A completely honest teacake should look like this.
Maybe not so much.
Okay, so personal taste but at least we know, right?
Tea drinkers always have cats, so a best seller might be:
|My dad's Lhasa Apso Blossom actually had a credit card.|
|Top Tier, no samples.|
Thus tea is word-of-mouth recommendation, and one reason why tea blogs, review sites and videos remain relevant. Recommendations become even more important when or if tea labels become cartoons and decorations rather than actual information. But tea vendors have tried real information in this world and failed, and now nobody knows what Truth really is anymore. Might as well buy the cute wrapper from now on and hope for the best.
But culture always swings from Relativism to Objectivism. Hang around long enough and you'll swing both ways and back a few times. In a way, I view our current phase as the Relativist extreme. Recipe teas were at one time by far more objective and rational than they are today with so much faking going on. Now it's all about reputation, marketing and labeling. Another factor to add on is that making your own label teas is becoming easier to do via the internet. If you think we have too many vendors right now, just wait 'til next year. I expect to see even more.
So where do we go from here? Is there any possible way to introduce a new system of more Objective data about tea, so that nobody has to buy my cat wrapper? We need Metrics for tea buying. Can you think of any wrapper metrics you'd like to see?
1. Spring, or Autumn, or Blend.
Done. Every tea must be labeled with one of these three, no others. Anything else like "pre-rain" or "before May" is therefore "do you believe it?" and "you're a sucker" marketing. I think most experienced puerh drinkers can tell the difference between seasons and can therefore judge a metric like this.
I'm going to forgo a metric for leaf grade because this leaves too much room for fudging in the marketplace.
Current calendar year tea. In addition to Spring, Autumn, Blend. Your tea is Fresh if picked 100% and sold in the current calendar year. Anything in that cake from another calendar year means you can't use Fresh. You can still use Spring, Autumn or Blend, but not Fresh. People don't need much puerh experience to distinguish fresh from even 1 year of age, we have green and brown. Shou is not Fresh, just to distinguish the raw.
3. Whole leaves vs chopped.
Imagine someone daring to get really honest about this.
4. Number of steeps.
Now this one may vary in a single tea cake from year to year, but the worst I can think of with this metric is the vendor might have to *gasp* dig through that garage and try the tea every year. A single number of steeps isn't realistic, but how about a range? 5-10, 10-15, etc. This wouldn't prevent vendors from lying about the tea and simply offering a refund to unhappy customers who scream SNAD (significantly not as described). But it would give at least some idea how the price is justified. A tea that is still at a high price with a lower number of steeps must have some other qualification which justifies the price.
Well yes, every tea is bitter at some point, but not Bitter. I don't think this is necessarily relative to the individual with Puerh since there is a big difference between "drink now" cakes and the undrinkable except for those folks who like pu-nishment. Bitter suggests a cake for aging.
Craft is a local or farm product. Now whole foods type people might assume that Craft is better than factory, but we know from teas like the Chawangpu Lao Yun that craft means completely smoked by a wood fire. Another craft product is bamboo-stuffed. On the other hand, factory teas might be more consistent, or cleaner. Wouldn't you like to know what you're getting?
7. Herbal Blend.
Anything that is not tea in the tea cake.
Now, we also have some Metrics that Old Cwyn finds personally useful, but perhaps highly Relative.
Okay, does it juice the sluice or not? Some days I need sheng to do a number on the number 2 and on other days I need to avoid it like the plague. Yunnan Sourcing: please label Dehong Purple Raw with Laxative. Mark it with a toilet stamp please.
Self-explanatory. I'd add in some more drawings here, but the nuns have found my blog as of this week. I'm expecting a letter in the mail any day.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Sticks need to be boiled for at least 5 minutes to extract any flavor, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably selling tea. These puppies can dislodge dentures.
4. Allan Keane (AK) Shou bricks above 500g.
We might as well just get this one added in honor of our friend. If you see a shou with these initials, it means store it away for the love of god and don't drink for ten years. After that, you'll have an exceptional shou.