; Cwyn's Death By Tea: March 2019 ;

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Why You Want Bloggers to Review Tea

All too often I read on social media that people think blogger reviews are unreliable sources of information for buying tea. People think bloggers lack in objectivity, even though tasting is an aesthetic, subjective activity. At best, tasters converge on opinion, yet even here opinions can still vary on tea, and so we can either start with the premise that bloggers are as reliable or as unreliable as anyone else. Aesthetic arguments aside, I can think of several reasons why you might want bloggers to try teas for you.

Bloggers spend their own money on the teas.

This is potentially the best reason. You get some information about an expensive tea for free. Before you go ahead and spend your own hard-earned money, why not let someone else spend money and give you a few adjectives that might match the qualities you are looking for? In many cases, bloggers buy very expensive teas that are serious buying decisions for you, and potentially an expensive mistake. Isn’t it better to get at least some information from anyone other than the vendor before diving in?

Even if the blogger gets the tea in PR, I can glean at least a flavor profile from the blog post even if I feel I must read past positives, and honestly I feel very few bloggers promote teas simply because they are free. We get too much tea, the free aspect wears thin. Most posts either are honest about the tea or the blogger won’t post at all on a tea they didn’t like. Very often vendors send teas without asking first, and too many unasked-for samples tends to remove any feeling that I must say something special. I’d rather not post at all if I don’t appreciate a tea. After all, no one is out to ruin a vendor.

Bloggers throw tea away so you don’t have to.

Making decisions to toss a tea is one of the most painful sides to the hobby, and few people I know can toss a tea no matter how bad. Even though a bad tea is probably not going to turn into a good tea someday, we hold out hope that the tea will improve enough to drink. Or maybe our tastes will change. The fact is, with the amount of tea many bloggers receive, unless we can drink it right away, we may need to decide to toss tea later that is either stale or less than cared for. We make the decisions to toss, so you don’t have to. Lest you think this is a small endeavor, may I mention that people have actually sent me tea they could not bear to throw out.

A secondary benefit here is the packaging also is tossed, and these include sample bags or other fancy packaging the teas arrive with. One person adding to the landfills rather than one hundred others over time should save you at least some small environmental impact. Let us do that rather than you.

Bloggers generally converge on the best teas.

Over the years, tea bloggers have completed blind tasting events where several choose to drink the same set of samples. Generally they converge on the same teas. I was surprised at the Yunnan Sourcing tasting we did in early 2018, how similar the opinions were. Not on every tea, of course, but I recognized my own experience when reading the notes of others.

The so-called “Blogger Effect” is bullcrap.

This is supposedly an effect where the vendor either raises prices or the stock depletes after a positive blog post goes up. First off, tying cause-and-effect with virtually no other variables is a statistically dodgy activity, but I see people doing it. I get blamed all the time for either stock depletion or the price increase. I’ve talked to several vendors about this. One vendor told me flat out he raises prices when the teas are close to sold out. The teas were already low stock by the time my post came out. In addition, most vendors do wholesale retail supply, that vendor may decide to send an order of the tea out to a tea shop or other online vendor, this is has no relationship whatsoever to the blog post.

Yet people watching the number of teas left see the stock go down and immediately assume the blog post is the reason. I’m sure bloggers sell a handful of teas, but the best teas have low stock to start out. Not unheard of either is a single buyer who purchases a large amount. (I still am stewing over a sold-out Blue Mark that a single buyer bought up before I could save the money. This purchase had nothing to do with blog posts either, the guy made his own decision.)

The truth is, no matter if a tea gets press or word of mouth, if you plan to wait until Black Friday every year, you risk teas selling out before you can get your hands on one.

Saving your Stomach

In my experience, testing teas for possible review is boring and rough on the system. Few teas are amazing enough to give me anything to talk about. A blogger sorts through literal garbage and puts their stomach and system at risk so you don’t need to.

In case none of the above is convincing enough to you to give a blogger the benefit of the doubt as to whether blog information is useful, I’m on a low buy this year. Or maybe a no-buy, except I cannot convince myself in all honesty that I will buy nothing. I have been buying puerh for a decade now, if I make it a full year without buying anything, I will be amazed. I bought less last year, but maybe I will pick up some samples. I cannot 100% say I won’t buy anything, because I’m an addict. Unless I can find another addiction.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Revisiting Misty Peaks

A few years ago, Misty Peaks puerh tea was all the talk rage on social media, mainly for the odd marketing campaigns touting the health miracles of puerh tea. Misty Peaks primarily sold puerh from a single farm somewhere in the Yiwu region, and at that time the prices seemed a bit on the high end. Despite this, most of the spring productions between 2013-2015 sold out. Aside from references to the odd email marketing campaigns in my blog posts, I did not comment much on the tea. I acquired a quantity of Misty Peaks puerh mainly through box swaps, round robin style, and a bit more since which I have been storing. Today I decided to taste a bit, as a few years have passed in my storage.

