; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Pu-erh Nation ;

Friday, December 29, 2023

Pu-erh Nation

original map by chinatouristmaps.com

A loose leaf tea fan eventually discovers puerh tea, this is inevitable. People who last past that first gongfu invariably start an online search to learn more about this type of tea, and eventually they fall headlong into the rabbit hole of the hobby. The rabbit holes are full of enthusiasts, elite gamers of paper wrapped camellia sinensis assamica x assamica discs, with the goal of sticking a landing, and placing a trophy into one’s personal home storage. We fill forums with shipping problems, brewing problems, lying asshole sellers, fomo, rumors and snotty hubris. 

Beyond the shopping is another warren of puerh-only groundhog trails, running through countries around the world for even more privately-held elite tea, in an unending cycle of spring harvests and shou piles. Heavily sated with buying, we turn to storage matters in another flurry of watering holes filled with members of our kind. We side-eye someone knowingly when they order tea in a shop and sigh over the choices. If you catch a sideways glance, then you just know, like a tap tap under a bathroom stall of mold, pubic hair, corn kernels and plastic ties. Takes a particular breed of tea-human willing to brush all that off and swallow it anyway, all the while complaining about the fungal hoarding stigma, wafting like a wad of wet tissue on the shoe of the tea social sphere, flopping behind us as we wet-knee walk. 

Yeah, we get it. We are insufferable to live with, in our houses full of broken refrigerators, coolers and crocks, with the crunch of tea leaves underfoot requiring one to wear slippers and pick up chunks larger than a dime. Our pets choose our tea, it’s lame, we know that. Complain about the stereotypes all you like. Sorta like Janet sings, so we are one Pu-erh Nation, irrespective of national boundaries, looking for a better way of tea life. In truth, all the tunnels of the earth lead back to Yunnan, because digging a hole to China is, in fact, a real thing. 

Blah, blah they always say, but we are in a golden age of Puerh tea. Because we are all still here, from the early internet pioneer tea writers and forum humpers, and the vendors too, gods bless us everyone. 

At the tip of the spear is our Hero, our very first hero, David Lee Hoffman, who is still defending his cave storage puerh hoard from the Evils of the local city and county governments trying to take his property, and demolish his incredible, fully self-sustaining and waste recycling home facility, including water recycling. He is the first of us to have a Wikipedia entry and a decade of press behind his struggle to prevent the hoard from the horde. I bet half of you never heard of him, and the other half doesn’t know he is still selling tea and has 8 pages of listings! Get over there to his website, support our Brother and try his storage, buy something from him, okay? He has plenty of old stuff in that list. (Don’t be a dick about it either, don’t ask about the stuff he isn’t selling, that is just rude.) Thoughts and prayers and dollars are better. 

We still have so many of the early vendors, apart from the great factories of course. Houde is still adding teas. I know that some like Scott at Yunnan Sourcing and probably Cloud would love to retire, but how do you retire from tea? No one has. People seem to make and sell tea until they drop. Give your favorite vendor some love instead of complaints for a change, put up some of their tea on your socials that you particularly like and help out so their families can rest a little. 

Still can buy here (official re-seller)

Our favorite factories and boutique purveyors are still around too, and more accessible than ever. I cannot complain when tea factories like Chen Sheng Hao open up in Canada and sell Lao Ban Zhang. I can order from stateside and overseas tea shops who are happy to ship. We don’t know if nations outside the Pu-erh Nation will survive which can change our situation at any moment, so I appreciate all that we have now.

A Liu Bao chocolate bar!
PLUS 50g bag white2tea laochatou,
oh, and the pretty cup, all here.

We know that once inside the Pu-erh Nation, there is no way out. Not if you expect to keep your tea intact. I have learned I cannot stop, not entirely. In this golden age, we still have all our writers with us, and our best forum chatters, and more camaraderie than ever before. We are making efforts amongst all of us to look up forums and articles in languages we don’t speak, to try and connect and use translation tools, because we have more respect for one another or we got more snobby or we got tossed out of home, or we want in on the group buys. Sing it, people.


  1. I'm glad to see you give David Lee Hoffman a shoutout. Much of what I've read from the tea community is quite dismissive of his collection. I've drank amazing puer from him.

  2. You turn a delightful phrase like nobody else 😁 Did you see Max Falkowitz's new blog? I only recognise his name from seriouseats and from seeing him comment here, but I'm curious to read more of his writing, and writing just for himself this time without a publication