencing my motivation to blog:

          1- it gives me a creative outlet and is actually a stress reliever for me 2- my life is so hectic with my family and job, ect that it gives my tea drinking attention, focus, and some sort of priority 3- I am currently in a buying cycle, so I am already sampling for purchase, why not share some notes? 4- I feel that there is a lot of knowledge gaps that still exist in the English puerh drinking world (like Menghai Tea Factory see above).

          Peace

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