Nicholas at Misty Peaks claimed to acquire the tea due to a relationship with the farmer’s family, having spent time with them teaching English. The tea sold on the website between 2013-2015 seemed on the expensive side back then, falling into the $0.25-0.50/gram depending on autumn or spring production. But with today’s prices from 2017 forward, the tea now appears a bargain in hindsight with decent Yiwu tea starting at $1/g and that’s just for decent tea, the higher end Yiwu teas are double that or more. When Misty Peaks did not post any new puerh teas after 2016, I wondered if the tea prices are now simply too expensive to acquire for an American-side tea shop. On the other hand, Misty Peaks moved into wholesaling, claiming to sell teas in more than 500 locations worldwide, and the teas offered have expanded into other tea types, probably also wholesale, and not from the original farm. You can still buy a few autumn productions on the Misty Peaks site, but the prices have gone up considerably.

Even though I did not write a great deal about the tea, I do consider the tea a decent Yiwu area puerh. When the social marketing campaigns embarrassed puerh drinkers who had bought Misty Peaks, the teas ended up in swap boxes and sold in stash sales. Oddly, Misty Peaks posted an offer on Instagram to buy up any tea that people did not want. I don’t know how many took advantage of that offer. I acquired a quantity of free tea from swap boxes, and I purchased a ½ kilo brick from a collector and I paid $149 for that. I showed my canister of loose tea to a vendor who told me “This is decent puerh, better looking in person than the photos. The guy selling this needs to work on his pictures.” I also bought the so-called 2016 “spring” small 100g beeng which I didn’t think at the time was really spring tea because it was too browned already, maybe the “spring” pressing was a bit fishy. Fishy bothers me less when the tea is decent, and I can get it cheap.

I do know that I now have nearly a kilo of Misty Peaks puerh tea acquired on the cheap, and I’m fairly happy with it, considering where prices of similar quality tea are now. I spent about $180 all told for this kilo, having acquired some of it for free certainly helped my bottom line. No way is it possible to get Yiwu area tea like this for $180/kilo today. I store some of the loose tea in a vintage stoneware canister, a mix of autumn and spring tea. The leaves of the autumn tea are long and lovely.

Today I brewed up a bit, and am pleased that the tea is in excellent condition, still green of course, but the leaves are beginning to brown and a tinge of orange appears in my cup. Some Yiwu area teas brew up a little darker than others, which fades out to yellow in later steeps. The processing is good with no red leaves.

My tea is intensely tongue-coating bitter surrounded by a sweet finish, rather like a lemon drop coated in sugar. The tea has not yet lost any of its floral character, and has a vaporous return from my stomach. I’m surprised how much stronger this tea is compared to some of the Yiwu samples I have received from other vendors over the past couple of years. The qi is mild, and of course I have better examples, however these better teas are mortgage payment prices.

Misty Peaks is by far the stronger tea compared to at least a dozen other teas I have tried. I am not looking to acquire more tea, but here is an example of a way to get tea. Find teas which collectors are tired of, and offer to buy them up, or offer to swap in exchange for something you no longer want. In this way I acquired a range of Yiwu teas that today I could never afford.

Friday, March 1, 2019

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy My Tea

What shall I drink today? My old green Dayi looks good. Yes, I drank that last week. Last week, so I should really drink something else in my collection, maybe my Nakas or Nannuos or what about that Taiwan-stored Yiwu? No, no, no. No wet stuff, my digestion is a little bit off, or the meds are off, or I am just off.

Something newer might be nice, how about that white2tea blend, or some CYH, except that stuff is in the big crock, such a hassle, no wait, I moved those, the old pumidor teas, except they aren’t all together anymore, I might need to search one by one. Of course the CYH is in experimental conditions so I really cannot touch those right now, wouldn’t be healthy, and not much difference to notice at this point anyway. What about the Hekai? Oh, I just had one not too long ago, I should save that for a diuretic day.

Okay, in the meantime, how about a teapot? I suppose a gaiwan, except that I use those for the blog, how boring, this is my chance to use an actual teapot if I’m not writing. Clay teapots are so nice. But they are not terribly appropriate for young teas, muddy up the nice fresh texture, much better for older teas that need something removed from the taste like wetness or something acrid. Stoneware is easy, for the most part, but naturally does not do much for older teas. I should decide on the tea before worrying about which teapot to use.

And we now know that the size of the teapot makes a difference in heat retention. If I use a young tea, I might have a larger amount in a session and therefore a larger pot might be okay, but if I dip into my older teas I need a tiny pot, gotta make those older teas last after all. Too much room in the teapot and the water just does not stay hot. And then we have the question of heat retention in clay versus porcelain, stoneware, etc. All these variables and so the size of the teapot really will depend upon which tea I am going to drink today.

Instead, how about the cups? Normally I use a clear cup for the blog or Instagram, should I take a photo today? If so, people want the color and a dark cup shows nothing but a black, inky abyss regardless of the tea. I haven’t posted on IG in awhile, I really should take a photo, but do I need a photo to ruin the experience of the tea. Some days I just prefer to drink alone, without the camera and dusting off the table and paw prints and keep my hands free, mouth free, lap free. I don’t think for the camera, the social moment, no one gives a rat’s arse what the hell I’m drinking anyway, and fool to think the world cares.

Oh, well. The green Dayi it is, then.